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The best XBLA Game you’ve never played

These days there’s dozens of those THE BEST 10 XBLA GAMES YOU’VE NEVER PLAYED articles all over the internet. And, if you’ve read some of them, you’ll know they usually have an overlap of about 6 titles, leading to a constant stream of the same 15 or so titles that are apparently ‘underrated’. Okay, cool story, but what if I told you there’s actually one game that you probably haven’t played, or even heard of, and isn’t constantly listed in these stupid little lists?
Interested?
Keep reading.


The game I’d like to talk about is called From Dust, a Godgame from (you would never guess this) Ubisoft.
Ubisoft still makes games?
Apparently.
And they’re not terrible?
Apparently!
I guess Ubisoft does better with its in-house IPs than the IPs it’s publishing, huh?

Regardless, the thing that should strike you as odd isn’t that the game was developed by Ubisoft but that I just described it as a Godgame. Because it’s 2013. And it’s been…oh…a FRIGGIN’ DECADE since the last Godgame? Okay, technically it was released in 2005, but ‘a decade’ sounds better in all caps than ‘almost a decade’.
So what are Godgames you ask? Well, my dear friend, they’re games in which you are in the position of a God. The most famous examples of this type of game are Populous and Black & White, both amazingly awesome games if I might say so.

In From Dust, you are the God guiding a tribe of faceless worshippers in their quest of enlightenment. Your almighty hand is able to transport water, sand and lava to wherever you wish in your efforts to keep your villagers safe from the natural disasters just waiting to happen all around them. In this, From Dust is most reminiscent of Populous, where you also led a tribal society, although there the goal was destruction of other societies while here your enemies are no one but Mother Nature herself. You will erect walls, drain basins and scream at your screen to protect your little tribe members from being washed away, burned up or disappearing off the face of the earth.
The gameplay is immensely entertaining, not only because of the inherent joy of using God-like powers, but also because every level is new and fresh and offers a different challenge than the previous one. Every level is like a sort of puzzle you have to solve. Maybe there’s an active volcano in the middle of the map that will keep spouting fire until you redirect a river to quench it, or maybe there’s a waterfall that floods the entire land below, or you have to create a mountain from scratch to settle your village on so the ever raging tides of the sea don’t wash it away.
Variety is key in From Dust, and even though the general gameplay mechanics remain the same you will quickly find the same strategy doesn’t work in every level, no matter how hard you try. The game always forces you to think outside the box and allows you to come up with the most creative solutions to your problems, never spoonfeeding you anything more than the simple objectives.

What really adds to the experience are the game’s graphics. Powered by Ubisofts own proprietary LyN engine (also used on a bunch of terrible Wii games) the physics displayed are simply amazing. Water and lava behave exactly the way you’d expect them to on a large scale, which makes the physics puzzles as fun as they are and makes it so you never feel cheated by the game. Sand actually corrodes and shifts over time, rivers deposit sediment, walls can be blown up and volcanoes build up enough sediment to create mountains. Your actions sometimes have unexpected consequences, but it’ll always make sense so the only person you have to blame in the end is you and not a team of lazy developers.
Aside from the great physics the actual graphic quality of the game is also very good. It’s very easy on the eyes with the pretty soft curves and bright colors. The designs for the tribe and its few buildings are interesting, especially their masks, and the addition of a few animals finishes the lovely package.

t22

All in all, I’d say From Dust is without a doubt the single best XBLA game I’ve ever played and it’s a complete mystery to me why it never seems to end up in those infamous “Best Of” lists.
Maybe no one’s played it, maybe people just really liked all those remakes of old games better, or maybe people just don’t like recommending games that have no guns in them, but this is definitely a game you should check out if you don’t know it already.

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One comment on “The best XBLA Game you’ve never played

  1. Pingback: 8 Years of Xbox: The 20 Best Games of a Generation | Anonymous of Holland - Gaming, Movies and Complaints

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This entry was posted on 18 April 2013 by in Games, Reviews and tagged , , , , , .

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