Dust: An Elysian Tail - A Short Pause Review
Platform(s): PS4/Xbox 360/PC/OS X/Linux
Review Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Humble Hearts
Price: $14.99 PSN/XBL (360)/PC
Reviewed by: Montaz Meah
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a 2D, Action, Platformer, Role-Playing Game by Humble Hearts LLC. It’s a Metroid-Vania type of game…meaning you’ll travel the world of Dust, returning to places which were previously inaccessible after finding items and abilities to unlock your path. Now, I’m a huge fan of games like these, so you can consider my review extremely biased and overly critical. I played Dust: An Elysian Tale for over 16 hours and after defeating the final enemy, my completion rating read 112%. There are a few more percentage points up for grabs if I were interested in improving my challenge scores,…but I’m not. Regardless, my completion percentage means that I’ve cleared 100% of all maps and unlocked 100% of every treasure — which is to say — I’ve seen and played the entire game.
As far as “seeing” goes, Dust: An Elysian Tail looks pretty good on screen. The world is bright and colorful, and the characters are cute and cuddly. In that way, it reminds me of Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, or some other furry Disney animation. Cute and cuddly characters in a hack and slash game is something I dislike, however. I would have preferred a human or humanoid character as the hero and non-humans as the villains. Compared to games like Castlevania, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, or Strider, I think they should have followed that formula. Besides, I don’t think I’ve been a fan of furry heroes since Sonic the Hedgehog on the old Sega Genesis.
When it comes to the cinema/dialogue scenes, the art looks worse than during normal gameplay — which I think is backwards. Usually, cinema scenes look far better than actual gameplay. When a developer has gameplay that looks nearly as good as their cinema scenes, they add a note that says it’s the “Actual Gameplay Footage,” because gameplay footage usually isn’t as good. In Dust: An Elysian Tail, the cinema scenes lack the detail and color found throughout the rest of the game. If I had to guess, I’d say they use less than 16 colors during any scene. Fortunately, I don’t play this game for its cinema scenes. The sound effects are flawless, and the voice acting is also impeccable. I’ve heard others complain about Fidget’s voice being annoying, but I found Fidget to be adorable and my favorite character in the game because of her voice acting. Altogether, the sounds and the voices match everything I’d expect them to be.
The gameplay animation is also well executed. Each map has several layers of scrolling depth giving this 2D platformer a nice 3D effect. Compared to older games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Super Metroid, Dust: An Elysian Tail has much more depth of animation — up to 5 or 6 levels on some maps — but it’s not as deep or layered as the most recent iteration of Strider. Nonetheless, it still looks good. The main character seems clunky to me as he lumbers stiff-legged across the landscape, but he’s fluid as he evades and chops down bad guys who cross his path. His controls are also fluid and responsive, and the game mechanics just feel right. There was never a time when I thought the physics felt wrong or the main character was unwieldy. If anything, the game goes out of its way to be accommodating. For example, if you jump and attack an airborne enemy, if that enemy is outside of your range, you’ll magically magnetize yourself in their direction. It makes the game much easier.
"His (Dust) controls are also fluid and responsive, and the game mechanics just feel right. "
Honestly, I never saw one Game Over during my 16 hours of game play. Although I like to consider myself a veteran of video games, I’m not sure if this game is just really easy or if I’m really great. Early on, I was given a side quest to chain a 1000 hit combo and I thought, “Pfft. Like that’ll ever happen.” Shortly thereafter, I had a 1500 hit combo on my counter. Like I said, I don’t think it’s that difficult. As you play the game, you level up your character by earning skill gems which can be used toward your health, attack, defense, and your familiar (Fidget). However, you’re restricted from focusing all of your skill gems on one skill while neglecting another because all of your skills must be within 5 points of each other. This makes the game feel more like a façade than actual freedom. I didn’t like that feeling, and I also didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t change my weapon.
For this game to be considered an RPG, lacking the ability to change your weapon is…well…lacking. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anyone else complain about it. What I like most about Metroid-Vania games is collecting cool weapons and equipment. There is only one weapon in Dust: An Elysian Tail: your sword. There are plenty of item drops, but they’re only health items, crafting materials, and money. The crafting materials make items which boost your stats. The money is used for buying health items, treasure chest keys, teleport and revive gems, crafting materials to build stat boosting equipment…or simply to buy stat boosting equipment. You can rescue “friends” from secret cages, but unlocking friends unlocks — you guessed it — stat boosts.
"For this game to be considered an RPG, lacking the ability to change your weapon is…well…lacking. "
The new skills you acquire only help you gain access to more of the world. You use the same sword and combos to fight every enemy in the entire game. Once I sufficiently overpowered my character, I began flying over enemies to avoid unnecessary battles. Fidget, your familiar, does gain three elemental attacks, but once she learns the electrical storm, I doubt you’ll want to use anything else.The real challenge of the game comes from clearing all the maps…and especially…unlocking all the treasures. This is where the game truly shines and lures you into playing for “just a few more hours.” Some of the treasures and quests leading up to them, are so strange and perplexing, that simply solving their puzzles is all the reward I needed.
Overall, I still believe Dust: An Elysian Tail is a worthy addition into the Metroid-Vania club of puzzle platformers. The game isn’t very challenging, and the characters don’t look the greatest, but the mechanics are fluid, the controls are responsive, and the puzzles are fun to solve — at least one time around.
- A gorgeous world featuring excellent level design and depth
- Unique, challenging puzzles
- Fluid gameplay, tight controls
- Excellent voice acting and soundtrack
- Characters are bland compared to the rest of the game's art work
- Not very challenging for a Metroid-vania game, even on the hardest difficulty setting
- RPG elements are lacking