THROUGHOUT STEAM’S SUMMER SALE, I WILL BE REVIEWING GAMES THAT ARE RIPE FOR THE PICKING. THESE GAMES ARE HIDDEN GEMS THAT I THINK WOULD BE WORTH YOUR TIME AND HARD EARNED LUNCH MONEY. SOME GAMES WILL BE NEW AND SOME WILL BE OLDER TITLES, BUT ALL GAMES WILL BE ON SALE AND THAT IS TRULY WHAT MATTERS. SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, LET US MEET OUR NEXT CONTESTANT!
DUST: AN ELYSIAN TAIL
PLATFORM: PC, MAC, LINUX, XBOX 360, PS4, IOS
CREATED BY: DEAN DODRILL
DEVELOPER: HUMBLE HEARTS
PUBLISHER: MICROSOFT STUDIOS
COMPOSER: HYPERDUCK SOUNDWORKS
RELEASE DATE: AUG 15, 2012
SALE: (80% OFF) $2.99
Dust: An Elysian Tail is an Action-Platform-RPG. Dean Dodrill, a self-taught animator and illustrator. Other than the soundtrack and ADR, as well as a few parts in the story, Dean programmed and designed the whole game. Dodrill submitted his concept to Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play Challenge in 2009 and won. He would spend over three years following the competition to bring this game to life. With his release, Dust: An Elysian Tail was met with universal praise. High scores across all outlets and even Steam community gives it an Overwhelming Positive rating with over 12,000 reviews. So does Dust: An Elysian Tail live up to this grade? Lets find out!
The story begins with narration telling you about the lore of Elysian. Soon after, the game introduces you to the protagonist. A warrior, stricken with amnesia and goes by the name Dust. You are awoken by a sentient sword called the Blade of Ahrah and the most adorable, yet annoying flying cat…thing named Fidget. Fidget is the guardian of the Blade of Ahrah and is sassy! Talks big, but is afraid of its own shadow. It will constantly warn you how everything is too dangerous, yet the fact that you are a trained fighter escapes its comprehension.
On your travels, you slowly uncover the enigma that is Dust. During this time, your blade is lending words of wisdom and guidance while outlining your destiny. Along your journey, you’ll come across villages of different anthropomorphic creatures that have you doing side quests for them to help further their story. These quests show off your humility and makes you wonder what the looming threat of your memories pose. This is best exemplified by your arrival in Aurora, the first village you come across. Aurora is overrun by monsters and the mayor asks if you’d help drive them out. You eventually track down the leader, Fuse.
Before he dies, he reveals his race was part of a genocide and Dust had played a role in it.
Dust must confront his demons, but it up to you to get him ready for these burdens.
The gameplay for Dust: An Elysian Tail is some of the funniest, fast-paced, and fluid action I have had the honor to experience. You hack-n-slash your way through multiple enemies in order to raise your combo. Raising your combo to pull off better moves and to net more experience is so rewarding. Watching the whole screen be engulfed in flame pillars or lightning shocking everyone on screen shows the power that Dust has. Mix that with Fidgets energy balls and you can multiply them exponentially by using your blade as a whirlwind of pain.
As you travel the open world, you will gain power-ups and obtain abilities that you would of needed for previous puzzles and hard to reach places. Backtracking is key if you want to enhance your character.
The RPG elements of the game come in numerous forms.
Gaining experience with every enemy defeated and leveling up. Raising your health, strength, defense or magic after every level. You are given five slots for equipment to boost your attributes. You can also craft an array of items. Crafting usually means heavy grinding and that might turn away some players. Luckily, this is not that kind of game. Once you find a new material, you can sell it to the shop keep one time and from then on out, that shop keep will have that item to sell.
The pacing of the story is evenly balanced. There are some lengthy cut scenes that may or may not interest you because you just want to slash through a crap ton of baddies, but then when you need a break from fighting, you are treated to more story or perhaps a side quest to help someone out. This will require you to diverge from your path, but it is a nice distraction when you want to be adventurous and explore more of the world. The definite focus is the titillating action but the story is so charming that anyone who loves a good story can bare witness to some deep feelings. Some characters might get on your nerves, but what story doesn’t have those characters in them.
The only gripe some people might have is that the fighting is repetitive. Sure, it might be, but Dodrill has made the fluidity ever changing that I do not mind grinding enemies for items or to level up. I am always trying to improve my highest combo to the point where it becomes ridiculous. You are able to chain your combos into the hundreds and even thousands, if done correctly.
Video By: LenariusGray
The stunning art work and design was a pain-staking task for Dodrill. Over three years of hand-drawing 40 different characters in a 2D art style took a told on his mind and body. The video above is a clip of his hard work paying off. Not one picture can capture the smooth flow of his work so I thought video might help.
His style is taken right out of a Disney world. Shows like Rescue Rangers, Tail Spin and Don Bluth’s An American Tail (which this game pays tribute to)
Dodrill had drawn inspiration from games like MetroidVania, Cadash, Blaster Master, Monster World, Strider and Ys I & II.
The protagonist Dust, the main logo, food and background scenery have a lot of Korean influences. That design was not done by mistake, either. Dodrill wanted to add a part of him in this game and so his heritage poured out on the canvas.
In the later part of the game, you are treated to anime-style cut scenes which reminded me immediately of Mega Man 8. It was a creative change of pace and wasn’t bad, it was just weird to have it happen pass the half way mark. I think if he did it too much, then it would not fit at all. I would of liked to have seen an anime style opening or perhaps introducing a new, relevant character that way.
My favorite part of this game is the background assets and maps. The most time-consuming part of this game was Dodrill developing these 230 handcrafted maps. Mixing that with the particle effect just brought the environment alive.
Video By: HyperDuck SoundWorks
The soundtrack to Dust: An Elysian Tail is gorgeous! I cannot express the mood it puts you in as you play through the game. The orchestral soundtrack feels like you should be playing this game in a theater. The movie quality sound is brought to you by HyperDuck SoundWorks, a two man team based out of Northern Ireland. Chris Geehan put his passion for music and versatility for immersion in this game. The studio had worked on a few other indie games like Penny-Arcade: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4 and the Kingdom Rush series.
Dean wanted to work closely with Dean in order to capture the sounds he wanted for his dream project. Dean would come up with references and Chris would build around that. Their epic sound, crazy synths, and wonderful orchestra sounds were a risk when it came to such a game, but it paid off spectacularly.
The dialogue for the game was geared to a younger audience, but it was well written. It gave you that feeling like you were watching a Disney movie for the first time and you ran through all the emotions. From laughing to crying, you feel as the characters feel. Not just because of the dialogue, but the voice-over work because it truly captured those emotions. The execution of the dialogue by the voice actors did not make the game sound corny or with “cartoon humor.” It really felt and sounded sincere. The voices fit the bodies they inhabited and it just made the game that much more endearing.
Super Bonus Turbo FX
Throughout the game you will find cages that are locked up and shaking as if someone was kidnapped and thrown in them. Once you get a key to unlock them, you are greeted by familiar faces across the indie platform. These little Easter Eggs are a pleasant surprise and I immediately wonder if all these creators got together and designed all these games in the same world. As weird and awesome as that would be, I have to calm myself before I get any crazy thoughts. After you free them, they will just be chillin at The Sanctuary.
Another fun thing that you can do with your friends is time trials. There are several obstacle courses you can race through and share your time with your friends.