Dust: An Elysian Tail Review
Don't let the dust settle on this classic
Playing last-gen titles on the new consoles has become a thing much quicker than it did on PS3 and 360 where the HD-remake fad began. Less than a year into the new machines and we've seen the likes of Tomb Raider, Metro: Last Light, The Last of Us and Diablo III all get new-gen re-releases. Hell, we don't even have a proper name for them yet, we can hardly call them Super HD, because the visual upgrade is usually minimal. And remaster sounds a bit like one of George Lucas’ milking terms.
But what about downloadable titles? On console they often struggle to resurface after launch with Sony and Microsoft's digital store fronts making even new games difficult to find, never mind older ones. When sensibly priced at second time of asking, we can definitely get behind them though. Dust: An Elysian Tail never made it to Sony platforms in 2012 and is still priced at £9.99 / $14.99 on XBLA, so the same price tag on PS4 seems fair enough if you're yet to play the game, although there's no real incentive to buy the game again if you already own it on 360 or PC. Act fast enough and you can get it for free as a part of this month's PS+ collection.
If you are yet to play Dust: An Elysian Tail, you're in for an absolute treat. The game is hybrid of genres and performs admirably in every genre it boasts. It's a 2D side-scrolling action platformer with XP levelling and equipable stat-boosting armour. A comparison that will hopefully whet your appetite is Dragon's Crown meets Kingdom Hearts. The range of difficulty options ensure it is suitable for gamers of any age or skill. Although, it is potentially tough if you rush into a fight a few XP levels too soon.
There aren't many moves to master, but the controls are so responsive and the action such a joy to behold, it doesn't really matter. You have two melee buttons that can be mixed for aerial combos and throws, but it's Dust's flying companion Fidget that really sets the game on fire. He unleashes a stream of energy pods, that when combined with Dust’s sword spin skill sees them amplified and turned into homing attacks.
Your combo counter goes berserk whenever the two protagonists combine with you holding circle and triangle together to unleash the fireworks. Later unlocks see you able to change spell types between lightning storms and pillars of fire at the touch of a button. With different elements working better against certain opponents, you'll have fun discovering weaknesses to destroy the large groups of enemies with godlike levels of fire and brimstone at your disposal. These powerful attacks are limited to an energy bar, but it can be refilled quickly via melee strikes, so you're never far from filling the screen with another storm.
The game runs at a slick 60FPS in 1080p which complements the art style of still backgrounds and brightly coloured classic Disney-esque animation of the enemy characters. The environments themselves carefully tick off the usual gaming tropes like forests, caves, lava and snowy mountains. There’s plenty to do in each of the game’s stages though and a helpful map highlights any areas where there is treasure left to find, which you’ll want to track down, in case it’s some handy stat-boosting loot.
On the default difficulty, I hit a wall early on when facing a boss battle against three giants. But, after going away and exploring for a while and levelling up taking on smaller enemies, I eventually made my way back to fight and finished them in about 30 seconds. In fact, I found most of the remaining boss fights in the game very easy, thanks to the game throwing lots of side-missions at me and the core combat being so fun. Each time you re-enter a new screen, the enemies respawn, meaning you always have something to grind for more XP. Each time Dust levels up, you're able to spend one point on defence, health, attack or special, ensuring that you get stronger throughout at a pace that really suits the game and sees the 10+ hours on the default setting just fly by.
The platforming side of the game grows stronger throughout the adventure as you learn new skills to reach new areas in old environments. Combine this with the numerous side-missions (all fetch quests, naturally) and you always have something to do and there's something worth looking forward to just around the corner. A basic loot crafting system allows you to sell parts to a merchant in order for him to get them in stock for you on a regular basis to boost your own supplies, which comes in handy when you find a new blueprint for a fancy new amulet or weapon mod.
The only downside I can really think of is the story itself, which sees you playing the lead role of a warrior who has lost his memory *groan* and has an annoyingly voiced side-kick character. It’s the sort of generic mush that you’d see more of in a children’s TV show. Thankfully, it doesn’t feature too often.
The price to game length ratio is well balanced here and the limitations of the basic combat system never wear out their welcome thanks to the large explorable environments and the prospect of shinier loot. You know a game’s been great when the first thought that comes to mind after watching the credits roll is ‘let’s turn up the difficulty and have that Platinum Trophy this time.’