For the past few years, we have not seen a side-scrolling game which employs a Metroidvania system. A phrase derived from two classic game franchises: Metroid and Castlevania, this type of game system lets a player explore a large map, with secret areas that would require the use of a certain item or skill to unlock. Originally an Xbox Live Arcade game and developed by Humble Hearts, Dust: An Elysian Tail finally got its PC port release, retaining the same package of their XBLA version. It promises to utilize the Metroidvania system but with a unique twist. Can it really live up to its promise? Or will it, same as countless other games, fail our expectation yet again? Let’s dive in and see…
The player will take on the role of Dust, the story’s main protagonist. He will start his journey with no recollection of who he is or what he must do. After a few minutes, once he stumbles upon a sentient sword named Ahrah and a fairy-like creature named Fidget, our hero’s main objective becomes clear: To return the Blade of Ahrah to Fidget’s Village, while trying to regain his memory in the process.
The journey, as simple the objective is, will not be short nor boring because, similar to most RPGs, the crew will encounter characters and events that will reveal several plot twists, each bringing the player closer to unveiling Dust’s true identity. And good character chemistry, like Fidget’s childish behavior clashing with Dust’s calm personality provides humor to a rather dark storyline.
Let’s talk about visuals. One look and you will be instantly amazed with its gorgeous watermark artwork; from the backgrounds to the character sprites and the fluid character animations, this is one of those games that provide stunning 2D graphics. The character design would remind you of Neopets and other modern western cartoons. The colorful and adorable anthropomorphic characters will make you feel like you are actually watching, instead of playing, cartoons.
How about its gameplay? Well, D:AET is a hack and slash role playing game. It has an array of beautifully animated and well balanced attacks that will make you want to just go hunting for an enemy encounter. One example is a skill called the Dust Storm. It is a tornado attack that deals multiple hits. It can be conjured while on the ground or mid-air. It can also amplify Fidget’s attacks to dish out more damage. From raining fireballs to chain lightning; you can use this skill to obliterate all your enemies. Moreover, this skill can be used to send dropped items flying around for easy pick-up. The barter though is using the Dust Storm too much will result in self-damage and combo breaks.
Landing combos is quite easy and rewarding, the higher the combo score is, the bigger the Exp multiplier. But you must be very careful with your choice of attack because with all chaos that is happening, there will be times when the tables will turn and you will be vulnerable to attacks. This is pretty common during boss encounters. The good news is that you can evade attacks by sidestepping or parry attacks by pressing the attack button during an enemy strike.
There are also familiar RPGs elements added to Dust:AET. You are able to distribute attribute stats whenever you gain a level – Increasing your team’s health points, improving attacks (both Dust’s and Fidget’s support attacks) or toughening your defense. You can also craft weapons and armor by looting materials and recipes from fallen monsters. Platform gameplay is incorporated in certain areas which can be frustrating to some players, but thanks to the tight controls, they are easy enough to overcome.
The game’s soundtrack is really amazing, hands down to HyperDuck SoundWorks’ impressive arrangement. It adds drama to the game’s already emotional scenes as well as adding intensity to the gameplay. The game’s voice acting is also commendable; Lucien Dodge’s great voice acting performance is noteworthy. Even the side characters’ VAs gave best to give life to each of their personas (around 40 voice actors were hired to give life to all the characters in the game).
To sum it up, Dust: An Elysian Tail will give you an incredible experience, for an Indie game developed by a single person (Dean Dodrill took almost three and a half years to complete the game), it feels like it was created by a Triple A development team and that’s a very rare gem of a game. If you are a fan of Metroidvania games or looking for a great hack ‘n slash experience, then you should put Dust AET on your list.
- The amazing artwork
- Addicting combo-fest gameplay
- Classic Metroidvania mechanics
- Hard to control Dust with all the mayhem that is happening on the screen
Game Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Developer: Humble Hearts
Genre: Role Playing Game