Dust: An Elysian Tail is by indie developer Dean “Noogy” Dodrill. It launched in 2012 and is available on most systems.
It was published just as indie games were really starting to take off. 11 years after its release, it’s still a fine effort. There’s full voice acting, anthropomorphic animals, and herds of deer everywhere. Let’s get dusty!
Advancing the Potential of Indie Games in Dust: An Elysian Tail
Yes, we must admit reviewing Dust: An Elysian Tail now in 2023 is doing the game a bit of a disservice. When it launched in 2012, it would have seemed pretty incredible—one of the most ambitious indie games around.
Merging its RPG and platforming/action elements, with self-taught animator and illustrator Dean Dodrill designing and programming the whole thing (apart from the voice acting and soundtrack).
An incredible achievement! But a time-consuming one, as it took over three years for him to complete the game.
The influence of his work is clear, too, as we see elements of Dust in the rather good Flynn: Son of Crimson (2021), which we’d consider to be a better game (helped as indie game technology has advanced a great deal since Dust’s launch).
In the plot, you take control of a bunny rabbit called Dusk. He’s lost his memory and awakens in a meadow. A floating sword called Ahrah introduces itself and they become companions, with Dust also joined by an orange flying creature called Fidget who acts as his assistant (sort of).
Intrigued? Here’s the opening eight minutes from this SOB.
A mixture of Metroidvania, RPG, and platforming unfolds. All to the tune of arcade styled gameplay, with quick flurries of battling baddies.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is very combat intensive.
There are brawler-like mechanics here, with combos of weapons available to make mowing down baddies easier. As you progress, the RPG element lets you upgrade Dust’s abilities and kick butt easier.
On Steam, the user reviews are glowing. One jokes:
“How many times do I have to tell myself I’m not a furry before I finally accept it?”
And Dust does feel like a giant furry adventure (the furry fandom subculture is basically cosplay, where very shy people go around dressed in anthropomorphic suits). This game does feel like a realisation of that in gaming form.
To note, the gaming press reviews were more middling.
It has many strong points. The graphics are detailed and excellent, with a curious animation of stampeding deer that run by Dust—reminding us of Disney level animation.
The soundtrack by HyperDuck SoundWorks is pretty decent, too. Incredibly dramatic and OTT at times, but a good bit of work (although nothing particularly memorable).
One downside is the voice acting is pretty hammy. But the game is rather tongue-in-cheek and doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it may have been intentional.
However, it’s never terrible enough to enter the annals of bad video game voice acting, but the likes of Fidget seem intended as “cute” comedic relief.
Yet she’s just an annoying pain in the arse.
The combat can get a bit relentless and repetitive, too, with RPG aspects dumping many side quests on you in quick succession. However, we did like the powering up side of this and how it makes progress easier.
However, the game is huge! For £12 ($15) you get a mammoth experience of it all, with four difficulty modes and around 12 hours of content.
Dust: An Elysian Tail throws in enough surprises amongst this, and enough engaging gameplay, to make this a solid thumbs up from us.
We like it! We’re not head over heels for it, though. Our appreciation of it is more how it’s a good game rather than an amazing one.
But factoring in its 2012 release, it now encapsulates a moment when indie gaming was taking a big step towards a bright future. Thusly, we must doff our cap towards Dust in recognition for some sterling work.