It feels like every year we can count on the Xbox Live Arcade catalogue to deliver us an awesome RPG title. Last year Supergiant Games delivered us Bastion, and before that, a number of Deathspank titles came to XBLA from Hothead Games. This year is no different with the crown of XBLA RPG of the year going to Dust: An Elysian Tail.
The game is created by the one man genius that is Dean Dodrill, under the studio name Humble Hearts. Aside from the well acted voice cast and soundtrack Dodrill did everything behind the game, and knowing that, it just makes this RPG that little bit more special. From the moment you start the game up the colour and design of the game is great. When I initially saw the announcement trailer I thought it looked like My Little Pony on drugs, but it is so much more than that. There is a clear western influence in the character design from the get go, and this fits really well into the colours and landscape of the game that pulls you instantly into the world.
Dust: An Elysian Tail focuses on the story of Dust (a fox like creature), his friend Fidget and his sword Aarah. Dust has awoken with no memories of who he is or why he has forgotten his previous life and so goes on a quest to rediscover his memories. On the journey you will experience the three main elements of the game including questing, levelling up your character in a hack and slash combat control style, and exploring the various environments for all the hidden treasures they contain.
There are so many positives in this game, but one of the main elements that works well and keeps the player immersed within the environment and story is the combat system. Using a hack and slash style of instant combat, the controls are so responsive that the payer genuinely feels like they have input into what Dust is doing, whether that is crating a dust storm or just leaping from the sky and plunging Aarah into the ground.
The levelling up system is what you would expect - kill some monsters or complete a quest to gain XP. As you level up you get to spend a skill gem on Defence, Attack, Max Health or boosting Fidget. When I was levelling up, I basically turned Dust and Fidget into tanks and could one-hit-kill nearly every enemy within the game by the end.
The quests are fun and simple in the game but do not really deviate from your standard RPG fair. Go to A to get quest, Go to B to battle something or collect something. Return to A to reap your reward. Normally this would be tiresome and put the more casual player off, however this is not the case with Dust, which keeps the player immersed with its character design, controls and gradual plot progression.
While there is a lot of going back and forth in Dust this is not a problem. There are save points littered within each area of the game, and it is from here you can teleport to another save pillars in any area, which becomes very handy when you are doing a big quest or need to return somewhere. In addition, exploration and traversing the detailed landscapes will bring its own rewards in the form of treasure chest littered around each area.
With everything the game involves, including all the side quests and exploring each area, this game can easily take you 12-15 hours, which is more than some boxed retail games and offers great value for its 1200MSP price point. As I mentioned earlier, the story and art style is a bit chaotic and fantastical, but it is not too hard to understand, and the colour and design draws you in instantly and makes you want to stay and revisit the world again and again.
Overall, Dust is a great game that should not be overlooked. This year’s ‘Summer of Arcade’ has been a bit disappointing, and out of all the games released Dust:An Elsyian Tail has got to be the ruling champion. There are some big budget boxed games coming out towards the end of August, but they should not eclipse this great game that should be on everyone’s ‘to buy’ list.