Microsoft unleashed its second game in the 2011 Summer of Arcade lineup this week – From Dust. The game comes from the mind of Eric Chahi, probably best known for the hit Out of this World which debuted 20 years ago. If you ever thought you could move mountains, now’s your chance to come the closest you ever actually will.
In From Dust you are the omniscient being tasked with guiding a lost tribe back to its ancestral roots. As you guide your tribe from area to area, you must get them to set up villages around totems dotting the various landscapes. Often enough, to get them from point A to point B, you have to shape the very world itself in order to grant them safe passage. Setting up enough villages will allow you to lead the tribe to the next area, accessible via a passage.
The demo limits you to dealing with water-related obstacles, either standing water or rivers. Where the sandbox mentality kicks in is in how you decide to make the tribe’s destination accessible. You can suck up dirt from another location and attempt to fill in pools or you can try and divert rivers elsewhere so that a previously waterlogged area is now dry lowland. In this sense it really is a sandbox as you’re pushing earth around.
The latter area of the demo includes the first of what is sure to be a number of natural disasters. A tsunami is headed your way, and you only have a limited time to get a tribesman over to a ‘knowledge stone’ and back in order to learn a method for protecting the village. It was a pretty cool scene to see the tsunami rise up out of the water and swallow nearly all of the land, except your peninsula turned lone, little island. The trailers and ads hint at other destructive forces like volcanoes.
I didn’t have too many complaints with the demo. The default camera kinda stinks in that it doesn’t really stay where you leave it. It slides to one of two positions – nearly horizontal or nearly vertical. There is a global view that helps, but you usually need to see finer detail when figuring out exactly where to drop the dirt. Also, for some reason I had it in my head that this would be more RTS like in that you’d have a bigger hand in building the villages. In truth, it seems you’re just trying to get your tribe from one area to another. You don’t stay in one area any longer than you have to. I guess I was hoping for something more akin to Black & White.
Anyway, the game’s fun. Not sure I’m sold on buying it for 1200 Microsoft points($15), but maybe when it goes on sale. Either way, the demo’s worth playing.
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