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Preview of Dustborn Hands-On – Verbose Journey


First Impressions of Dustborn – Elaborate Expedition

Ragnar Tørnquist, despite not being a widely recognized game creator in modern times, has played a crucial role in advancing the adventure game genre. With titles like The Longest Journey, he pushed the genre forward as the traditional point-and-click format started to decline. His studio, Red Thread Games, has been active since 2012, with multiple releases in the Dreamfall Chapters series. Now, Tørnquist and his team are gearing up to launch Dustborn, an adventure game that aims to provide a fresh, well-rounded, and engaging experience.

Dustborn puts players in charge of Pax, an Anomal con-artist with a unique ability – the power to turn language into a weapon. Set in an alternate history America, Pax is on a mission to deliver a vital package to Nova Scotia, accompanied by a diverse crew with distinct abilities. The preview build I sampled, despite being just a few hours into the game, highlighted the depth of character development and interaction planned for Dustborn. Through Pax, players will engage with other characters, nurture relationships, and gain deeper insights into their companions. The game features a straightforward branching dialogue system akin to those found in traditional adventure games, facilitating character dynamics.

Aside from character interactions, gameplay in Dustborn entails exploring various enclosed and linear environments as Pax, viewed from a third-person perspective, to unravel mysteries and procure essential items. Players will face choices that influence the narrative, such as determining which crew member to enlist for specific tasks. In one scenario set in a desert service station, Pax must decide between Theo and Sai, who has vitiligo, for assistance in breaching a locked door – leading to diverse outcomes. These interactions are prevalent throughout the preview, fostering player attachment to the crew, though the writing, while functional, lacks standout elements.

Dustborn Preview

Dustborn excels in its adventure-centric gameplay. The game adeptly guides players to discover crucial elements vital to advancing the storyline. While interactions might not be groundbreaking, they offer diversity, with notable instances like Pax guiding Sai vocally in dropping a tire strategically for ignition. Other scenarios involve strategic distractions, item acquisitions, and action sequences, like engaging a gang of bikers with Molotov cocktails. The comic book-inspired aesthetics, coupled with player-controlled camera angles and the retro 90s backdrop, lend Dustborn a distinct atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Dustborn stumbles in its combat sequences. Engaging foes feels lackluster, with clunky movement, rigid animations, and basic mechanics that limit Pax to simplistic close and ranged attacks. The verbal weaponization ability, while unique, lacks imagination, allowing for generic enemy manipulation. Though group attacks add a visually appealing dimension, combat ultimately feels monotonous, with little incentive for strategic depth beyond basic actions.

With a limited playtime of under two hours, it’s challenging to ascertain if Dustborn’s strengths will outweigh its weaknesses. While the game showcases promise in its setting, narrative, character dynamics, and varied gameplay, the lackluster combat mechanics dampen the overall experience. As Dustborn gears up for release on August 20th across PC and major consoles, including PlayStation and Xbox, the full extent of Pax’s journey and the crew’s adventures remains to be explored, with potential for unforeseen surprises along the winding road ahead.

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