Dust: An Elysian Tail Review
I’m Not Crying, I’ve Got Dust In My Eye Before I launch into the review of Dust: An Elysian Tail, I’m going to announce that I will do my VERY best to make sure that I do not post this with spoilers (if possible). After getting entirely wrapped up in the story, I feel that [...]
I’m Not Crying, I’ve Got Dust In My Eye
Before I launch into the review of Dust: An Elysian Tail, I’m going to announce that I will do my VERY best to make sure that I do not post this with spoilers (if possible). After getting entirely wrapped up in the story, I feel that it would be a disservice to the game itself to put too much out there. The launch trailer above gives a little away but not even a scrape of the surface of what you’re diving into with Dust and Fidget (and the rest of the anthropomorphic animal characters you will encounter along the way).
Everything in Dust: An Elysian Tail is hand painted frame by frame so there is definitely a different look to it than most games that I have ever seen. As a result of this animation style, I found that fast motion was able to happen frequently without the motion blur becoming too much as other games that try to keep the same combat pace tend to have happen. At no time did I find that my eyes were drawn away by it so I was able to stay focused on the action and time my combos appropriately as a result. Despite the fluidity of the movement animation, the motions are very repetitive as they always follow the same pattern.
Characters, NPCs, and enemy models look very good while still and in motion and have clearly had much attention paid to them at an individual level. Changing armor/accessories does not change the look of the character but does seem to have a pronounced effect on combat abilities (personally, I always tried to gear myself to the highest melee damage possible). The unchanging image of the characters despite what is being worn, like in so many other games, doesn’t detract from the gameplay
While out and about in the world, it’s nice to find that the ambient lighting in areas matches what it should be instead of areas magically lighting up when a character is present. While in the sunny overworld, the line of sight is the entire width and height of the screen while diving into caves and dungeons cuts the visible area to practically Dust’s arm length. I’d have to go back to the game to check for certain but I don’t remember seeing houses/buildings repeated in towns. This is another, deeper level of attention. Everything is different without copy/paste being applied to the background as is so frequently done. Every environment that I have traveled through has had different tones and mixes of beauty and eeriness with an unusual amount of detail in every screen of foreground and background.
Humble Hearts promised that the combat would be quick and easy to learn but difficult to master and it has definitely lived up to that. At the beginning, I was doing the basic combo for every combat move but, as I moved through the game, I found myself changing up and evolving my combos without ever actually being shown all the possibilities up front. This got to the point where certain bosses and mini-bosses went down without me losing any HP at all. Retracing my steps to find things I missed felt easier and easier each time so I’m inclined to think that there’s no enemy level scaling which is good and bad at the same time. Good in that I’m not spending inordinate amounts of time just chasing off the basic enemies in old areas but bad in that they become little more than annoyances that halt my completion progress.
There were times in Dust’s leveling up where I felt that I would need hundreds of enemies to be on screen and attacking in unison to even slow me down. This could be easily explained with the logic that I do happen to be wielding a mystical sword of unknown power levels but I would have preferred there be more of a challenge with the combat in general.
The tutorial beginning of Dust: An Elysian Tail didn’t feel nearly as forced as the learning stage of other games has felt and the story gets off to a quick start as a result. It was nice that I didn’t have to spend too much time in this phase and was able to get into the game proper and pick up new features on the fly. That being said, I was a little annoyed at reminders for certain actions. There comes a time in every game where I no longer need to be told which button is for interacting with NPCs/shops.
While the main story missions are linear for obvious reasons, the side-quests can be done at the leisure of the player in whatever order they so choose. Another upside to these is that there is often humor in them that allows for the tension and emotional buildup of the main line to be broken up with little chuckles here and there. This way, I didn’t feel to bogged down by the weighty situations unfolding in the core gameplay. I’m not a particularly emotional person but I did feel my heartstrings being tugged at regularly.
One feature that I felt didn’t fit was the crafting element for making armor, accessories, augmentations, etc. As soon as a new material/ingredient is found, it can be sold to a shopkeeper and, through some miracle, all shops will start to stock it in increasing numbers. At no point have I found that I could not easily get my hands on enough material to make anything that I had blueprints for but often did not have to make anything because I could find/buy items of equal or greater quality anyways. I appreciate the inclusion of this feature as it helped me make otherwise useless items into gear that I could sell to increase the weight of my coin purse though money doesn’t seem to be an issue either.
While the voice work is effective at conveying the emotions and personality of each character, (voiced) enemy, and NPC, there were more than a few voices that grated on my nerves and I found myself opting to read those spoken sections. As referenced above, there are humorous bits in the voice-overs that break up tension and actually help the flow of the story continue. Fidget, Dust’s side-kick and guardian of the sword, seems to chip in at just the right times to provide this relief.
The music itself is well done when listened to specifically but doesn’t overpower situations. There’s no point that I’ve encountered so far where the ambient music has taken away from the situation at hand but, at the same time, doesn’t stick with me as particularly memorable. Even now, about an hour after playing, I can’t remember anything about the music in detail which is strange to me because I tend to listen to games VERY intently (a side-effect of playing too many survival horror and sneak-type games).
I have not completed an entire playthrough of Dust: An Elysian Tail because I have been moving at a snail’s pace trying to soak up as much of the atmosphere, story, and secrets as possible as I go. With that out there, I feel that there has been more value in my single play so far to justify the cost of the game because I’ve been trying to fully immerse myself in it.
An additional item that gives value to continued play are arenas. Scattered throughout the world and linked to online leaderboards, the player can take on time trials and survival modes. This is where I found that my highest combos and greatest variation of combos and fight patterns happened and were carried back into my single player experience.
If you are a player who looks to blast their way through the campaign of games as soon as you can, with no attention to story (I know quite a few people who do this and I will never understand them), multiple plays will make this title still worth the pricetag.
I’m willing to go out on a limb with my personal opinion in saying that Humble Hearts has given us the best game of the 2012 Summer of Arcade season.
Dust: An Elysian Tail Review,