Around mid 2010, Ubisoft released a tech demo for something called “From Dust”. The demo was amazing, showcasing a player building and shaping entire islands with earth, lava, water, and life. Needless to say, it generated a lot of buzz and people started to quietly demand the demo in the form of a game. Ubisoft heard the call and less than a year later came “From Dust” on major consoles.
“From Dust” represents the near ideal of ‘God’ games: being able to build your land as you see fit, making every detail yours to manipulate and control. Generating earth and fire from your fingertips, it seemed to make a solemn promise to players: “Hey, I’m going to be pretty awesome."
I didn’t get the imagined god game that I saw a year ago. Instead, I got a 3D lemmings game that crashed every 2 hours.
The game starts simple enough with managing piles of sand in an attempt to move small groups of people to various totems. Once all the totems are activated, a gateway opens for your lemmings. You herd them into the gateway in order to advance to the next level. The various challenges build up with erupting volcanoes, raging fires, and massive tsunamis as you move from one safe haven to another.
While at times it was fun, the game was still a lack luster game-play that didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do: build my perfect island and then eventually set it on fire. (Because I’m a cruel and angry god.)
“From dust” offers a bit of what it promised, but the lack of imagined functionality is a downer. But all of this pales in comparison to the massive stability issues I encountered. The first time it crashed was during the demo play through. I thought it was just a fluke and moved on and kept playing. Then it crashed again at level load. Then crashed in the middle of a level. Then crashed again on a different level load. Finally, it crashed on the very ending, preventing me from seeing what kind of culminated story the game may offer. I got so frustrated that I hunted down the game on the Xbox live marketplace to down rate it out of spite.
So should you buy “From Dust”? My heart is saying yes, but my head is screaming no. We should all reward developers when they try an exciting new approach that works well and creates an entertaining experience. But when they make something this broken? We should move on and look for more fertile fields.