I found myself needing to get away from Injustice 2 for a little bit (as I have played little else for the past couple of months...which is insane considering I am not typically a fighting game person...but I digress) so I decided to pop back into my Library on the PS4 and see what games I had grabbed from PS Plus that I had never gotten around to playing and the one that I had had the longest was Dust: An Elysian Tail.
Now having played it, I have to say that I deeply regret my decisions in the past, for Dust is an absolutely wonderful side-scrolling action RPG experience with a gorgeous art-style, which you can see a piece of in the trailer below:
Dust: An Elysian Tail was originally released as a part of Xbox Live Arcade in 2012, and was subsequently released everywhere else (and I mean everywhere, as there is even an iOS release in 2015), and came to PlayStation in December of 2014. The game takes place in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals and follows a classic fantasy "heroes journey" of Dust (a brilliant cat-man warrior with amnesia, but dope fighting skills...like a fantasy Jason Bourne cat), his talking sword Ahrah, and said swords' guardian (an adorable fox-faery creature) Fidget. Over the course of the 12-15 hour game, Dust travels around Falana, a perfect fantasy world that has everything every classic fantasy would have in it (except maybe desert), trying to remember who he once was, and fighting to help the people in the face of the genocidal turmoil caused by General Gaius.
As is tradition, I will not tell you more about the story than that, in case you (like me) have had Dust on the shelf forever.
First thing you are going to notice is that the game is gorgeous. Playing Dust is like playing inside a late 1980s, early 1990s cartoon, with everything having this beautiful hand-drawn animation feel. Which strikes me as amazing, because aside from the (solid throughout) voice acting, the soundtrack, and some of the story beats, the entire game was designed by Dean Dodrill.
One guy created a ~15 hour, looks like it's hand painted ARPG, with a well-balanced leveling system, and addictively fluid combat. It's a stunning achievement as far as I am concerned, and one of the reasons I am horrified I did not play Dust sooner.
Speaking of the combat: the fighting in Dust is really quite clever thanks to the root of the game laying in side-scrolling, metroidvania style--you have two sides of enemies to worry about, and that's it, but you are going to have to get through scores of them, which is helped by a simple, fighting-game style combo system which allows you to chain attacks into something that helps you feel powerful, but also progress through what can feel like armies of enemies (especially if you find yourself around a summoner). All of the main characters' attacks are melee based, however, your companion Fidget has some light magics, which you can combine into combos to create hit-streaks (that gain you more experience). All of this flows together to create a game that, thanks to it's quick save/checkpoint system, kept pulling me back, kept me looking at the clock and saying "I could do ten more minutes" and finding an hour gone.
If I had anything to complain about when it comes to Dust, I think all I really have is...I wish that the cover art had convinced me to play this game sooner...or that I had heard more about it at the time so I would've played it sooner.
I mean, I could say something about the story falling heavily into classic fantasy tropes, but I actually found the old-school vibe meshed with the animation style so well that it made me remember what it was like experiencing some of that early fantasy as a kid. I loved it, and I wish against wish (and hope against hope) that even though it has been a long time, that Dodrill will someday make a second one.
If you haven't played this yet, do. It's available on all the things (PC, Xbox, PS4, iOS....) and if anything I talked about above sounds remotely interesting, I feel like you could do much, much worse than dropping a little bit of cash on this older title and losing yourself in a little old-school fantasy cartoon.
...I hope I find a few more games like this hidden in my Library....and if I do, I promise I'll let you know.