Dust: An Elysian Tail debuts it’s Nintendo Switch release today, September 10th, 2018. This title originally launched several years ago, back in 2012 on the Xbox 360, and has seen subsequent ports to other platforms since. Regardless of this, the latest port was my first time having any experience with Dust: An Elysian Tail. And I can’t say I was missing all that much.
Game Name: Dust: An Elysian Tail
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Humble Hearts (Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Humble Hearts
Release Date: September 10th, 2018
Price: 14.99 USD
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a 2D, hack n’ slash platformer with RPG elements sprinkled in for good measure. This game is an action adventure featuring our anthropomorphic protagonist Dust, his talking sword the Blade of Ahrah, and a quirky Nimbat (Blade of Ahrah’s guardian) named Fidget. Our heroes tour the fantasy world of Falana looking to stop the tyrannical General Gaius from his destructive campaign of purging those deemed a cosmic mistake. Sounds possibly cool right? Too bad it flimsily flops on several accounts, including execution of narrative, characters devoid of any likeability, and unappealing designs for said characters. The music, gameplay, and environments are seemingly the only redeeming qualities of Dust: An Elysian Tail.
The highlight of Dust: An Elysian Tail is most certainly the fast-paced combat. Fat combo strings coupled with stylish movement makes for an exciting time all around, until the repetitiveness begins to set in. Combat is incredibly simplistic, pressing either Y or X a series of times or a combination of the two will give you a string of attacks. There aren’t any directional inputs accompanying your combos aside from holding down for two attacks which are angled downward. The combat system lets you absolutely body the unfortunate monsters that cross your path with unrelenting combos, which is fun. Though creativity of your combo structure is stunted with a limited move set; prepare to see the same order of attacks over and over again. There’s just not much to work with.
Dust’s melee combat with the Blade of Ahrah isn’t your only means of attack, however. Fidget will assist with magical projectiles and your trusty blade, Ahrah, will grant you the Storm ability. A move involving rapid spinning of your sword that creates a whirlwind of slashes and can be performed on the ground or while airborne. The airborne version is disgustingly abuse-able; I’m talking skipping over entire stretches of land and bypassing hordes of enemies kind of abuse-able. If you combine Fidget’s projectiles with the Storm ability you’ll be free to avoid the most haphazard situations. I actually enjoyed doing as such, but it does practically trivialize everything the game throws at you.
Combat isn’t the sole gameplay mechanic though. Dust: An Elysian Tail also features a bit of platforming and some light RPG devices too. Platforming isn’t all too engaging, successfully leaping over an obstacle or making a precarious jump doesn’t feel all that grand. I didn’t experience a single instance where I felt accomplished or challenged by my maneuverability. That doesn’t mean the platforming is a detriment to the game, it’s just there.
The same could be said for the RPG side of things. Dust gains experience when battling enemies and can bolster an increase in the experience gained by maintaining a longer combo. Level ups will reward the player with Skill Points to assign to either Health, Defense, Attack, or Fidget (buffs your projectile potency). Items can be equipped that can add to your stats like a ring or pendant with Attack + 3 accompanying it. These items can also be constructed from blueprints found out in the world while on your travels about Falana. There aren’t any faults with the RPG elements of Dust: An Elysian Tail, but again, they’re not anything to write home about. Harmless fluff that adds another layer to the game is how I view both the platforming and RPG aspects.
Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention. The minigame involving opening chests or just cracking open locks is oddly satisfying. Treasure chests are scattered across the land of Falana and require Keys to unlock them. Find the necessary Keys and you’ll be able to open up one of these bad boys with a minigame requiring you to input the correct button prompt. You’ve got a be quick on your reaction time though or you’ll fail the prompt. It’s a very charming minigame that adds a bit of fun to looting.
Let’s talk about the visual aesthetics of the game now. I feel conflicted regarding this one… On one hand, the environments are pretty enough to be well appreciated, and on the other hand, we have unappealing designs for characters across the board. NPC’s, the antagonistic forces, and your main heroes are all just so wack looking. They look like rejected cartoon characters from a kid’s television series. Or perhaps a better comparison would be that they resemble knock-off Neopets (Anyone remembers those things?). As soon as I met with a town full of NPC’s I felt immediately turned off from the game. The characters are just so offputting to look at.
However, the creature designs of enemies are solid and have more personality than the characters who are fully voiced with individual personalities. These enemies were like eye-candy compared to the dull and drab NPC’s you speak with. The environments (which are indeed pretty) present enemy designs of which suit that type of setting. Arctic wolves are found in the wintry tundra while undead abominations are found within a desolate location wrought with death. Enemy, creature designs are solid through and through as too are the various locales you’ll encounter.
The musical pieces that played throughout Dust: An Elysian Tail were nice. The OST always accentuated the action and the current atmosphere the game was trying to convey. Though I wouldn’t find myself seeking out the tracks to listen to on the regular, the music was good enough.
The sound design is solid as well. Nothing struck me to be particularly noteworthy; all the sounds you would expect to hear at the right times were present. Attacks like body slams and lighting casting all sounded just right.
The narrative of Dust: An Elysian Tail is absolutely fine. It’s understandable, it’s cohesive, but it lacks impact and delivery. First off, all the game’s dialogue was subpar; the story might’ve fared better without audible, mediocre voice acting everywhere. The lame writing for dialogue just adds to exacerbate this problem and causes every character interaction to become something one would wish to avoid. Seriously, it’s not the best.
Our story begins with the “protagonist can’t remember their past” trope, a.k.a. amnesia. I don’t have a problem with this actually, but it’s not inherently unique. You awake in a forest with your memory nowhere to be found and are soon met with your companion characters, The Blade of Arah (wise, talking sword) and it’s sworn guardian, Fidget (cute Neopet-like creature). The trio gets acquainted with one another and then begin on their journey.
What ensues are plot points that should feel like impactful, climatic events, but instead hold no emotional weight whatsoever. For example, you visit a neighboring town by request of a Mayor of another town to deal with a potentially dangerous threat. Upon reaching your destination you are faced with a village reduced to smoldering ash and debris. Traveling further into the destruction our heroes discover the culprit. A crazed lunatic hell-bent on revenge for the losses suffered by his people and himself. His name is Fuse, a Moonblood (lizard people) who has been horribly disfigured due to General Gaius’ campaign to eliminate all Moonbloods.
So, you can kinda empathize with why this poor fellow fell off the deep end, but he must be stopped regardless. Upon defeating Fuse, he drops a little info bomb regarding who you truly are right before fading into the afterlife. Fuse insinuates that Dust fought under General Gaius and was responsible for the deaths of his brethren and others. Pretty heavy stuff, but its hard to muster any investment in this plot point. I mean we just met the guy, briefly explored his lore, and learn a little about your mysterious past all within the time span of 10-15 minutes. There is little time for fostering a sense of giving a damn for any of this. No build-up at all, things just happen.
This issue pervades every nook and cranny of every major plot point within the game. The information laid out for the player is coherent enough to make sense of everything and it links together all fine and dandy. The story just feels like it got ripped out of the oven too early and didn’t have the sufficient enough time to cook properly. That’s just some random guy on the internet two cents on the matter though. You might not find these problems prevalent at all.
Regardless of all the gripes I personally had with the game it’s still a decent title worth giving a shot if my words didn’t deter you. For me, I can only recommend Dust: An Elysian Tail solely for its gameplay and enticing environments. There is a fair amount of world to explore and side quests to embark on alongside the main proprietary plotline, but you’d have to have a desire to play more to experience it all.
Review Disclosure Statement: [Dust: An Elysian Tail] was provided to us by [Humble Hearts LLC.] for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Dust: An Elysian Tail (Nintendo Switch)
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a fun 2D, action adventure title that unfortunately gets bogged down by a series of poorly executed qualities. Aesthetically pleasing backgrounds are contrasted with ugly character designs, fast-paced gameplay is resigned to a repetitive future, and a lukewarm story concept is hindered by weak writing.
- Satisfying combat.
- Fluid movement.
- Pretty environments.
- Awful character designs.
- Poor voice acting.
- Weak writing.
- Unimpactful narrative.
- Repetitive gameplay.