E3 2011: From Dust hands on preview – a fantastic, minimalist god sim

Starting from a point very close to the game’s beginning, we took on the role of “The Breath” - a deity that has been summoned by a wayward tribe and tasked with helping them restore their lost knowledge and culture. Our abilities consisted entirely of shaping the world around this tribe. While we couldn’t interact with any of the tribe directly, we could scoop up portions of the land (whether it was the water, sand, lava, rock, etc) and place it elsewhere to aid the tribe in their journey.

Our first task was to create a land bridge across an archipelago for the tribe to cross over and build settlements. The task was simple enough and our tribe was soon on the other side building huts. What was surprising about this small task was how quickly the world shifted and changed when we manipulated it. The pathway we erected sectioned off the water between the islands, creating an oasis that caused foliage and trees to spring up across the land bridge. The changes were both rapid and incredibly beautiful.

Things didn’t stay so serene for long. Once the village had been erected, an elder of the tribe prophesied the destruction of their people by a tsunami. A timer immediately began to tick down on top of the screen. Our next objective, as it turned out, was to create a path for a villager to journey up the side of a mountain and reach a Knowledge Stone of sorts that would protect the tribe from the coming natural disaster. Furiously shifting earth, redirecting streams and squelching waterfalls, we were able to just barely create a path for the lone villager to travel.

Grabbing the stone, the villager braved the waterways back to the tribe as a massive tidal wave closed in. Before the town was consumed, the tribe began to chant and dance, causing the great body of water to harmlessly redirect itself in an arching pattern around the island. It’s likely our words aren’t doing this moment justice – watching a small group of chanting villagers use only their voices to divert a tsunami, causing a massive wall of water to wrap around the village instead of annihilating it, is a moving, movie climax kind of moment.

What caught our attention even more so was how the villagers behaved after the threat had passed. With absolutely no input from us, multiple tribesmen travelled across the new land bridges we had created to build settlements on neighboring islands. Even better, the lone villager who had grabbed the Knowledge Stone began trekking between these new towns to share the secrets of how to ward off the coming tidal waves. While there were instances where we could “call” for a villager to reach a certain objective, we never directly controlled any of them. It was simply our job to protect them.

Don’t underestimate From Dust because it’s a downloadable game. While we were only able to play a fraction of the demo, the amount of love and quality attached to this game was immediately apparent. We’ll be keeping our eye on this one.

Jun 9, 2011

Jordan Baughman is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of GamesRadar and Gamer magazine. With a passion for video games and esports, Baughman has been covering the industry for years now, and even hopped the fence to work as a public relations coordinator for clients that include EA, Capcom, Namco, and more.