Games with Gold gives us another stunning game

Last week I wrote an article on Deadlight, April’s second Game with Gold, a game that I loved every second of. The artwork was fantastic and the cut-scenes were inspiring, in a way. It was a breath of fresh air and it was definitely a game that I wouldn’t have purchased without good recommendations. The reviews weren’t great, and that had always put me off of trying it. I was still a little curious, though, so it hitting Games with Gold was a bit of a bonus for me. It gave me the opportunity to try something that I might not have bothered with, were it not for the fact that it was free. The same has happened this month, thanks to Games with Gold offering us Dust: An Elysian Tale, for free. It’s a game that I definitely overlooked when it first came out back in 2012, to be honest, I’d not even heard of it until the first of this month. Deadlight really opened me up to types of games that I wouldn’t usually try, and I can’t begin to explain how thankful I am for that.

But that’s enough about Deadlight, if you want to know more read my other article. Dust: An Elysian Tale, is rather unlike any other game I’ve played. It combines the classic side-scroller beat ’em up / hack ‘n slash with elements of RPG. It feels very ‘Japanese’ in the concept, but it looks quite western. It’s how I would imagine a console version of Pokémon would look, which is a strange comparison, but the only way that I can describe it. There’s a lot to love about this game, though. The soundtrack is beautiful, the graphics are gorgeous and the voice acting is cheesy in places, but it always put a smile on my face.

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Let’s start with the design, shall we? The overall design of the game is what really makes it, for me at least. It’s wonderfully enchanting, with a superb level of detail for any game, let alone a side-scroller. The character design is probably one of my favourite aspects, with the anthropomorphic animals really bringing the levels to life. The backgrounds are just as mesmerizing, however, with stunning forests full of woodland creatures, babbling brooks and dank caves. The design of each area really combines to help build an atmosphere of wonder and amazement and helps create a beautiful fantasy world. I can’t sing higher praise for how this game looks, it grabbed my attention from the get-go and quickly sucked me into the fictional world of Falana.

Once the design had my attention, the soundtrack and voice-acting dragged me in even further as both aspects of the game really drew me into the story. I was quickly immersed in the game, sending hours floating by without me even noticing that a minute had passed. The main protagonist, Dust, is brilliantly voiced by Lucien Dodge with the acting and writing ensuring that the experience glides seamlessly along with help from his guide come floating companion, Fidget, superbly voiced by Kimlinh Tran. The game combines witty one-liners with silly puns and quite ‘feely’ moments to deliver a game that’s both funny and touching at times. But it’s not just the voice-acting that had me engaged, with the soundtrack rounding off the whole experience. The soundtrack was composed by HyperDuck SoundWorks, and it really helps frame the game. I could spend hours listening to the tracks whilst exploring the game world, as I would any RPG, without the need for very much combat at all. But the combat would be sorely missed from this game. Not that it would be boring without it, but because the combat is that perfect combination of simple to get the hang of, but challenging to do well, and it gave me that sense of achievement that’s really important in any RPG.

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The game mixes tranquil settings with all out action incredibly well. I was trekking through a magical forrest full of deer and rabbits one second, then slicing my way through hordes of monsters the next. One of the greatest achievements of this game is that the RPG and hack ‘n slash elements never feel disjointed. The combination of tranquil settings, engaging conversations and exploration go hand-in-hand with the action packed combat. ‘Action packed’ is probably the best way to describe it … like a 2D classic Disney epic based on Dynasty Warriors. The combat works on slashing away at the enemy with various special moves to build up a combo score. The greater the number of hits, the more XP Dust will receive. His flying companion, Fidget, is fantastic in combat as she uses her (what can only be described as ‘fairy spit’) power which is then amplified by Dust through spamming ‘Y’ and spinning the magic spit balls off of the various enemies in front of him. Combat is incredibly hectic, but tonnes of fun nonetheless, and it’s very easy to do. But there is some skill required to master it. You really have to know which buttons to mash at the right time, making the combat both fun and rewarding.

I’m really struggling to find a bad word to say about this game. Perhaps it’s a little short? But then it’s an arcade game, so what do you expect. Dust: An Elysian Tale is a visually stunning, fun and engaging game and you’d be a fool not to download it. Even if it was going for £10 or £15, I’d still recommend it. But, at the moment at least, it’s free on Games with Gold, so there is nothing stopping you from downloading it and giving it a go. Go on nah, get! (my best ‘hillbilly’ impression). You can thank me later.