Dust: An Elysian Tale


Dust: An Elysian Tale on Steam

MSRP: $14.99

Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, XBox 360, iOS

Release: 5/24/13

To get it out of the way, I can understand why people would call Dust: An Elysian Tale a platforming game, but I also think that does a the game a tremendous disservice.  I picked it up in a Humble Bundle years ago, and filed it in my Steam library to maybe poke at someday, but only because it was so widely lauded.  While there are platforming elements, they’re not of the plummet-to-your-death-every-5-seconds variety, rather the less crazy-making have-to-climb-back-up-because-you-missed-that-last-jump variety. I can deal with that.


Platforming elements aside, this is probably the most charming 2D sidescrolling hybrid of a quest-based RPG and a brawler type game (which, as I understand it, when combined with platforming elements is more commonly referred to as a Metroidvania game – look at me all learning and stuff). Although I never mastered the art of fighting games, I can mash buttons with the best of them, and started playing on normal.  However, for folks that really struggle, there’s a casual mode that will allow less skilled players to experience the story and the beauty of Dust: An Elysian Tale with less frustration.  Of course, there’s also more challenging difficulties for those who like that sort of thing, and I respect the attention that was given to making this game accessible to the widest spectrum of gamers possible.


This game looks great, it sounds great, and it just feels great while you’re playing it. Although it doesn’t always explain itself well mechanically (a lot of the tutorial text talks about using the J and K keys for actions that seem to be bound to the left and right mouse buttons), it’s paced so that you have time to figure out what you need to. Hit chains bonuses reward you for doing well without feeling like you’re unduly punished when you make a mistake.  To me, it was like the game respected skillful play without requiring it.


There’s a little something here to appeal to just about everyone, and probably the most mindblowing part of it all is that it is almost all the work of a solo developer.  Maybe that’s what makes it feel so effortless coherent. All the parts just work together with nothing that seems out of place. It even makes me forget how overdone the amnesiac protagonist trope really is, and I want to learn about Dust almost as much as he does himself.


The game can be played start to finish in a little over 10 hours, but if you’re the type to do a lot of exploring or hunting for achievements, you could certainly get twice that out of a single play through. Without putting more time into it, it’s hard for me to estimate how replayable it will be – story driven games often have low replayability.  That said, it’s not uncommon for Dust: An Elysian Tale to be discounted pretty deeply, and I’d venture to say that it’s a must-buy even at 50% off, and probably well worth the full retail price all but the most frugal of gamers.


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