From Dust is a wonderful piece of interactive art which rarely feels game-like
- The landscape and morphing geology is an incredible, complex game ecosystem to play with
- The later levels add unnecessary challenge and turn the game into too much of a puzzle title
From Dust is essential stuff, though it’s better as an example of interactive art or a virtual ant farm than a traditional “game” experience.
Price$ 19.95 (AUD)
Occasionally a game comes along that transcends being mere entertainment and puts forward a strong argument for the artistic credentials of games. Portal 2 earlier in the year was certainly that, and From Dust might just be an even stronger case study.
It’s a game of great subtleties. As a spiritual sequel to the Populous series of yesteryear, the game tasks the player to form and destroy land to first protect and then funnel a population of primitive humans through a variety of objectives, and finally a very literal exit from one land to another.
For this purpose you’re in control of “The Breath,” a godly force that has no form, and is brought about by the worship of the people. There’s no requirement to be a benevolent spirit aside from progressing through to the next level and this isn’t a game where failure is punished, if indeed it is even ‘failure’; one of the powerful messages the game offers up is in watching a village swept away as a direct consequence of the actions of The Breath.
The Breath has no direct control over the population of people; they run about on their on volition with reasonable AI, but poor pathfinding. The latter is for the most part irrelevant, though, as the focus is very much on collecting various bits of the environment, and dumping them elsewhere in order to build walls to protect the people’s fledgling communities, and pathways to wander over. The materials available are many and varied; there’s lava that cools to rock for the walls, there’s sand and dirt that form convenient pathways. And then it’s possible to pick up water and deposit it elsewhere when it’s in the way as the slightest puddle can distress the human population.
It’s occasionally busy work, as the primal world these early humans inhabit is an angry one, and buffeted constantly by tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and waterfalls creating massive, overflowing pools and rivers. It’s incredible to watch a world so dynamic, with a breathing, believable geology and a scale and raw power so vast it reminds us constantly how feeble humanity can really be.
The game is at its best in the earlier levels, where the challenge doesn’t extend too far and it’s easy to sit back and just watch things unfurl as they do. The water physics are the best you’ll ever see in a game, and the growth and evolution of the tribe itself is an elegant and intelligent system that, like an ant farm, is fun to simply toy with.
This is coupled with a soundtrack that is subtle but immensely powerful. The ambient sounds evoke a very strong primal power in themselves, and it is the sound of a tsunami or volcanic eruption that is frightening, moreso than the actual pixels of lava or water menacing the healthy lands you’ve carefully constructed.
Later levels become a touch too game-like and break that powerful ambience From Dust works so hard to build. By adding challenge (and some small frustration from the difficult pathfinding for the humans), the game breaks from the sandbox and becomes the linear experience. This is the only real disappointment to From Dust — it would have been far better remaining an experience rather than a game, and you get the feeling that the later difficult levels are there more as an arbitrary necessity to qualify From Dust as a “game,” and less because the developers wanted to add in any real challenge.
But regardless, this is a wonderful piece of interactive art. It’s a beautiful experience with a strong theme and powerful message. It’s almost a pity that it had to be a game as well.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Review: TCL C1 series 4K TV
- 2 Sony 75-inch UHD TV (X9400C) review: Sony and Android are a winning duo
- 3 LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV
- 4 Panasonic Viera UHD TV review: good hardware, fragmented software
- 5 Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Honouring Nokia's legacy
Best Deals on Good Gear Guide
Latest News Articles
- Powerful gaming PC backpacks are becoming a thing as VR craze swells
- Report: Microsoft could debut Xbox One game streaming stick and 'Xbox TV' at E3
- Asus ROG teases a massive gaming notebook that outperforms Titan X
- Review - Total War: Warhammer
- Total War: Warhammer DirectX 12 performance preview: Radeon reigns supreme
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- FTAgile CoachNSW
- CCMobile LI SMEVIC
- FTAgile Implementation LeadNSW
- FTScrum MasterVIC
- CCSolution ArchitectNSW
- FTPega Operation Engineer - CEPNSW
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (JAVA/SQL) 160606/AP/251Asia
- FTSenior Business Analysts - Payments or Disaster RecoveryVIC
- CCBusiness Analyst, AdviceNSW
- CCMS SCOM AdministratorVIC
- FTSenior Business AnalystVIC
- FTJunior Web Developer | CBD | Digital AgencyVIC
- CCSQL DeveloperNSW
- FTMid-Level Full-Stack Java DeveloperVIC
- CCNetwork AdministratorWA
- CCSenior BA - Enterprise DataNSW
- CCSenior Automation & Performance EngineerVIC
- CCOperations Systems Support ManagerNSW
- CCPHP / Magento E-Commerce DeveloperNSW
- FTSenior Technical Lead - Java and .NetNSW
- FTPerformance Test AnalystNSW
- CCSoftware DevelopersACT
- CCSenior Business Analyst - NV1VIC
- FTData EngineersNSW
- CCJunior / Mid Level Java Developer - Developing Restful Microservice SolutionsVIC