With the summer Xbox Live Arcade event over, the dust has finally settled. I personally found most of the games this year lacking but Dust: An Elysian Tail definitely makes up for it. I remember seeing a trailer for this game in 2009, when it won the 2009 Dream Build Play Competition. I recall being totally blown away by the beauty of it. When I finally got the chance to play the game, my expectations were high and when I finished the game it had not only passed all my expectations it went far above and beyond.
The game is, simply put, one of the most gorgeous games I have ever seen. Easily outshining games like Crisis or Battlefield 3. The game does a great job of making characters move extremely fluidly. It’s great to see a 2D game that can easily outshine any 3D game.
While amazing visuals are great, without fun game play it’s all worthless. Luckily playing this game is an absolute blast. The combat is extremely smooth and easy to learn. It has enough depth in the combat system for those who want to master more than just mashing buttons. The combat could best be described as a 2D Devil May Cry. It’s fast, flashy and extremely over the top with hordes of enemies for you to slaughter.
The game will sometimes break from fast paced combat to encounters with tougher foes. These adversaries encourage you to take on a different tactic. You must wait for them to attack and then perform a countering move that will leave them dazed and vulnerable for a killing blow. The combat never left me feeling bored or feeling any signs of combat fatigue. The change in pacing has a nice ebb and flow to it.
The game encourages exploration in a similar way to games like Metroid and Castlevania; Symphony of the Night. Just like those games there are several areas that you will be unable to access till you acquire a new ability. It also has fairly simple RPG element that allows you to upgrade things when you level up like: health, defense, attack and fidget (magic). Although the system prevents you from minimaxing, so you can’t put all your points in to attack or health. The game also has a crafting system that allows you to use materials that you have found to build new weapons and armor.
The only real problem with the game is that the bosses are far too easy on the normal difficulty since all of them can be defeated by spamming magic. You can give yourself a challenge by forcing yourself to not use magic.
The game surprised me with it’s excellently written story. The story starts off much like other games in that the character wakes up with amnesia. He’s greeted by a talking sword that tells him that he’s been chosen to fulfill a great purpose. He’s then greeted by a flying fox that serves as the game’s adorable sidekick and comic relief. When I started playing the game I felt like I was going through a checklist of Japanese RPG story elements. But after awhile I found the characters in the game to be extremely likeable and charming. For instance; Fidget, the sidekick, has an almost childlike view of the world. She also has some of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard in a video game outside of Adventures of Monkey Island. She hilariously breaks the fourth wall and occasionally makes video game references.
Luckily the game never leans to heavily on this device. Dust: An Elysian Tail finds a good balance between the serious and comedic elements. Dust at first seems like another angsty protagonist like Cloud from Final Fantasy VII and pretty much every JRPG character after that. As the game went on, though, I found Dust to be very likeable. He never felt too mopey and I loved his strong, cool yet caring and lighthearted personality. The sword of Ahra has about same personality of a normal sword; you can’t win them all I guess. The story deals with actually very dark stuff like genocide, war profiteering and a shocking revelation about the main character that ends with one of the most heart wrenching ends of any game I have ever played.
It’s been years since I’ve played a game as amazing as this fast and furious combat. There are tons of secrets to discover, jaw dropping visuals and a story that goes well above my expectations. The fact that this game is basically created by one guy makes it all the more mind blowing. Dust: An Elysian Tail is one of the best games I have ever played. I easily give this game 5 stars. Don’t miss this one!