“Now that is how you make a game… by yourself.” was the first thing that I said, aloud, after the ending credits rolled for Dust: An Elysian Tail. If you’ve been following this game, you’d know that it’s (basically) a one man project.
Dean Dodrill designed the game, came up with the concept, did all the art, managed all the code and even wrote the story. The man, as far as I’m concerned, is a genius. Throughout the entire game, I was constantly impressed by how good the gameplay, the writing and the art were.
To have one person be so talented at so many vital aspects of a game, is impressive beyond words. Had he made a mediocre game, I still would have been impressed. The fact that he, almost alone, is responsible for this masterpiece, is astonishing.
Although every aspect of Dust is amazing, the artwork truly stands out. Indeed, this game is living proof that we moved on from 2-D games far too quickly. Especially the Metroidvania genre in which Dust resides. The landscapes are particularly breathtaking and the HD sprites are just too gorgeous for words.
The seamless transitions between animations is so fluid and natural, that I found myself looking forward to each enemy encounter. Each new fight, was a chance for me to create art, by chaining together combos that looked more like choreography found in a movie, than a video game.
While I was expecting breath taking animations and gorgeous character models, I wasn’t expecting beautiful particle effects. I would often find myself cycling through all of my spells, casting each one, to create unbelievably awesome effects on screen.
Engulfing the screen in pillars of fire, while rising enemies into the air with volts of electricity, paralyzing them in preparation for the onslaught of spirit bombs, never stopped being satisfying. Ever. Oh, and did I mention that, while doing all of that, I was soaring through the air, cutting not only scores of minions with my blade, but the very air itself?
Each slash creating a subtle visual indention against the wind, that was almost hidden amongst the chaos that I created during every conflict. And yet, as subtle as it was, I noticed it and it’s those subtle efforts that really makes all the difference in this game.
While most 2-D games will stick to static character portraits during dialogue scenes between characters, Dust: An Elysian Tail has fully animated portraits that have much more than just two or three alternating portraits.
As a result, the characters were really open to expressing emotions. Though, the art is not solely responsible for this. Combined with the stellar voice acting and the solid writing, the characters were really able to flourish.
Indeed, it was the combination of all these aspects that really came together to create these believable characters that the audience can connect with. Fidget in particular was a real treat.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve encountered a side kick that was this well written, let alone acted. The voice actresses’ delivery of her lines was simply sublime. The rest of the cast wasn’t too far off, with everyone clearly giving it their all.
The dialogue wasn’t the only strong suit of the writing. I was constantly surprised by how good the storyline was. Especially considering the fact that it’s a story about amnesia and I absolutely abhor such story lines. However, this game is the first to make amnesia actually work in any medium of storytelling, let alone taking it to such emotional depths.