From Dust E3 2011 Hands-On Preview -- Trying Our Floating Hand at Playing GodBy Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Jun 14, 2011
Second only to Duke Nukem, Eric Chahi sure takes his time between videogames. After creating the well renowned classic Out of This World (or Another World as it's known outside the States) in 1989, he pretty much disappeared from the industry save for designing Heart of Darkness in 1998 and working on some souped up ports and special editions of Out of this World. From Dust, represents his first original title in 13 years.
From Dust is a departure from Chahi's trial-and-error based puzzle plaformers of yesteryear. Instead, it's a "god game" in which you manipulate the environment to help a tribe survive the grim designs of mother nature. You can't control the tribesmen directly, but can highlight certain monuments that act as beacons for people to flock to.
In the demo, my goal was to send a group of people to a sculpture that held the knowledge for how to protect their village against an impending tsunami, then return them back home before a timer counted down. The trouble was that the passage to their goal was blocked off by a an intimidating stream. This left it to me to sculpt the terrain in a way conducive to the populace.
To grant safe passage across the water I had to grab clumps of soil from other parts of the map and displace them on top of the water until a bridge formed. This worked, but took a long time, and seconds before my the city's hero could make it back, the tsunami came and wiped everyone out.
I did substantially better on my second attempt, this time realizing I could take a shortcut by diverting the stream entirely further up. By scooping up dirt from along the river's edge higher up, it allowed the water to spill into the sea earlier, leaving the river bed dry and safe to traverse. This time the city's savior returned intact and taught them the secret to survival. A cutscene played showing the masked tribesmen beating drums and performing a ceremony that made an invisible barrier to protect their village, while everything around it got flooded.
The demo continued, and I had to transfer the tribe to a different statue where they could set up a new home base. Sadly, I didn't see any more new mechanics, and the only elements I could pick up were dirt and water. Later levels will allow you to relocate lava and plants, so this should create a more dynamic puzzle solving environment, but the demo kept things simple.
I'm not quite sure what to make of From Dust, as the demo didn't allow for as many options as I would have liked, but I believe this was an early tutorial level, and the game will only grow in complexity. I'd be very curious to see how Chahi's sandbox evolves in the full game due out later this year on XBLA, PSN, and PC.