You're The Breath. Although this is a god game, you're not quite a god. You're a land-sculpting influence who accompanies, helps, and in many cases accidentally drowns your people. After playing From Dust, you'll be open to the idea that Noah's Flood was caused by nothing more than a clumsy thumb.
Your immediate powers are limited - you can gather up earth, water or lava into a swirling orb, and drop them anywhere on the map. You're like a supernatural, bulimic Henry Hoover.
You don't control your tribesfolk. Dotted around the map are totems, which you must reach to build villages, and knowledge stones. You can mark these, and your people will try to get there - but you'll have to clear the way. You can do this by a slightly un-godlike suck-and-drop tactic. Or it could be something slightly more elegant, like damming a river upstream, redirecting its flow.
Where your villages meet earth, vegetation grows - fill the map, and you'll be, erm, rewarded with the arrival of massive slugs. If this all sounds ambient, it's not. Nature is a relentless bugger to your people. Tsunamis and volanoes arrive to regular timetables, and extinction never feels more than five minutes away. Lava touching the vegetation will start sweeping fires that will wipe everyone out, unless you douse the fire with soil, or cool the lava with water.
A villager can learn defensive songs against water and flame by visiting a knowledge stone, and he'll spread the word to other villages automatically, assuming he can reach them. But this knowledge is usually in tough-to-reach places, meaning The Breath will have to spend some time actively protecting them, at least at first.
Because your powers aren't hugely varied, the strategies open to you are necessarily limited. You earn extra god-like powers by controlling special villages, but they usually contain powers you'll need, rather than giving you new ways to attack the level. It's not until the final three levels that you'll feel that you're out of the tutorial mode, and then - it's over, with only the arcade-like challenge modes to draw it out.
From Dust is a magical evening in, and makes you think in a way that's novel and immensely rewarding. But be warned: the limited camera, the fineness of the controls and the tribal AI will occasionally annoy you, and it leaves you positively starving for more.
From Dust hits Xbox Live Arcade tomorrow, 27th July.
Amazing art, brilliant toy, pretty good game
- An incredible toybox of nature
- Surprising variety of levels
- Atmospheric tribal parping
- Not very deep strategically
- Over too soon