My Humble Opinion Dust: An Elysian Tail Review
Bastion, Limbo, Shadow Complex, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, Braid, and now Dust: An Elysian Tail. Not only does this list compile great XBLA Summer of Arcade releases, but also some of the greatest games released in this current generation of consoles. Dust: An Elysian Tail is a gorgeous game, and don’t let its ‘cutesy’ aesthetic fool you, there are some dark themes present in this Action RPG Brawler if you are willing to pony up 1200 MS points.
Pony up you should, because Dust: An Elysian Tail has all the trappings of a retail release; 15+ hour adventure, challenge rooms with competitive leaderboards, addictive combat system, great story, crafting system, character progression, realized world, and a great cast of characters that are brilliantly given life through creative, real dialogue. In a time of AAA, high profile releases with marketing budgets that soar to the tens of millions, it is hard to believe that one of the better games of this year was made predominately by a single person.
Dust: an Elysian Tail is modeled after the Metroid, and Castlevania series. These games feature massive open world 2-D environments that become more open to the character upon finding new items that allow them to traverse the environment more freely. Dust: An Elysian Tail is no different; early on you will encounter obstacles in which you have no way of traversing until later in the game. This technique adds cohesiveness to the world of Falana, as the player will be backtracking to previously explored areas to uncover new secrets.
Treasure, keys, challenge rooms, but perhaps the most compelling are all the ‘friends’ you will find on your journey. The indie community collaborates wonderfully in Dust: An Elysian Tail, as hidden characters (12) from a variety of indie titles are locked away for you to save. Upon discovering a ‘friend’ they are transported back to the sanctuary and Dust is credited with a 5% buff to his health. Tracking these friends down is a great amount of fun, and you will be surprised to find out how cleverly they are hidden. I won’t reveal who is included, but if you have played indie XBLA titles you could probably guess at a number of them and be correct.
The story of Dust: An Elysian Tail unfolds across 5 chapters with a brief prologue that introduces the story’s tone. Each of these chapters is evenly paced, and the variety of environments is incredible. Dust, Fidget, and talking sword Ahrah will traverse through lush forests, spelunk dark caverns, scale snow swept mountains, lurk through haunted houses, and skirt around the edges of volcanoes. I remarked earlier about how spectacular it was for one person to make this game, but when you see the beautifully diverse world Dodrill has constructed it is hard to comprehend how this level of polish can come from a single individual. And that level of polish transfers to the story as well. Dust: An Elysian Tail is a fine example of amnesia fiction. Dust struggles to remember his past, and only a mysterious talking sword, Ahrah, is his only link to that severed past. Throughout their journey, Dust, and Fidget will encounter a variety of townsfolk looking for help. The townsfolk’s plights range from foolish-serious-demonic, and are filled with clever dialogue that makes each encounter unique. The main story revelation comes close to the end, and by this time you will have seen pretty much what the world of Falana has to offer. Story tidbits are revealed at a steady pace, and combine that with slick controls, and a fun combat system, you can find yourself playing this game for several hours straight.