Full Review: Dust: An Elysian Tail (22 hours)

The genre “Metroidvania” has really taken hold in the independent game making space. It is said to be a hybrid of two games, Metroid and Castlevania. Metroid has a large map to explore and locations that can be accessed after certain events occur. Castlevania (starting with Symphony of the Night) adds RPG leveling systems and refined combat. This game is definitely a Metroidvania, but the difficulty level is well below that of the first games in the genre.

The combat wears it’s God of War influence on it’s sleeve, but it’s just far too easy. You’ll notice that after the first encounter of the game. I thought to myself, “OK, they’re getting me familiar with the controls, it will get harder in the coming fights,” but it never really did. The exact same enemies kept standing in front of me doing nothing while I kept performing the same three hit combo. Meanwhile, I was leveling up, and inproving things like Strength and Health (capacity), but never did it feel like I was in danger.

You come across towns and villagers offer you quests. You are accompanied by a flying cat, who was born out of your sword, and both your cat and your sword talk to you. Your name is Dust, and you have some amnesia. Villagers have individual personalities and all of the dialog is spoken. And yet, the game had to go with furries for it’s character’s, those shameful anthropomorphic animals that became an internet craze years ago. I guess sooner or later, they had to cross paths with the gaming community. Still, I was embarassed to have these things on the television in my house.

It’s a shame because a lot of work went into the game’s art. Everything as far as the eye can see is 2D, and looks hand drawn. There is a lot of paralax scrolling going on, giving the locations a sense of size. On top of that, there are nice lighting effects. Being designed and developed by one man (Dean Dodrill), it’s an accomplishment. The music was made independently, but it didn’t especially stand out. And Microsoft is to thank for publishing efforts.

To be fair the difficulty spikes toward the end, but winning is far from too hard. If you’re really into God of War combat, you will have a good time with Dust. If you’re into Metroidvania’s, you might want Dust for your collection. It was a big deal in 2012 because it was published by Microsoft. Still, there are better Metroidvania’s out there. If you haven’t already, try Castlevania: Symphony of the Night first.



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