From Dust: Like Year One, only with a plotline

By Brandon Clark

Photo courtesy of Ubisoft.

Assistant Arts Editor

Horns sound as a tsunami surges over the vast stretch of sand. Palm trees and villagers are swept up in its path. The village is in its course. Just before it hits, the wave splits around the village, saving everyone inside. Looks like I’ll have to use a volcano.

This is the average game play for anyone playing From Dust. A “god” game in the sense the player has unlimited control of the environment, such as creating a world with volcanoes, tropical islands, jungles, etc.

The objective of this game is simple: Help a fictional tribe of people battle the dangerous world they live in, whether that is building land bridges or directing jungle fires.

You never actually control the tribe of people; you only dictate where they can go.  The tribe itself is pretty weak through most parts of the game and you spend most of the game helping them expand throughout the world.

At times this can be more difficult than it sounds. Villagers can get stuck on things that look easy to pass, and that volcano you thought was no big deal is erupting again. Though there is a point for struggling against the elements, the open world mode.

This is where the artistic beauty of From Dust begins to shine. Here the player’s ingenuity and imagination must balance each other out. Putting in too many cliffs will cut off your villages from each other. Not paying attention to where lava is flowing or how a river might change its flow also causes chaos.

Unlike traditional sandbox games, the “perfect” world is never quite possible. The game itself contains a complex engine that expresses a natural feel. Sand on the beaches erodes, fire burns down the jungle, lava cools down as it hits water to form land.

It’s not just the elements and how they react that makes this game so entertaining. Music also plays a big part in the gameplay as well. The whole story line of the game implies everything in the world is controlled via music.

So most “strategic” game play involves guiding your tribe in finding musical notes, by which they play to ward off fire or water.  Music rhythm can change throughout the game based on what natural events are occurring.

The game’s designer, Eric Chahi, wanted to create a game the reflected the beauty and challenges of human nature itself. He was inspired to make From Dust from a personal experience.

“Specifically for this game, inspiration came first from life experience! I decided to create Project Dust during a trip in Vanuatu in 1999. I was near the Yasur crater and it was strongly active. I could see its explosion; the sound was incredibly loud, like an airplane breaking the sound barrier. Bombs were falling everywhere and sometimes really close to us. I was at the same time fascinated by this breathtaking beauty and really scared,” said Chahi during an Ubisoft Q&A about From Dust.

Though the game is a little small on things you can do, Ubisoft is planning expansions and downloadable content in the near future, such as more things you can do with the environment and a multiplayer mode.

So if you are tired of the generic shooter game and are feeling creative, I would recommend picking up From Dust. If anything, it will bring out the artistic side of the common gamer.