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Dustborn’s stylish action and political edge make it a breath of fresh air

Black woman with short hair holding baseball bat Dustborn
Quantic Dream

When I first saw Quantic Dream’s Dustborn, its comic book art style had me expecting some kind of superhero game. It technically is, but I soon learned that its dystopian “Divided States of America” setting pointed toward a more personal story that mirrors reality. As I played through the 30-minute demo, I absorbed the road stops and memories of an action-packed narrative that seemed to dig deeper into the game’s colorful cast of characters. It stood out enough to make it one of our favorite games of PAX East 2024–  and for good reason.

In Dustborn, it’s the year 2030. Somehow, cops have turned into actual robots, cultists have become even more rampant, and Marilyn Monroe is a hot 100-year-old woman. Pax, the protagonist, and her “found family” are running from cultists called Puritans and the tyrannical law enforcement, ironically dubbed Justice. Their goal is to deliver a package to Nova Scotia, but Pax has a slew of personal problems to deal with alongside the obstacles in their way.

Black woman playing electric guitar with bandmates in Dustborn
Quantic Dream

My demo started with a surprise inspection and a Guitar Hero-esque rhythm game where Pax and her friends scramble to put on a convincing performance for patrolling robocops. From there, I jump to an interactive section where Pax can badger her fellow “bandmates” and learn more about the story through environmental clues while driving to the next destination. Idling inside the group’s bus feels like a retreat where I can get to know the characters, from their crotchety leader to the celebrity-obsessed teammate. These guys aren’t just a Scooby Doo-like band of misfits; they are fed-up adults with an agenda, and they have the guts to go through with it.

Each part of the demo pieces together the overall story without overexplaining the premise. I get a peek into Pax’s reunion with her “sister,” where she puts on a technologically advanced glove that acts like a magnet. It lets her throw a baseball bat back and forth like a boomerang, though I’m more than welcome to wallop robots with a good old-fashioned swing in the chrome cranium. I also get to try Pax’s voice-based superpowers like Shout to amplify her attacks and empower friends to combo enemies.

Quantic Dream

It’s not quite an “amusement park” of a game, but more of a road trip. Dustborn is a story-driven adventure with flashy comic book-style aesthetics, but it’s not just a text-based game where you can flip through the pages. It stitches together different genres to keep gameplay fresh, using its story as a base. It puts in an honest effort to incorporate action that keeps the player engaged in the form of rhythm games and quick decision-making that can affect the outcome of the story.

I usually don’t go in for this type of game; I’m used to pink-haired anime girls and tired RPG tropes, shuffled sideways and turned upside down. Dustborn freshens the palette for me.

Dustborn is currently in development for PC and unspecified consoles.

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Jess Reyes
Jessica Reyes is a freelance writer who specializes in anime-centric and trending topics. Her work can be found in Looper…
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