The God Game is Back
From Dust is a new game coming our way from Eric Chahi, maker of Another World. Some call it the spiritual successor to populous. Others call it an homage to games like Black and White. I call it the grand return of the god game, and the grand arrival of the genre on next generation platforms. If you ever wanted to slaughter a whole village with a volcano, or in this case save a village from a volcano with another volcano, then From Dust is the game for you.
From Dust’s big attraction is its world-generation engine. In fact, it’s its only attraction. The only point to From Dust is to protect a burgeoning tribal village from the elements by using the elements themselves. You have no direct control over your villagers. Instead, you shape the land around them, and by creatively molding the very earth itself, you will slowly find ways to influence your growing tribal cult.
Here is an example. Say you need to build a bridge over a running river. You can drag mounds of dirt into the river to create a landmass that will allow your villagers to cross over it. Of course, this also dams the river, and the sheer force of the water will eventually smash away your dirt bridge. So maybe you’ll want to build it out of rocks to be more stable, and to have more holes for the water to flow through. Unfortunately, rocks are a bit to treacherous for your villagers to cross. Finally, you decide to give up, and just reroute the river out of your villagers’ path. They walk through the now dry riverbed, and your new river delivers water to another village where water is seriously needed. Everybody wins.
These are the kind of decisions you can make in From Dust, and they only get more complex from there. In the beginning, you can succeed simply by shifting the land around, but soon your villagers will have greater challenges set upon them than simply crossing a small river. Volcanoes will start erupting, threatening to spew lava all over your village. Tidal waves will threaten to wash away your entire civilization. Earthquakes and freak fires and storms, oh my! It seems your tribe is the unluckiest tribe in all of history.
Thankfully, your bag of godly tricks expands just as quickly as the challenges do. Maybe you want to stop that incoming tidal wave by making your own volcanoes erupt along the coast, creating high mountain peaks and islands made of rock that the waves will crash into before they even hit your villagers. Maybe you just want to raise the elevation of your entire village, saving it from the crashing waters below. Perhaps you want to dig huge trenches around your village, letting the tidal wave fill it like some sort of natural moat. The possibilities are endless.
Eventually, you get abilities that alter the very laws of physics. One ability, for example, thickens water to the consistency of Jello. The thick goopy substance poses far less of a threat to your villagers and most likely won’t erode any constructs it is smashing against. Other more biblical abilities include parting the seas and causing floods of your own. The possibilities are honestly endless.
However, the real draw of this game is how unbelievably pretty it is. The environmental effects are just so pleasing to the eye they are hard to describe. The way images reflect off of water every time you make your own little godly lake is just inspiring. When you pick up globs of lava and oil and see them jiggle around as you drag them through the air, it looks like some wonder of nature. The graphics in this game really get across what it’s like to be a god, to truly have your finger on the pulse of nature. It’s almost meditative in a sense, and I would score it extra Zen points for giving me this feeling in the middle of a crowded convention hall during E3.
Honestly, I think From Dust is one heck of a game for a downloadable title. It’s coming out this summer for both the PSN and XBLA, and if you are the type of sim gamer that revels in having the power of a god at your fingertips, you should check it out.