You wake up in the middle of a field with no idea who you are, or what you’re doing. A totally foreign winged creature flitters about, its aggravatingly chipper voice flinging questions at you incessantly. The ornate sword at your feet can also talk, but thankfully its voice is mercifully sombre. It informs you that you need to go on a mission to save the world; the reasons for this mission aren’t important right now. Of course they aren’t.
This is the basic setup for Dust: An Elysian Tail, and you’d be forgiven for any fleeting feelings of déjà vu you might have. Indeed, this opening routine is used in more video games than could be reasonably played in a lifetime. And while Humble Hearts’ inaugural effort certainly isn’t a total narrative novice, it suffers from following this well-trodden path a bit too closely.
Warring factions parallel the character’s internal struggles, while the slaughter of innocent bystanders acts as a means of artificially tugging at your heartstrings. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with these tropes – and in truth, the game often presents them in a charmingly self-referential way – but you’ve definitely been here before.
But we’re getting off track – back to saving the world. In order to carry out this task, you’ll travel between locations, fighting ne'er-do-wells, gaining distinct powers, and ultimately using the fruits of your labour to open up new areas to explore. Think Metroidvania, but with a bit more freedom and less skill-based roadblocks.
Dust, your plucky protagonist, has two main attacks: a basic slash, and the ‘dust storm’, which sees him spinning his sword in place. The latter attack can also be combined with various magical abilities provided by your flying feline friend to potentially devastating effect.
There’s also a crucial vertical element to combat, which will often see you juggling several enemies in the air before bringing them down for a fatal final blow. Thankfully, controlling this action is always fantastically fluid. Dodging in and out of the fray, racking up huge combos, and raining down devastating magical attacks all feels exactly as it should.
Each enemy that you lop down will reward you with experience points that play into a basic levelling system, allowing you to upgrade your stats. Cash, healing items, materials, and blueprints also frequently drop from these nefarious nemeses. The materials can either be sold, or used to craft the often powerful items detailed in the blueprints. These systems aren’t deep by any means, but do add a nice simple layer of strategy to the moments in-between the action.
Speaking of ‘in-between moments’, the title has a wealth of quests to complete outside the main storyline. Many of these amount to little more than running back and forth between two locations, but they do provide a neat distraction, as well as a handy way to level up. There are also numerous locked boxes hidden throughout the world, which – when opened – release adorable creatures who’ll give you a permanent stat increase. Again, these exploration-based elements aren’t going to set the world on fire, but clearing out the loot in each area is undeniably satisfying.
The game isn’t quite so sound on a structural level, though. While the first half of the main quest is remarkably deliberate in its design, the second feels much less polished. This is due in part to a lack of new ideas, but more so to a seemingly renewed focus on platforming. And while some of these decidedly jumpy sections do work as advertised, the vast majority fall victim to the game’s controls. Namely, the aforementioned fluidity is great when you’re slashing your way through a batch of bumbling brigands, but is much less helpful when you’re trying to navigate a series of increasingly minute platforms.
However, these sins can be somewhat forgiven when one views the game’s visuals and audio. Ludicrously lush backdrops react to random changes in weather, while characters themselves all move in a delightfully hand-drawn style. What’s more, the title features a beautifully orchestrated soundtrack which does a solid job of underscoring the action, while keeping quiet and subtle when appropriate. And while there are a few textures that look a bit stretched, as well as some slightly strange audio level issues between cut scenes, the overall presentation is a joy to behold.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a relatively rousing beat-‘em-up experience. Its combat feels fluid and precise, its presentation is mostly gorgeous, and its story – while relatively pedestrian – is told with humour and panache. Unfortunately, a repetitive second half combined with some potentially profanity-provoking platforming hold it back from truly soaring.
Is Elysian feels supposed to read fields or is there something Im not getting (just woke up)
This actually is a PS4 exclusive correct? Looks like it would have made a nice Vita game. This will probably be a PS+ game around the time I get a PS4 so Ill be looking forward to it then.
@rjejr Yeah, it's a terrible pun that makes reference to the 'Elysian Fields'
There's no shame in not getting it - I wrote it, and I don't really get it to be honest
@rjejr It actually came out on the Xbox 360 first, but I believe this has been spruced up for PS4. The developer hasn't ruled out a Vita port, but it's probably not likely.
EDIT: Also, it's available on PlayStation Plus for PS4 this month.
@rjejr it's actually a ps + game now. And I think it's ps4 only but it was originally on Xbox 360.
I loved this game on 360 (got it free with games on gold) so I will gladly pay for an enhanced version on ps4
I really like this game. I would give it a 4/5.
Its a nice little game but I don't like it all, maybe if I was 10 and played this a decade ago I'd like it, but no, not for me really.
This game is pretty good.
@rjejr: Its available on Xbox 360, and PC via steam and GOG.com as well.
Another great indie title. I played through this game a bit on the PC before my vid card blew up so glad that it came out on the PS4 so I can finish this great game.
Honestly if you have a PS+ sub you would be a fool not to at least give this game a try.
Thanks for everybody who told me about this being on PS+. Maybe I should start buying all the PS4 games on SEN like I do w/ the Vita games.
I like the game but some of the art is amateur deviant art quality.
I gave up as soon as the little flying rat thing started talking.
The humour fell flat and the whole thing just seems a bit... I don't know. Wussy? Either way it got deleted after about 10 minutes.
@Johnnycide that's the hat I end up doing with most of the ps4 PS plus games, they're all a bit rubbish, there is generally something similar and much better on the vita.
@Bad-MuthaAdebis Yeah, the look of it immediately made me think of certain people with certain interests involving dressing up as animals, and I am really not into that. Then after about 10 minutes of "move farward, easy fight. move forward, easy fight. Bad Joke. Irritating rat thing talking. Move forward, easy fight" I just gave up.
I've really enjoyed a few of the plus games (especially Velocity, which was superb) but this is just.... I don't know. It's not really my sort of game anyway but it just grated on me for some reason.
Pix the cat tho, that's pretty sweet.
Loving this game, just beat lady tephis the water queen. I think 7 was a bit harsh a score imo as i personally am finding the combat and story excellent
@Johnnycide your missing out on a good game mate
@Bad-MuthaAdebis Im the same.
I want to like it, Ive tried it before and didnt get along with it, so I thought Ill try again.
I dont know what it is but it just isnt very appealing.
The othe PS plus games have been mostly this sort of thing and I guess they just dont work for me now Im not on the Mega Drive.
@Johnnycide too much like Packman and chu chu rocket, I wouldn't mind a proper bomber man for ps4, please nobody mention basement crawl.
It's not normally my sort of game but i love it really(i am hard to please normally) I download and try all the PS PLUS games and liked this 1 + the visuals and audio are just LOVELY
id give it a solid 7.5
It's a very good game. Easy platinum to obtain which I got earlier today. I'll admit I got teary in some parts due to the great voice acting such as Ch.2.
Anything Metroidvania - ish and I'm there. Too preoccupied with Shadow of Mordor at the moment but will add to massive backlog of PS4/Vita games...
Playing through this at the moment and loving it so far (32% complete).
It reminds me of Muramasa, except better with the RPG elements etc. I'd give it an 8/10
Only played the first hour but it reminds me a lot of Muramasa Rebirth.
@Dodoo You can't score a game when you're just over a quarter of the way through it. That's like saying an album is 8/10 because the first two songs are hit singles, ignoring the other nine process of audio s**t.
@rastamadeus Firstly I'm a third of the way through, not a quarter and why can't I score what I've played so far? I didn't say that was my definitive score for the entire game...
@Bad-MuthaAdebis I'd also like to see a bomberman on PS4 hence why I paid for Basement Crawl when it was first out and well..enough said..
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