From Dust, concept art

Concept Art of From Dust from Ubisoft

While the gaming universe is twisting itself into a POrTAl TwO pickle, for some reason I was reminded of From Dust, and upcoming game from Ubisoft in the style of Populous.  The videos look beautiful – globs and dollops of the very stuff of life, pliable in your hands.

I even get a strange feeling in my hands when I think of it – I like to imagine that it’s my mirror neurons longing to grasp, mold and smooth.

Roll up a ball of dirt, and crumble it across unforgiving barren rock.  Grasp a roiling sphere of water and, like a mischievous child with a water-balloon, pick your target and drench everything downstream, eroding and carving as only water can.  Feel powerful and deadly with a fist full of elemental lava – anything downhill will burn, and new volcanic rock steams and forms wherever it meets water.  Cast a handful of verdant life dust across the land, and watch it take root, spread, and knit the delicate topsoil into a resilient green carpet.

What shocks me most however, is how my memory has played tricks on me.  I thought I had played the original Populous, and went hunting for it, because From Dust hadn’t yet been released.  What a UI shock I had.  You can play it online, but I’d deem it almost unplayable now, without some serious guidance and hand holding.  So I went looking for Populous 2 – this, then was the game that I remembered plugging so many hours into!  But the interface looks almost as bad.  Tiny windows of isometric view, meaningless buttons and minuscule people.  I’d never played Populous 3, and apparently Populous DS is a bit touch and go.  So I’m left with Black and White (which was a bit of a flash-in-the-pan) or waiting for From Dust.

If all goes well, then it’s due out in that mystical and non-committal window of time known as the ‘second quarter’ of this year, on Steam, XBLA and PSN.  Not long, if nothing causes them problems – I may be molding the land like clay in service of those curious, superstitious, hopeful, be-masked natives; the Dusters, and their house sized hogs.