Dust: An Elysian Tale is the last game in 2012’s Summer of Arcade, and it finishes the series with a bang. Every year there is a game that stands out from the rest and Dust is that game this year. Despite being a game designed by a solo person, it’s wonderful art design and crisp controls manage to raise it above the few minor complaints I had with the game
Combat in Dust starts from minute one and doesn’t slow down for the rest of the game; a strength that really makes the game stand out. While only having a few basic abilities at first, like the ability to dash behind them and strike them from behind or pop them in the air, the game strategically gives you more techniques to string together massive combos without overwhelming you. One of the greatest feelings in the game is how easy it is to get a combo in the 500’s or above due to how crisp the combat feels. Whether it be dashing, jumping, or smashing an enemy, there is never any doubt what you are doing at any given time. While the combat is great, one of the most disappointing aspects in the game is the sub-par boss battles. While all the boss battles fit into the story surprisingly well, none of them are really fun to fight. All use just two or three basic attacks that are easily figured out. The bosses aren’t very intimidating due to them all being the same size as you. Dust is also plagued with having a final boss fight that is too long and easily cheesed using the spinning magic attack.
One of the first things you notice even before you start the game is how beautiful it looks. From the environments to Dust’s ability to provide a strong sense of atmosphere, the game is visually stunning. As you travel through dimly lit caverns, snow covered mountain ranges, and long-destroyed forests, every area has a very unique tone, fitting directly into the story. Another major strength is how well-designed the characters are. Each one of them stands out with very unique look and dialogue that fits the characters, which really adds to the enjoyment of the story.
Beyond the main story mode, Dust succeeds at making you return to its world long after you “beat” the story. With RPG elements like crafting, quests, and stat point allocation, there are many things to keep you going. In each major area there are plenty of side quests to do that give lots of XP and are lots of fun. Once you’ve leveled up, there are four options for you to put your points into: Health, Attack, Defense, and Magic. Whether it’s finding the ingredients you need in order to craft or finding the recipes, the crafting system is another great aspect of the game and is very rewarding. The one thing I spent the most time in after finishing the game was finding all the hidden indie buddies they placed throughout the environment. These buddies increase your health each time you found them and each has a special environment built for them on the map.
Players who play straight through the game completing minimal side quests can beat the game in about 12 hours, but Dust’s real depth comes from experiencing everything it has to offer. That can push your time to over 20 hours. Be it exploring the “Metroidvania”-like map or just enjoying the crisp combat system, there is much to enjoy in Dust. This 2D masterpiece made by one single man is a wonderful piece of work and should be played by any fan of videogames.
Dust gets a 5/5.