It might look like I’m wandering off my usual topic here, but this is really a home for everything about storytelling — and trust me, this post is all about storytelling. So here we go.
A while back, I picked up a game called “Dust: An Elysian Tail”. It looked seriously pretty, and like it might be a bit of fun. But I picked up a bunch of games around that time, and for a while, it went unplayed, waiting on my digital shelf. Then, one day last year, I thought “here’s something I haven’t played, let’s give this a shot” and loaded it up.
How do I explain without spoilers? Let me see if I even can, because above all else I must, because the beauty of the story is how it shifts as you learn it. I began to play with a fairly neutral baseline of expectation, and at first I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d keep going. Leaning on the fourth wall is usually a complete dealbreaker for me, and somebody put a paw right through it several times in the first few minutes. But, I was curious, and the introduction had set up some expectations that I wanted to see play out. So I kept on going.
By the time we’d reached the first key location, I’d already begun to care. I watched reactions, including inexplicable ones, and I wondered: was my theory right? It seemed about right. Surely something would confirm or deny it.
We had a major encounter, and it seemed to me that surely I must be right, but by this time I cared far too much to stop at simply having perhaps solved the puzzle. I wanted to see what Dust would do, how he would react, what he would learn. Who was he? Who had he been?
And so we went on, and we fought and won and sometimes failed, and I cried at that moment when there was nothing more that we could do, but there was something more, something else. Because by then I could see that there was more to the story than I had guessed: that my guess was close, but it wasn’t all of it. I updated my hypothesis like any good scientist, and we went on, trying the best we could to do all we were able, and someone was keeping secrets that it wasn’t time to speak. We fought through horrors and once again I had to update my hypothesis, another new angle added to what I’d thought with each new thing we learnt.
And then we came to a certain place, from long ago and far away, and the truth came crashing in. And it was so close and yet so far from all I’d thought, and it took everything we’d done and all we’d become and broke it and rebuilt it, but there was no time to stop and think, because something more important still needed to be done.
We fought on in a final awful conflict, and something else returned from the past, and knowing this was coming didn’t make it any easier. The end came and broke my heart, but at the last it held out one ray of hope like a lifeline in a storm-tossed sea. I wish I could say more, but I can’t, because one of the crowning beauties of it all is the way the story weaves and builds on itself, how you’re never quite wrong about what’s going on but also never quite right, and anything more I say might be too much.
Dust has joined my Gaming Top X, now standing at “Top 5” — games and series that, for one reason or another, stand out to me (and me alone) as head and shoulders above everything else: games that speak to me in a way others just can’t reach, that one way or another change something inside my mind for the better and forever. Games never leave the Top X, and I’ve been a PC gamer literally since I could type, and I’m now in the general vicinity of 30, so that should give you some idea of how exclusive a group this really is.
If you haven’t played it, if you’re curious, then, once again, I suggest you give it a shot, and support an epic game’s creator into the bargain! To my knowledge, copies can be found on Steam, from the Humble Store, and on GOG. I’ve already bought it twice (I didn’t feel I paid enough the first time) and the soundtrack as well.
*Comments are off because Top X games, like Top X books and Top X films, are not a subject of debate. Oh, they are to everyone else and I fully approve of such debate, but this is my Top X, and I’m not going to argue about what should or shouldn’t be in it. That’s personal, and I’m every bit as irrational as the next person some days.