Ubisoft have released From Dust on Xbox Live Arcade as part of Microsoft’s Summer (or in our case Winter) of Arcade.
From Dust is an old-school God-sim in the same vein as classics like Bullfrog’s Populous and Peter Molyneux’s later effort, Black and White. The relatively simplistic gameplay of yesteryear has been augmented by a contemporary physics engine that makes the game challenging and unpredictable.
Players control an entity called The Breath, summoned by a primitive tribe to help them on a journey though many different lands. The Breath has the ability to pick up and relocate earth, water and lava, changing the terrain to aid the tribe’s passage.
Additional abilities are gained by guiding the tribe to totems, where they can build villages and send out tribesmen to gain further knowledge. These abilities are then put to the test as players battle against the elements, holding off tsunamis and volcanoes and altering the course of rivers in order to protect the tribe.
The physics employed by the game allows players the freedom to test out an infinite number of solutions to the puzzles. It is possible to build rock walls with molten lava, or drain lakes and fill valleys with water. Digging deep into the ground will create springs that will flow into rivers, causing floods that will wash tribesmen and villages away.
The game is getting a mixed reaction from the gaming press, despite picking up several awards and nominations at this year’s E3. Veteran game reviewers are no doubt getting misty-eyed over the nostalgic gameplay experience, whilst younger reviewers question the game’s simplicity.
From Dust is available now on the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 MS Points. The PC version will be released via Steam and other game download services on August 17 with the PlayStation 3 version debuting via the PSN later this year.