Tuesday, August 23, 2011

From Dust

One of the dangers of having Steam installed on my computer is that every now and then, I'll see an ad for a game that looks interesting and is priced relatively low. Usually I can resist the temptation to splurge. Sometimes I can't. And the cheap-o games I get are a mixed bag. Some are really fun, others aren't.

So a few weeks ago, I saw an ad for From Dust. The ad made it sound like this was a critically acclaimed game and a friend of mine mentioned playing it. I blame my sleep deprived state, but I decided to buy the game and see what it was like.

It's a fairly straightforward game. You have a little tribe of followers/worshipers who are traveling from level to level, building villages around stone totems. You are some sort of powerful deity or spirit or something-or-other who can sort of control the forces of nature, sculpting the land, protecting your people, guiding them ever onward in their quest to find . . . well, I'm not sure what, exactly. The story in this game isn't much, just a weird through-line of trying to find "the Ancients" for some unknown reason. Go figure.

Each level is basically a puzzle you have to solve, using the powers that your followers can unlock for you. For example, if they build a village around the totem for "Infinite Earth," you gain the ability to create sand and dump it wherever you want for a limited amount of time. The trick is to figure out how to keep your tribe safe from the hostile world around them. That's not as easy as it sounds. There were a few levels that I barely made it past, simply because I got lucky.

In many ways, this game reminded of me of a stripped down version of the old Populous games. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I liked Populous. And for the most part, I liked From Dust. The levels were challenging enough but not so bad as to completely stymie me. There are further challenge levels that I may check out.

The downside is the DRM, which apparently a lot of gamers are upset about. From what little I can gather, Ubisoft, the game's developer, promised that you wouldn't need a persistent internet connection to play but, guess what, you actually do. That didn't bother me so much, but for some reason, at the beginning and end of each session, the game tried to sync my saved games and failed, a process that took two to three minutes. Kind of bugged me.

So I guess you have to ask yourself if you don't mind intrusive DRM. If not, this could be a fun distraction.

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