Developed by Dustwind Studios UG and Published by Z-Software GmbH, Dustwind is a post-apocalyptic tactical RPG with an isometric view. That description is not wildly different from the original Fallout games released in the late ’90s and there are a few similarities between the games, but some of them should have stayed in the past. This game was optimised for the Series consoles and play speed wise I can see the benefit but graphically it’s OK though nothing amazing. The background music to this game is barely there and during missions, I am not even sure there was any but the sound effects of the weapons seem cool enough.
You play as a nameless heroine who was with her daughter before being set upon by raiders. You were beaten almost to death and your daughter was kidnapped as children are a rare commodity it seems. You wake up to find a guy who was planning to eat you until he realises you are not dead. So he heals you as best as he can and mentions that the raiders took your daughter but the beating has left you with amnesia so you don’t know who you are but you feel determined to find out what happened to your daughter that you may or may not remember. It seems the beating you and the fact your daughter was taken has spawned a sense of purpose and vengeance to change your destiny to rescue your daughter and help others who can help you reach your daughter.
The game’s controls are similar to that of the original Fallout but that action was paused and methodical as well as having the benefit of a mouse and keyboard. This was probably designed with a PC in mind and ported to the console which is fine but some controls feel a tad clunky. The game does offer quite an in-depth tutorial but that just highlights how awkward and confusing some controls are. It took me my second go looking at the tutorial to understand how to change my fire mode from single shot to burst fire. There are some nice features like a quick save and quick load which are needed in this game as certain bad choices can end disastrously pretty quickly. Another nice feature is that you can adjust your companions so they only attack when the chance of them hitting an enemy is over 33% which can be increased so they don’t waste ammo. The shame about that feature is that it is wasted as I have played through the whole game and you barely get a companion to use it on.
The game boasts 16 missions which take around 10 hours to complete and they have some variations to them. Some involve rescues, some involve planting bombs, some are just clearing out raiders and finding materials. There are also the missions where you have to protect your base from waves of enemies but even that is handled in a slightly clunky way. All the outbound missions can be handled in different ways. You can be a long-range fighter and pick off enemies at a distance, you can just be a gunman and take on the enemies at short range with shotguns or you can be a stealthy melee warrior which they will never see coming. There is a decent variety of weapons to use and the game has a fascination with plungers being used as weapons. As you take enemies down you gain skill points which can be used to increase certain stats to improve your character and focus on the skills that enhance your style. Some skills are not as useful as they seem and there is no option to reset them that I found which is annoying. You can increase your mechanics skill to repair vehicles and pick locks on doors. But you find so many tools around that even if your skills are low you can keep trying to pick a lock until you get it. With the quick save and quick load you also can keep retrying so you don’t waste anything so it rendered the skill almost pointless.
The different missions are quite fun especially if you are a fan of the old Fallout style games. The attack based missions are varied enough and you never know what’s around the corner. If the enemy gets the jump on you, you can be downed pretty quickly. You can use the back button to pause the action in case you get into a panic and that allows you to choose where to move or switch your weapon before unpausing. You need to be on your game when facing tougher enemies like the Valkyries and the Titans especially early on as you will always lose going gung-ho at them. But as I mentioned before some of the clunky controls spoil things slightly. For example, closing a gate door gives you a 50% chance of being on the side you want to be when you close it. If you want to close a door on your enemy you could be left even more exposed as rather than shutting them out you have just blocked your escape route.
The defence missions where you have to protect your base from waves of enemies is interesting but suffers from a few bad choices. Early on you kind of know where the enemies will try to come into your base but further on in the game you don’t know where the entry points are. So there were earlier missions where you need to collect scrap for the Architect at your base who creates defences out of the scrap. However, you can’t just use them, you need to buy them from him which I thought was a tad mean and odd as I am not sure what good money is to him if he doesn’t survive the attack. But it means you have to loot on all of your missions as much as you can carry weight wise to sell for the money to buy the defences you need. Also, fellow campmates you have previously rescued are willing to take up arms but have very strict requirements. One campmate wanted a combat axe but they would not accept an improved combat axe for some reason. The defences you can buy are barricades, mines and turrets. Most are self-explanatory but mines are just frustrating unless you invest in the skill. I would understand if the skill was used for detecting mines and disarming them but the skill is also required in setting them. By that I mean when you want to place a mine you are given a % chance of setting the mine correctly. If you fail it explodes!!! Just kidding it just becomes inactive. However, you can just pick up the mine and try again and again until it sets. You would think the drawback is you are against the clock but the waves of enemies do not start until you are ready which I think is considerate of them. But it also means you can keep faffing with mines until you set them correctly or just get bored.
The last thing- and this is probably the biggest issue with the game – is looting enemies. If done correctly when you loot a body they should either disappear or just not become selectable again. But sometimes when you kill groups of enemies you need to circle them until the highlighted body lands on the correct one and not the one you just looted. You can use the back button to pause which gives you a cursor to pinpoint the correct body but that is just an unnecessary faff. This is combined with the fact after you successfully defend your base. Your turret could have successfully killed 20+ enemies in the same area making it near impossible to loot them all. But the fact you can loot most of the enemies around your base who tried to infiltrate and then sell it all to the vendor can give you all the money you need for the rest of the game which seems a little daft.
The game does offer a multiplayer mode called skirmish which extends the life of the game a little. There are a few different game modes to enjoy and it allows you to play as a robot character which I didn’t even see in the main game which would have been fun to tackle or even have as a companion.
Dustwind for me was a fun trip down memory lane as I enjoyed the original Fallout games. They copied the style nicely but the story was too contrived. A woman forager who was beaten and had her daughter kidnapped that suddenly becomes Rambo is a bit of a stretch. The game was still fun to play through, but some of the niggles that made the old-style games annoying should have really been ironed out.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.