A mystical spirit called the Breath labors to make a series of dangerous landscapes safe for a tribe of humans to inhabit in “From Dust.”
The tribesmen can build villages at ancient totems situated around each map. Some are easy to reach, but most are blocked off by water, or worse. It’s up to you, controlling the Breath, to guide the humans to each totem, help them establish themselves, and then move on to the next level to start anew. The first area is dry and inhospitable; they get more difficult from there.
The Breath, which is represented by a yellow-orange swirl, has a single ability: It can gather large amounts of matter into a sphere, and then deposit it elsewhere. It can’t pick up rock, but loose material—earth, water and lava—can be sucked up and plopped down where it will be useful.
It’s a simple ability, but profound. You can use it to provide the soil and water that plants need to grow; to redirect the flow of mighty rivers, or to empty lakes and dam streams; to build mountains higher using molten lava, so incoming tsunami waves will wash harmlessly around the barrier instead of washing over it.
Covering a large portion of land with green will unlock tribal memories and attract wildlife, and each level can be replayed for high scores.
The game moves at a reasonable pace, so it’s not too frustrating to achieve your goals even if one of the villagers is halted by an obstacle or refuses to find an alternate path around one, which happens occasionally.
Certain village totems grant additional powers to the Breath—Evaporation lowers the water level in a stage for a short time, and Jellify Water turns the liquid thick so the Breath can remove scoops of it like gelatin from a mold, allowing tribesmen to pass.
More powers are revealed through the course of the game, and some levels also contain items of knowledge that will benefit a village, such as one that redirects the water of a tsunami around the area it protects.
Apart from the story mode, there is also a challenge mode featuring numerous puzzle-like stages in which you must use a limited set of tools to complete specific goals.