Dust: An Alysian Tail is a game that was brought to us in 2013 by Humble Hearts LLC and released on PS4 on October 7, 2014. It features fast-paced gameplay paired with beautifully detailed environments to observe and explore. This game focuses around platforming elements and is executed in the form of a 2D beat-’em-up.
This game is best used with a controller, as everything feels more natural and the game in general flows better. You have much better control over your movements when using a control, compared to the sometimes awkward button presses of a keyboard. A lot of the time you will find yourself running around in gorgeously painted environments, trying to figure out what platforms are in the foreground and what you cannot interact with in the background. I have always found this to be a bit of a problem in 2D games, as sometimes depth of field is not communicated well, but this game does it without much error. I have never jumped around the screen for a long time to see what I can jump on to advance. The level design has been executed in a way that helps players to understand what they can and cannot access, so fear not if you’re not used to having to determine foreground from background in video games.
In terms of combat, everything flows quite well, and you are rewarded with achievements for pulling off combinations in battle. The gameplay is very much like a beat-’em-up in these areas and it can be quite exciting if you’re facing enemies that require a certain strategy to defeat. As you progress through the story and get stronger, you are pushed to strive for new heights in your combat abilities, keeping things interesting as you go.
This game also features lots and lots of side quests, very traditional of a roleplaying game. If you are fond of RPGs, then this game will probably interest you. Each quest has a story attached to it, and unlike an MMO, you feel like your input is actually important and helping the characters around you, whether it be collecting laundry or finding a lost sibling.
Dust: An Elysian Tail follows the story of Dust, an anthropomorphic creature that has lost his memory. Despite the rather cliché opening, the game soon shows you just how heart-warming it is. You meet a flying creature named Fidget, a panicked and worrisome thing with a heart of gold. The two decide to travel together in order to figure out the true identity of Dust.
You are blessed with the blade of Ahrah – a sword that will aid its wielder in defeating whatever comes their way. Just like Fidget, this blade accompanies Dust as they search the lands and discover more about the past, only to be threatened with horrible events surely to come in the future. In a land that has been torn apart by war, it is up to you to figure out just who you are, and why you have been made to forget the life you had.
The sound in this game is fantastic. The music was done by Hyperduck Soundworks and features an entire soundtrack ranging from beautifully soft melodies to intense beats, all used to stir up emotion within the player. Paired with the gorgeous hand-painted level design, it can sometimes create a very serene atmosphere, only to be interrupted by the annoying voice of Fidget, the orange flying-squirrel thing that accompanies you on your journey. Despite the sometimes awkward and frustrating dialogue that goes back and forth between the characters, Fidget and Dust do mesh well together to create an interesting and adventurous pair.
Dust has a rather interesting voice – it’s not a generic American voice that is attached to the character. The voice actor’s name is Lucien Dodge. You might be able to recognize his voice in games such as Diablo III and Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. He has also been involved with several different popular anime and many other games. In this video game he provides the character of Dust with a European accent of some sort, and it’s honestly refreshing to hear something so different. This blends very well into his overall rather mysterious nature.
You are immersed in a beautifully hand-painted world. What’s the first thing you do? Explore, of course! It’s quite ironic that this game rewards you for exploring the well designed levels – it gives you a chance to take in the environment around you, and appreciate the artwork that has been lovingly produced. This world is the work of one man – Dean Dodrill, an animator and designer. When you look at the animations and watch how every character moves differently, you really see just how much thought and love has gone into their creation.
The world is bright and colourful, everything seems to be alive. Characters are animated perfectly and the animations that are present, especially within the combat phases of the game, are also done fabulously. It’s amazing to think that one man is able to achieve something that is of a AAA standard, especially in today’s world, where graphics are getting better and better & hand-drawn images are being scrapped.
If you search polygon.com for Dean, you will be able to read an article that talks about the struggles and successes that he had while going through the development process. Before Dust: An Elysian Tail, he had never actually worked on art for video games, so it was an entirely new experience for him. His background in the arts definitely gave him an advantage, however. In the end he was able to produce this game, even learning to code along the way.
The game managed to win Dodrill the Dream Build Play competition in 2009, the prize allowing development to continue and grow into something beautiful.
The story that Dust weaves for its players is beautiful. You go on a journey to ultimately discover who you are, to help others, and to make friends with the most unlikely of people. The story runs deep and intertwines with all of its characters in the end. Overall, the quality of the game rivals AAA that we are familiar with today. If you enjoy roleplaying games and a fantastically colourful world, Dust: An Elysian Tail will be something for you.