Dust is the kind of game that comes along once in
a blue moon. It's a sleeper that will probably be
overlooked by most gamers because it's a budget title
and won't be promoted anywhere near as heavy as something
like Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. It's best described
as an adult version of YU-GI-OH as it uses a card-based
battle system - but in real-time. It blends strategy,
action and luck and is a lot of fun to play but it
really needs the support of online gamers to make
you even attempt to go online you're going to have
to deal with the single-player story mode. The story
is convoluted and almost ruins the experience but
you have to make your way through it to acquire your
cards, which are referred to here as skills. There
are 340 skills in all. You can win them by completing
mission, purchase them from shops or trade them online.
There are 40 rare skills which can only be acquired
by accomplishing some rather difficult missions.
are what you live for in the game. You'll have to
talk to an awful lot of dud characters to find a good
fight. All too often these characters will have plenty
to say about nothing but you keep listening in case
they leave you a clue. Do they give valuable clues?
I'm not going to spoil anything for you, you should
suffer as I did.
take place in real time. Once you have collected a
number of skills you put them into your arsenal which
is essentially your deck. You are only allowed four
skills for any one battle. The CPU picks them for
you randomly and also chooses another three which
are locked inside spheres. You can use these skills
by replacing them with the ones that the CPU has chosen.
All of the skills have to be activated by aura particles.
The higher the level of your skill the more aura particles
will be required. They are also stored with your skills,
in your arsenal, which has 30 slots.
differ in strengths and uses. Some can be used to
attack as in launching a fireball while others can
be used as shields for defense purposes. These skills
are kind of like magical powers but they have to be
used with a good degree of skill on the player's behalf
since they require timing and coordination. You can
block or even counter attacks if you have the right
skill available and are able to put it into play at
the precise moment your opponent releases his attack.
Some skills will give you the ability to fly, others
allow you take away some of your opponent's skills.
Stacking your deck with the appropriate skills is
where the strategy comes in. You also have to learn
to adapt quickly to best use the skills which are
randomly selected for you so you'll want to make sure
you have a only the best skills in your deck.
can also move around in real-time to dodge attacks
or take cover behind the various obstacles in the
arena. The environments are totally destructible,
allowing you to take advantage of the situation by
destroying support beams and walls in an effort to
crush your opponent with falling debris.
skills can only be used once while others can be reused.
If you run out of skills before the dual is over you
will rapidly deplete your life points and ultimately
lose the match. The only way to win a match is to
deplete your opponent's life points by having him
run out of skills and hitting him with various attacks.
you can purchase more skills or trade them with other
players. New skills have, and will, be made available
for downloading in the future which will keep things
fresh for as long as there are players to use them.
Quick Match and Opti Match modes are available online
as well as a Skill Store, trading lobby and a worldwide
ranking. Up to four players can be accommodated online.
the game is surprising rich in detail and quality.
The environments are well animated with plenty of
activity going on in the background. There are a lot
of onscreen meters and gauges to keep track of which
can be distracting at times. The music is well balanced
and features a symphonic score which is almost unheard
of for a budget title.
seems to me that Phantom Dust was never intended to
be released as a budget title. The production values
are just too high. Don't hesitate to take advantage
of this game; some company's loss is your gain.