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What’s (Not) Killing My Social Life This Week – Dust: An Elysian Tale

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Have you ever wanted to play as a talking, anthropomorphic version of Link? Is your tolerance for cheesy dialogue and angsty characters high enough for you to watch Zero No Tsukaima? Does the idea of playing as a semi-undead, samurai warrior in any way appeal to you? If yes then don’t play Dust, because it’s all of the above, but less fun and more irritating.

Dust: An Elysian Tale is a single-player, action RPG developed by Humble Hearts and hated by me. The story is dull, clichéd and unimaginative, possibly in order to match the characters’ personalities. You are a mouse –off to a flying start- waking up with no memory of who you are or why you’re wearing a silly hat. This lack of cognitive powers and fashion sense sets you off on a grand quest, which will ultimately lead to your gruesome death (spoiler alert), but is grand nonetheless. Accompanying you are an obligatory magical sword and an obligatory “comic relief” character, here played by a talking lollipop and a Navi-bat.

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Now, I usually don’t spend much time rambling about the plot, but I’m willing to make an exception for Dust, mostly because it sucks. This really is the best example of anime gone bad, with tortuous dialogue and painfully cardboard characters; the foreign one, the weak-willed one, the one that seems interesting but is ruined halfway through, the forced love interest/sister (spoiler alert) etc. These are just a few examples off the top of my head, though largely because the other NPCs where too bland for me to register. And remember how I used the phrase “tortuous dialogue” 61 words ago? Well the writing on display is pretty embarrassing, but what really makes me cringe during cutscenes is the delivery. You know how in anime people sometimes make reaction noises, which, more often than not, sound horrible? Well, this game’s every line is a collection of those, neatly tied together with reaction-noise string. In fact, I’d recommend skipping most of them, or at least muting the game when Dust opens his angsty mouth.

Moving on, what originally caught my interest in Dust was the combat, with its flashy stunts and uppercuts. Then it shot down my interest and kicked it in the teeth while it screamed for mercy. See, while at first you might think that the gameplay is fun, varied and satisfying, it gradually turns stale and monotonous; there’s a very limited amount of combos available and, frankly, once you’ve mastered the old “grab enemy with lollipop and body-slam them to the ground” technique, then the game is officially over, bar a few more hours of mouse-clicking. And while there are some unlockable abilities, most of them are platform-related and have little to no impact on the actual combat. 

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Aside from that, there’s also a token crafting mechanic, which is ok, functional and there’s not much to say about it, so I’ll just go back to the story instead. After following the aforementioned love interest/sibling around, you eventually get some exposition by Ganmouse the Lame. Turns out you’re the combined being of an angsty goodie-two-shoes villager and a far more interesting assassin. Apparently, the two of you had a bigfight and the elders of Moon-whatever decided to merge you together as one. After you both died. Without asking. So that you could get killed trying to save them. Basically, they needed a puppet to do their bidding and took the good guy’s personality and the cool assassin’s combat expertise, making you in the process. And never does anyone address the moral implications of that action; isn’t this basically manipulating both good guy and assassin guy? What happened to the assassin’s personality? Is he just watching in horror as Dust massacres his former comrades? How does he feel about having to kill everyone he ever knew and loved, then get incinerated? What about Gaius? Didn’t he know assassin face? Aren’t they friends/lovers? How ethical is it to force them to fight to the death?

It’s important points like this that the story just glosses over, before we have enough time to realize that the Moonbloods are the real villains here; using their advanced sorcery to manipulate people on their side. I’m actually surprised at Dust for going along with their plans. Like, they just told you that you were thought as a tool for their salvation. Why are you not protesting more at their indifference to your existence? Oh, but it’s alright, there was a prophecy about it, so it’s fine. This might be me venting frustration from Dust’s dialogue, but god do I hate him. Is it too late to switch him over with someone more engaging? Like the engineer lady, she was quite fun. 

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So, in the end, is Dust worth playing? The answer is… meh. The gameplay’s fun I guess, though it does lose interest quite fast. Recommending it for its story is like recommending a torture machine for its comfy upholstery, though it does have some good bits. And yes, Dust: An Elysian Tale was made by a single person, meaning that it’s an incredible achievement etc, however I still found it lacking. If you like cheesy anime and generic characters then feel free to buy Dust, though you might be better off with something a little more original.

-The Fairy Wizard

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Posted on March 11, 2015, in Features, Geekology, Reviews, Video Games, What's Killing My Social Life This Week and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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