Review: From Dust – Xbox LIVE Arcade

Sometimes I just want to roll up into a ball of hot, raging fire and release my will unto the world. From Dust gives me that opportunity, and for the most part – I leave satisfied.

What is From Dust?

From Dust

Like him, my back hurts from carrying them...

From Dust is a puzzle game first, and a god-game second. The reason I say this is the terrains you’re dealing with really are like puzzles. There are things you should do, and there are things you should avoid. You’re taming the elements – earth, water and fire. I’m sorry that wind didn’t make an appearance for this game. Wind could not be reached for comment.

Your goal as a god is to lead your tribal followers down a path of survival and prosperity. In order to do so, you need to tame the elements and mold the world to become hospitable. This could mean building mountains or cliffs to steer hot lava away from a village or directing river water to a new path. There are a million ways you can solve the puzzles of the island.

A job well done

From Dust’s success comes from its simplicity. Surprisingly, there are only a few controls to learn. The triggers and bumpers are about all you need beside the typical movement controls. I was a little surprised how few buttons you needed (more on this later). Your key focus is to pull the elements from the island and place them where you need them. These controls are definitely geared toward that.

From Dust - Environment

The real estate prices are at an all time low!

The puzzles (islands) are amazing. You start out very simple, but then you start running into some very crazy layouts. Volcanoes to the left of you, and raging waters to the right – it’s not a safe place to live – but you have to make it work. The detail is amazing as well. Rivers can overrun your embankments. Lava can burn its way through your barricades. Trees that incinerate nearby plant life or evaporate water. Trees that release water when hot. There are even trees that explode!

I’m also not one to gush over graphics and visualization, but for an arcade game ($15) the graphics have amazing detail. It’s hard at times not to get immersed in the environment.

And the not so good

Remember those simple controls I talked about? At times they are a little too simple. You largely don’t ever use the other four key buttons the Xbox gave you. You predominantly use those buttons for menus, but I can’t help but feel at times there could have been so much more to do if they were utilized. The analog can also be difficult at times. These moments are often when you need to be precise in where you drop that ball of lava so you don’t accidentally burn and kill your villagers. When you zoom in it moves a little slower, but it seems more sluggish than anything.

The AI of your tribes leaves a lot to be desired. Talk about a one-track mind! When you wish for them to move on to a new area, the people will pick a route. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get them to take the route you had in mind without devoting considerable resources to either render their path completely useless or making their chosen path work. I spend 15 minutes at one point trying to convince them not to try to scale the unscalable cliff and go around.


From Dust is a fun game with a lot of great challenges. After beating the story mode, take some time to try the challenges. They introduce new limitations or twists to the game to challenge your thinking and strategy. The game is a lot of fun and is well-deserving of the price tag. It’s a good follow-up to the Summer of Arcade.

Despite some questions about control and a troublesome AI, the game is a solid purchase.