Dustwind is a game that has been around for a while. Designed as a tactical action RPG, it’s been around as a multiplayer title on the PC since about 2018. Eventually the developers at Dustwind Studios added a single player campaign, which GiN’s Michael Blaker reviewed on the Steam PC platform back in late 2019. It earned a respectable 3.5 GiN Gems overall, just based on the single player part of the title.
Now the game has made the jump to consoles, namely the PlayStation, where tactical RPGs like Dustwind are fairly rare. There is a reason why so many people keep going back and playing the entire XCOM series over and over again, because nobody has really ever been able to take that crown. So now, Dustwind is taking its shot, and GiN’s Neal Sayatovich is picking up the controller and diving into the action.
Hello everyone. Neal here. I have been Jonesing for a good tactical shooting game. Especially after playing the running and gunning of Call of Duty: Vanguard. My boss heard me say that and said he had the perfect game for me and would go get it. Eventually, he found the supply closet I was hiding in and handed me a copy of Dustwind. I was a little unsure, but decided to actually do my job for a change and give this game a full review.
I worked through the tutorial and readers, this was the longest tutorial I have ever had to work through. The tutorial covered a lot of controls and about halfway through I felt like I needed a technical manual to remember the controls. I was mentally exhausted by the time I completed the tutorial and that was also a first in my gaming career.
The story follows a woman who travels with her daughter through the wasteland. She is ambushed by raiders and her daughter is kidnapped. She wakes up with no memory and has to be told she has a daughter that is out in the wilderness. Before this, though, was the narration of the story that was…interesting. The start was in the past tense as if we were going to be told the story by a narrator in the future. Then in one nauseating lurch we went from past tense to present tense. One sentence said something to the effect of “She had been severely beaten” and the next one was something like “What’s this? She is waking up.” That confusing transition took me a moment to deal with.
But what about the gameplay, Neal? Is it fun? I hear you asking, so…
I have been dancing around this…but no, this game was mostly miserable to play. It had this nasty habit of changing my weapons for no reason when I went to use them. I picked up a blade and went to use it and instead the game just switched to my off hand so instead I just stood there punching or doing nothing at all. There is also a stealth “mechanic,” but by the time an enemy rendered so that I knew an enemy was there, they saw and charged me. There is so much stuff mapped to so many wheels and menus I feel like I’m being assaulted with a menu from The Cheesecake Factory.
You can pause the game to line up actions which is not a bad idea in and of itself. But when it’s just one enemy and you have a melee weapon it just becomes a tedious mess. Having to do the pause and lineup every time just keeps pulling the emergency brake like someone who tries to drift after they watched too many Fast and Furious movies. Honestly, the game made me want to play Diablo II more than anything else.
There are some nice quirks like the sounds are punchy and cathartic. The grenades had great sound mixing and the residual explosion usually dismembered an enemy which was nice. Guns had a nice pop and the voice acting was adequate. It was hard to find things to be positive about because again, this game did everything to make me not want to play it.
Based on what I read in Michael Blaker’s review, he did not have the same troubles when playing on the PC. That’s probably because he had a full keyboard to work with, and the mouse to shoot. Trying to play Dustwind with a controller is challenging at best. There are too many mechanics and too much mapping. And having to pause the game to stack actions just forces players out of what is otherwise a pretty cool-looking world.
All in all I can not recommend this game on the PlayStation 4 because there are other games like XCOM out there. Honestly, Dustwind seems like a good game, but this is a pretty bad port. The controls and gameplay are an expired soup of different mechanics and controls. It was a weird hybrid that felt like it tried to do a little bit of everything, but did none of it well.
I finally settled on awarding 2.5 out of 5 GiN Gems for Dustwind on the PS4. If you really want to experience this world, do yourself a favor and load it up on Steam. You will have a much better experience, and the three year old game should not tax your game PC too much.