Hello once again, my dearest readers! Today, I come bearing another review, indeed even one of a relatively recent game release! From Dust, Ubisoft’s God-game, received a PC port in August 2011, and reviewers typically lauded the game’s concept but talked down its controls and other gameplay issues. The truth is that the PC version of From Dust is a fundamentally broken game that should be avoided at all costs.
From Dust places the player in the role of a faceless, nameless deity, whose goal is, for reasons that are never given, to protect a tribe of humans and guide them on a quest to colonize various lands. The story, as in most “God-game” simulation genre entries, is extremely minimal, and neither contributes nor detracts from the game experience. From Dust‘s story gets the job done, and that is all that can really be said. The gamer looking for a deep, fulfilling storyline will certainly not find it here, as From Dust may as well have no story at all.
The gameplay of From Dust has the player using a tool called “The Breath” to pick up sand, water, or lava and depositing it in other locations to build bridges, create dams, dry up lakes, and perform various other tasks in order to clear a path for the tribe members to reach their destinations. By sending enough people to the monoliths in each level, the player builds settlements and unlocks new abilities. These abilities are admittedly a great deal of fun to play with; “Infinite Earth” in particular sees some amusing uses. Unfortunately, however, there is very little variety to what the player does with the abilities. Most of the game is spent building bridges of sand, creating dams using lava, or drying up pools of water by turning them into gelatin (no, really). The core gameplay of From Dust is mediocre, and the controls unwieldy.
The PC port of From Dust has sloppy controls and poor handling. The camera scrolls at an unintuitive pace, and it is distractingly easy to miss a target by scrolling it off-screen. The mouse controls for The Breath are decent, but the “left-and-right-click simultaneously to drop everything that is currently held” mechanic requires unintuitive timing. The pathing for the tribe members is wonky and inconsistent; usually three or four of the five required people will arrive at the target with no difficulty, but there will almost always be one or two people who try and take the long way around a lake of lava rather than the short and easy path laid out before them. The inconsistent pathing is extremely frustrating, and at times the villagers are the game’s biggest obstacle. Worse still, however, is the player’s greatest enemy: the game itself. From Dust needs authentication through Ubisoft, an Ubisoft Uplay account (even if the game was bought through Steam!), but even this is not the worst aspect of the game. From Dust is prone to crashing for almost no reason, thanks to Ubisoft’s brilliant DRM additions. It is not unusual for From Dust to crash before the player even has a chance to start playing; this reviewer recalls at least three instances of the game doing just that.
From Dust is not a wholly negative experience. The game looks good, and the water in particular is beautiful to look at. The game is not particularly colorful, but when the world is as barren as the world of From Dust, this is not a major offense. Musically, From Dust is very minimal, with only a few songs to speak of. The sound effects are neither great nor terrible; they contribute roughly what the player would expect. Sadly, the graphics are the only truly favorable thing about From Dust.
The final point of this review? Do not buy From Dust, especially not for PC. The only gamer who should by this less-than-lackluster PC port is a masochistic gamer looking for bad games, and even that type of gamer should look elsewhere for their games. From Dust is sad example of an interesting concept done horribly wrong, and the terrible PC port only exacerbates the problem. Gamers who are interested in the God-game simulation genre wherein followers must be guided are highly advised to pick up a copy of Lemmings or The Sims 3 instead of From Dust. At about five hours, From Dust is mercifully short, at least. From Dust is a game to be avoided at all costs, both because supporting it supports Ubisoft’s ridiculous DRM policies, and because the game itself is terrible. But what of your experiences, readers? Have you played From Dust, and if so, what were your thoughts? Are the 360 or PSN versions better? Is the game simply horrible in all its forms? Let me know in the comments, dear readers!