Dust: An Elysian Tail Review – Hand Painted Metroidvania

There is one genre that indie developers have flocked to in their droves over the years. As titles become easier to get in to the hands of consumers indie devs have released a torrent of Metroidvania titles. Steamworld Dig, Axiom Verge, Bloodstained, and the title in question, Dust: An Elysian Tail.

One part Metroidvania and the other part Furrymania, Dust: An Elysian Tail stars Dust, an animal-man suffering from amnesia. As he awakes he is greeted by a talking sword (No Relation to Fi) and a talking flying fairy like creature Fidget (No relation to Navi). Their quest is to then head east and help those who are in danger from an encroaching army set on slaying the innocent people of the land.

Gameplay

Dust: An Elysian Tail ticks all the boxes you expect to be ticked from a Metroidvania title. Hidden items, power ups to access new locations and some backtracking. It also incorporates other ideas that aren’t too common to the genre likes its level up system. It is all by the numbers stuff and it does it all well, but what really helps this title stand out from the competition is its combat system.

Combat

Its combat system is fast, fluid and exciting. Dust wields a sword and Fidget can fire projectiles. Each encounter will see you have the chance to rack up high combos and leave you trying to best your previous high score. What was so refreshing about this game was that the difficulty offered a real decent amount of challenge. Combining this with all of Dusts attacks which are limited, but all are useful and you find yourself engrossed in each battle. In fact towards the end of the game I was genuinely cautious of some enemies even whilst at full health.  So all in all the combat nearly gets two full thumbs up from me, but what it did lack was variety to keep it going for the entire time. Dusts attacks are the same from start to finish and fatigue does set in towards the final chapter.

A Whole World to Explore

Of course another part of the Metroidvania genre is its exploration elements. Dust: An Elysian Tail has Aurora Village as its HUB world. From here you can take on side quests from the villagers and set out to other parts of the world. Each location isn’t linked by a world you explore, but rather once you exit one location you can pick the next region to visit. Snowy mountains, scary mansions, caves under the village are just a sampling of the places you will visit and each one is varied enough to keep your eyes entertained. Then of course any self respecting Metroidvania wouldn’t be complete without being stuffed with secrets and this title certainly is. Fidget will warn Dust if there is chest in an area when you enter and some of these chests are hidden exceptionally well.

The side quests you undertake are a little token and rarely feel worth the time as the enemies you kill will offer you enough experience. Gathering sheep, fingers, oil and some other material is normally the primary objective of each one, but I can imagine the added experience being much needed on the hardest difficult. In fact there is a lot of item collection as there is also a Blacksmith who’ll need all kinds of equipment to arm Dust with the finest gear.

Puzzles, Platforming and Challenges

Finally there is some, but not a lot of all the three mentioned in the header. In fact as I previously mentioned you could say that finding some of the chests does equate to good puzzle work. Whilst there aren’t many true puzzles the ones on offer did feel satisfying. Dust: An Elysian Tail never truly crosses over to true platforming territory, but there are some locations that require you to avoid nasty spikes or pools of lava. Then all across the world their are challenge areas that once beaten will net you a nice piece of equipment. Challenge might be a bit generous for these locations as they never felt too difficult to navigate, but at times were an interesting detour.

Story

Dust: An Elysian Tail also features a fairly involved story with voice acting, notes to be read and even a few cutscenes. I feel like Dust suffers from the same flaws that Freedom Planet suffers. The aesthetic of the game is similar to that of a Saturday morning cartoon. Yet at times the subject matter seemed to  grown up for children, but the design of the characters made it impossible to take seriously. War profiteering, death and war pop up and take centre stage at times, but I struggled to feel engaged at some brutal story turns as I was essentially watching the cast of a Disney show. Younger audiences will get a kick out of the story, but for the most part I feel like older ones will just find it to be too melodramatic.

Presentation

Visually Dust still looks great despite being released six years ago! Some of the characters illustrations look a little dated, but nothing too bad and for the entirety of the game I liked everything I saw. On top of that the music in Dust was excellent as well, nothing truly stood out, but each track coupled with the location well. Then to wrap up the performance for the most part was excellent with one exception. There’s only a couple of cutscenes in the game, but the framerate in these were abysmal. It really is a moot point as there are barely any, but they really run poorly.


System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.

Disclaimer: A review code for Dust: An Elysian Tail was provided by Noogy.

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