If my time with From Dust has taught me anything, it’s that I’d make an awful God. While my tribesmen continued to scream for help, and the timer ticked down before a massive wave engulfed their village, I was far too busy just playing around.
My God-like snake of a cursor slithered its way around the environment, heaving sand and water alike as I redirected waterfalls and created whole new islands. It was only as the timer closed in on “0″ that I realised I’d need to take things a little more seriously. I set one minion out to gather knowledge from a relic, knowledge which he could teach the tribe and which would repel the oncoming wave. My messing around had cost valuable time and as he hurtled down the final hill towards the camp, the skies turned grey and the wave loomed on the horizon. Would he make it?
I’d have to believe he would, and From Dust asked me to believe in a lot of things. Belief that my plan of action against its environments would mean success, belief that my tribesmen would do their part and cooperate, and belief in its world, but with a game of From Dust’s quality, it’s hard not to believe. Assuming the role of the Breath, an entity awoken by a broken and scattered civilisation, I held their lives in my hands. They were counting on me to see them safely through the harsh environments they inhabited, in an effort to complete each map’s goal.
Harsh certainly isn’t an understatement, and I faced tsunamis, volcanoes and islands tearing themselves apart during my attempts to settle each and every totem on the map, which would activate the final beacon, the end of a mission and the travelling point to the next.
Despite the disconnected nature of each mission, From Dust’s ability to sell its world as an intriguing and believable place is its biggest success. The cursor isn’t a simple circle, it’s a slithering snake of a creature. I didn’t transform the environment at my will, instead picking elements up and putting them down in a constant game of give and take. The tribesmen, too, held a wonderful sense of character, as they ran and stumbled, with strange yet intriguing masks covering their faces.
The world was as much a character as any part of From Dust because of this, and there’s an attention to detail that permeates the entirety of the game, which is honestly transfixing. Water, sand and lava are all controllable elements, and each one reacted just as I’d expected. Water flowed naturally and gradually washed away sand, lava formed new ground when it met water, and sand offered the perfect bridge building material if I was careful enough.
Each map played out more like a puzzle game than any other god game, and each mission was rigid in its beginning and end point. The fun though came from what happened in the in-between, where I was generally free to do as I pleased. At every turn, I would take the complicated and intricate path to completion, transforming rivers and building islands, not because they offered success, but because I was intrigued at just what would happen if I did one thing or the other.
Alongside the power over the environment, a number of totems littered each map, offering new powers if tribesmen were able to reach them. The power to turn water to malleable jelly, or even the ability to evaporate water, and the moments where I would pull off the perfect combination just in time to save a village were breathtaking.
However, playing God wasn’t always all it was cracked up to be. The tribe didn’t always show me the respect I deserved, and every now and then they would start screaming for help, but gave me no idea as to what was wrong. They also held a curious preoccupation with drowning themselves, burning themselves or simply not knowing how to climb even a small hill. Thankfully, those moments occurred sparingly enough for me to simply wave them away with a laugh. If there is a greater being out there, I now know how he feels.
In the end, my exhausted tribesman made it back just in time. The timer hit 0 as the wave crashed against the cliffs closest to the village. The tribe began to drum and blow on horns, dancing around their totem. The wave was repelled, flowing around the village and creating an awe inspiring pillar of water. I’d managed to save them, and I did so in my own way. The little guys believed in me, despite my forgetful and uncaring tendencies, and I believed in them, in spite of their lack of intelligence. If you’re one to enjoy a relaxing, sandbox experience, then I also believe From Dust may be just the game for you.