Around the end of summer, I decided to get back to trying and playing new video games. The process started with Dream, an art game by HyperSloth Ltd. that gave me high hopes but didn’t yield as enjoyable an experience. Disheartened, I dove back through Steam’s listing of recent titles on sale and came across a relatively new PC release courtesy of Microsoft.
This is the beat ‘em up game known as Dust: An Elysian Tail.
Dust is the story of an amnesiac warrior armed with a sentient sword and accompanied by the weapon’s guardian, a flying girlish creature named Fidget. Dust and Fidget begin a quest to rediscover his identity and restore peace to the land, facing down hordes of monsters and aiding villagers as they move one step closer to unraveling a terrible mystery regarding the monster attacks in their land and Dust’s shady past.
Looking beyond the story, Dust is a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up game with RPG elements. One thing about the combat system in this game is that it’s very simple to learn and very satisfying to use. After the first few fights, you quickly learn that you can clear any screen of enemies by holding down the right set of buttons while rapid-tapping your attack sequences. Of course, the game is nicely balanced out with occasional rock monsters and boss fights where rapid button mashing sometimes need to be broken so you can dodge an actual attack.
As for the RPG elements, they’re alright, but nothing inspiring. I honestly didn’t get much out of the more banal aspects of the game, like gathering materials that I could sell to local merchants or craft into new combat items. With the right combos, most enemies can’t touch you and you’ll level up pretty fast, so the occasional armor vest that grants +1 Defense doesn’t seem like all that great an investment.
It does show that Microsoft Studios and the Humble Hearts team really put a lot of effort into designing this game. Besides the variety of colorful monsters you get to battle, Dust also features a lovely setting, which is an odd mix of Edo Period architecture and landscapes populated by several species of talking animals. While some might dismiss the style as a bit too cartoonish, I didn’t find it to be that bad. It certainly didn’t distract from the simple joy of mowing down enemies with my sword and spinning attacks.
If you’re looking for a basic beat ‘em up game with a decent story, then Dust is the game for you. It’s not a game that requires a lot of skill, only persistence and a willingness to have fun whenever possible.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is available for purchase and download through Steam.
Bibliography: Dust: An Elysian Tail. Developed by Humble Hearts. Published by Microsoft Studios. Designed by Dean Dodril. Written by Dean Dodril and Alex Kain. Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, PlayStation 4. Microsoft Windows release date: May 24, 2013.