From Dust's calm pace is appealing at first, as the game seems to be focusing on broad strokes to achieve smaller goals. However, before long the game sadly turns its attention to ticking countdown timers telling you how long you've got before tsunamis hit or volcanoes explode.
Similarly, one level sets you the task of claiming a totem in the middle of a tidal lake that flooded every 30 seconds, which quickly became an exercise akin to baling out the Mediterranean with a sieve.
From Dust's most frustrating aspect, though, is the tribesmen's path-finding AI system. Throughout every level you hear them calling out their warning noises to tell you that they're stuck and, more often than not, you can't entirely see how. They get stuck climbing up very small hills, or crossing dirt bridges while their friends jog past them, and some of them just take the longest possible route to get to where they were needed.
The level with the giant tidal lake, for example, was initially a fun challenge, until the tribesmen decided that taking the direct route to the totem that they needed to colonise in the 30 seconds before the tide rushed back in wasn't a priority. They instead decided they were going to either whinge about it at the top of a mountain, or walk around to the opposite side of the perpetually-flooding lake to whinge there instead.
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That said, there are some wonderful touches to From Dust, including its gorgeous appearance. The visuals mange to evoke an iconic look, while also calling back to the later Populous titles. The core mechanic of moving the land around you is also a compelling experience, and the water-movement physics also behave naturally.
Unfortunately, though, every positive is hit by a corresponding negative. On the Xbox 360 version that we tested, for example, the graphics are curiously low-resolution. What's more, the core game mechanic becomes overly fiddly as you progress, and the physics of the world make it feel like you're involved in a tug-of-war with Mother Nature.
With superior AI, higher-resolution graphics and some more forgiving soil erosion, From Dust would be an outstanding title. As it is, it has enough personality and interesting ideas to make it a reasonable game if you feel like playing something different, but its myriad flaws prevent us from recommending it. We genuinely hope that From Dust can inspire a resurgence in this much-loved and sidelined genre, but it hasn't achieved it on its own.