Everyone has something that they refer to as a “labor of love”. A project or goal that takes long hours, late nights, and more than a few hair pulling freak outs to complete. For Dean Dodrill, that project was Dust: An Elysian Tail (DaET). Aside from the soundtrack, voice acting, and parts of the story, Dodrill developed the game on his own. It is for these very reasons that a friend of mine recommended the game to me, and to make sure I played/reviewed it, he bought it for me during the Steam sale. Let the record show, I can be coerced into writing any review, if you give me a gift.
The story of DaET follows the tales of Dust. A rabbit swordsmen who has woken up in a glen with no memory of who he is. He is joined by the Blade of Ahrah, a magical talking sword, and Fidigt, a clumsy talking Nimbat (don’t worry, she’s cute), and they begin their quest to unlock Dust’s identity, which Ahrah says will come with time and, most likely, the plot. They soon find that his quest for identity is intertwined with a the actions of one General Gaius, our antagonist, who is waging war with a race of people called the Moonbloods. The rest of the story is so good that … that I really can’t describe the story further than this. See, DaET is more than just an action-rpg, it’s an action-rpg with an engrossing story. Just as Dust is learning of the goings on in the land, so are you, which means his curiosity is also your curiosity. You go from mountain tops, to caves, to cemeteries, just to learn more about yourself and the world you’re in. Despite how beautiful of a world it is, it really isn’t pretty.
The war between Gaius and the Moonbloods is less a war than it is a genocide. I’ll give you a hint why it’s a genocide. General Gaius is a mammal … the Moonbloods are reptiles, and Gaius hates them for that. That’s all the qualifications for a serious genocide, my friends. It so chilling too, because at first glance, DaET looks and plays like a kids game, but the story and lessons are very adult. Try to explain to your 5 year old why the bad guy wants all the lizard people to die. You can’t do it! Despite the overarching story being badass, the individual character ones are less so. Dust, for a guy coming out of amnesia, has way more personality than Ginger, a girl in town that is just quiet all the time, and when she does speak it’s like listening to an answering machine. You don’t get into much detail with many of the other supporting characters either. I think Fidigit might be one of the few exceptions to that, where she grows just as Dust does, and she has some great comic relief moments.
The gameplay of DaET is like most sword based action-rpgs, you hack and you slash, and if you do the right combos, you get some specialty moves. I’m sure someone out there has mastered exactly how to pull of each combo, but that’s not me. I pressed the attack buttons and movement keys hoping to god that I wouldn’t get stunned and lose my combo score. Fidigit also joins the fray as your magic user. She will launch an attack that is mostly weak until you use the wind ability with Ahrah. When their powers combine they form … a crazy amount of damage and combo points, and every defeated boss will grant Fidgit another ability. My personal favorite was the inferno ability from the boss Fuse because I’m a fire fancier (I can’t say pyro without some people getting tense). Dust can also block incoming strikes, but aside from a couple of antagonists, the block and counter combo isn’t too necessary. As you level up, you can upgrade your skills and buy/make equipment to buff out your skills. A power gamer can out scale the monsters they’re facing pretty quickly. By the last chapter, my base attack was close to 2500, so I would fly across fields of baddies, raining fire down upon them all like an elder god. Needless to say, it was a bit of a power trip, and that feeling of power will keep you wanting to fight more and more. I’ve picked the game back up a couple of times since beating it, just to murder things. There’s still enjoyment in that for me!
There’s not much else to say about Dust: An Elysian Tail. It’s a masterful work of love, that I hope gets a sequel soon. I’d love to get back into the fight and incinerate my opponents for experience points! If you’re a fan of Metroidvania type games you should definitely pick up a copy of this game. As for me, I’m going to go back and show General Gaius the true meaning of the word “firepower”.