Post Game Wrap Up! Dust: An Elysian Tail
Dust, an Elysium Tail is a game I ignored it when it was first released in 2012. You may notice a pattern in what I play these days, as it tends to be stuff I’ve ignored somehow. Truth be told, I probably never would have even played it if it hadn’t been the free game for Games with gold promotion during May. It’s not that I heard bad things, but I was probably playing Mass Effect 3 or something, and ignoring the Indie darling enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. But, seeing as it was free, I thought to check it out.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is the story of an amnesiac by the name of Dust, who awakens in a field with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He is approached by a floating sentient sword, known as the blade of Ahrah, and its guardian Fidget, a small flying cat like creature. Together the 3 make toward a nearby village in search of answers as to who Dust is. Eventually, we learn of a race of beings known as Moonblood’s who are victims of a genocide caused by General Gaius, and that Dust has played a role in that genocide. The story is simple, but effective. We get the sense that Dust is a nice guy, so the question of how or why he was involved in this genocide is actually rather intriguing, and it does make you want to press forward to find out more. It’s a tale of redemption, morality during a time of war, and the nature of the soul. Dust and Fidget also banter really well with each other, both in these serious moments and the lighter moments in the earlier segments of the game. It flows well, and given the length of the game, fits just right for it. However, one big issue I have with the story is the motivation of General Gaius. It’s never explained as to why he insists on wiping out the moonblood race. He’s just kind of there to be a big bad, but he never feels like a big bad, except you know he’s the bad guy because of genocide. He’s the final boss, but he’s a letdown. The bosses in general are a letdown, and I’ll get into detail why later, but Gaius is a bigger letdown because the story behind him is… too vague. at least the story surrounding the other bosses fit in nicely.
(Also, they break the 4th wall. A lot. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes its not.)
Would you believe looking at this game that one man did most of the work? Believe it or not, a large majority of the game was created by Dean Dodrill, a self taught illustrator and animator. And for 99% of the game, that is outstanding. The visual details in this game are stunning, considering that fact. The various areas are all well detailed, giving each area a sense of identity and keeps the locations fresh. The animations for many of the characters are fluid, especially in the case of Dust himself, who has a clichéd, but awesome ronin style design to him. Really, the complaint I have is drawn to two animated sequences. Normally in this game when characters a talking to each other, the models used are very limited in frames, and look really good. However, two fully animated cutscenes happen, and they look really cheap. I don’t want to poke fun at the fact that one guy did it, because again, for the most part, it’s awesome, but these two cutscenes stand out like sore thumbs, and look like only one guy did it. It’s feels wrong to point it out, but, wow. That’s a minor hiccup visually though, as the game is very impressive. Audio, however is a bit more underwhelming. Dodrill did not do the sound himself, it was done by a separate company. But the music never hit home with me. It’s not ear wrenching, but it never really stood out to me. Sound effects are also decent, but at the same time never really stand out. Voice acting is a little on the hammy side too. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it’s not award winning. Maybe it’s because visually the game is so strong, that makes the audio portion feel lackluster by comparison.
(Visually, the game is a wonder. One of the best looking Indie titles I’ve ever seen.)
Gameplay wise the game is a triangle of decadence, taking Metroid and mixing it with a 2d brawler, and adding a dash of RPG. As you run around the world finding monsters to slay, combat is broken down to either a basic slash, a magic attack fired by Fidget, and a move known as Dust storm, that manipulates magic and items in the environment. That’s it. There are combos, but the game teaches you them very quickly and never unlock or learn more. I had worried at first this would make for a ridiculously simple and altogether boring combat system, but surprisingly it’s more fun than I thought, and never feels repetitive. Battles are chaotic and fast paced, even to the point it gets hard to keep track of things. There are upgrades in the game, but the only 3 that are combat related are two magic upgrades for Fidget, and a slide. All the other upgrades tend to be movement based, but means more towards world exploration than combat. It works though, and thankfully there is no one combo or strategy to deal with everything, as everything works fairly equally. Not everything is perfect though. The RPG elements are a little on the slim side though. They do affect your stats, but compared to your equipment, they feel insignificant, and a waste of time. Equipment is primarily made by finding items off monsters and using them with blueprints to make new powerful equipment, but finding certain items feels more time consuming then it should, and more often than not you’ll just buy the parts you need from the shop. Another letdown is the bosses. There are only a few of them, but they feel… really lackluster. The problem is combat is more frenetic and fun where there are a ton of monsters on screen. Bosses are a one on one affair, and offer little in the way of challenge because of it. There are only 3 of them, so I suppose it’s not like they take up a lot of play time, but they still stand out as sour notes. It should also be mentioned that game does run smoothly… for the most part. I did have it crash a couple of times transitioning from one area to another, and getting an achievement does seem to slow the game down, but other than that, the fast pace combat stays that way, which is impressive given how much can be going on at a time.
(Just how I love combat. Numbers, flashy effects, and cupcakes)
I’m a little sad to admit that I probably would have never played this one if it hadn’t been free. It’s a excellent arcade title, giving you about 10-11 hours of playtime, more if you’re a completionist, and truthfully except in boss battles, it never feels stale. That’s achievement, considering this game was mostly made by 1 dude. I missed the wagon on this one, and if for some reason you did as well, go check it out. Seriously, its worth the price of $15 easy.