How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Uses a World Map for a level select, and is generally pretty linear in presentation. No real reason to backtrack too far into older areas except for quests and optional treasures.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: Dust: An Elysian Tail was played on Steam
Buy Dust: An Elysian Tail if you like…
- Flashy spectacle combat
- Gorgeous hand-animated graphics
- Melodramatic Stories
- Excellent Voice Acting
- Anthropomorphic Characters
▼ Review continues below ▼
Dust: An Elysian Tail is a fun and flashy beat-em-up Metroidvania that is totally worth your money if you just want something mildly entertaining to pass your time. If you’re looking for a deep and challenging combat system, a compelling and memorable narrative, or grandiose Metroidvania exploration, Dust brushes the surface of all three of them, but doesn’t really deliver as well as its competitors. Its general graphical presentation and music is perhaps a cut above the rest – even in 2019 at the time of writing – but besides that the game is maybe not the greatest example of what the genre has to offer.
The combat is the thing that sticks out the most to me as being somewhat under par, since it’s what you’ll be spending the most time on during your playthrough. Your character, Dust, is given two attack buttons; a regular hit that combos into other attacks when pushed rapidly, and a special button which can be used for grabs or wind attacks. You also have a companion, Fidget, who can shoot useless magic that becomes devastating if you suck it up into one of your wind attacks. On a surface level there is a lot of potential to this dynamic, but astute players will realize that there are a few attack combinations that work every time, and then combat becomes a rinse and repeat affair that doesn’t really change from the beginning of the game until the end. These dominant strategies made the game boring to me, and changing the difficulty settings doesn’t really help matters – it just makes the enemies already locked up by your attacks take longer to kill. Enemies also come at you in droves, and the game often prevents you from progressing until they’re defeated, so there’s little escape from the monster eggbeater gameplay. The (eventually) mindless combat isn’t completely a bad thing though. Once I started getting into the story a little more, the bits in between were at worst a pleasing way to de-stress from everyday life – sort of like how grinding in a more traditional JRPG can be relaxing.
The story even hits a few notes that really resonated with me. Overall it’s kind of a Saturday Morning Cartoon level of narrative – nothing too deep. But there are some surprising twists with some lessons to be learned here and there that I didn’t really expect to see beneath the piles of cheese. I think that a younger audience could get a lot out of Dust: An Elysian Tail, but like the combat, the depth only goes so far before you hit a rocky surface. The last chapter especially felt a little rushed to me, with a lot of plot points left unexplored that I personally feel were kind of important, though I don’t want to go into too much detail for spoiler reasons. The characters are charming, and many of the quests are as engaging as MMO style quests can be, so I think that there is a lot for a person to fall in love with here in spite of my gripes.
From a level design perspective, the game at least keeps things novel. New areas introduce different challenges and gimmicks, even if some gimmicks are more of a pain than they are interesting. There are puzzles involving sucking these bomb gourds around with your wind abilities that add some welcome respite from the combat. Some zones were a little overplayed, but for the most part nothing overstayed its welcome for too long. Exploration-wise, there’s little reason to go back to find treasures other than “just because”, since I always had more than enough money to purchase what I needed, even playing on the “Tough” difficulty. Dust moves a little slower than I’d like for backtracking for 100%, but you can use enemies to gust through to try and make it a little more interesting – or just ignore it since most of it is optional.
I could go on about some of Dust’s other faults – I mean, there’s definitely a lot to talk about with the stat system being a bit of a mess – but I think at this point it’d just be redundant. Dust: An Elysian Tail is by no means a bad game. I think the people who would enjoy it the most are those just looking for a nice beautiful game to escape to and relax with. And with that being what it is, Dust is definitely one I’d recommend.
It's fast, flashy, and visually appealing, but not particularly deep
The game is understandably very zoomed in on Dust, which makes it hard to see platforms off screen. This is never frustrating, but prevents it from being a huge focus
Once you hit a certain power level, the rewards for exploration feel lackluster
Occasional bomb puzzles add some variety to the game
Has the potential to be a great thing, but needs more fleshing out to get there
Overall the graphics are gorgeous, though the anatomy of the characters feels a little loopy
Fantastic sound track
There are several difficulty modes but besides that there is little incentive to play again
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