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Dustborn’s politically charged action should be on your radar this summer

A character makes a decision in Dustborn.
Quantic Dream

A game called Dustborn caught our eyes at PAX East in March. The promising action-adventure game looked primed to offer a politically charged story about a divided America right in time for election season. That, combined with its graphic novel aesthetic, instantly put it on our radar as we waited to see more beyond the 30 minutes we played.

With its August 30 release date approaching, we now have got a much better picture of what the full game will look like. In a lengthy two-plus-hour demo, I got a full look at Dustborn‘s characters, battle system, and political messaging. The slice I played signaled an indie adventure punching above its weight class, even if it’s sure to be as divisive as its fictionalized America.

Rather than kicking off with a big battle, I start out with a long narrative section that gives me a clearer picture of my crew and the dystopian world around them. The demo picks up as me and my pals roll through the desert in a tour bus driven by a robot. That last detail is the first sign that trouble is coming, as Dustborn looks like it’ll take a satirical jab at the rise of AI, whether that was its original intention or not. When we stop at a gas station, our brain-dead robot pilot zips off without us.

A character talks to an android in Dustborn.
Quantic Dream

That gave me a chance to see how its more narrative, adventure side works. With no bus to be found, I’d need to get a new ride. I’d discover that each of my pals had their own special ability that could help me achieve that. I’d call on one friend to pop open a locked backdoor to the gas station, and another more mechanically inclined comrade to fix a broken truck inside. Another would use their strength to push the truck out of the garage so we could run off with it without the clueless robot worker at the counter noticing. That’s a fun little twist that gives each companion a bit more character.

There’s one sticking point for me there: I’m not fully sold on the writing or voice acting here yet. While each character feels fully formed and dialogue often grapples with social issues head-on, it leans a bit into the kind of quippy comedy that’s become a crutch for so many modern games. That’s disappointing considering how much attitude it has otherwise, but I’m hoping the full context will sell me on that tone in August.

After that ordeal, I’d get a deeper look at Dustborn‘s combat when I began exploring an abandoned school full of rogue robots. There’s some basic hacking and slashing, with the added twist of being able to toss my melee weapon like a boomerang or Kratos’ ax. The more unique system is my special ability, a fierce forward slash that I can only activate once by pressing the right buttons as they appear on screen. That touch adds a little more depth to the otherwise basic combat, as does a skill tree that teases some more exciting powers (by the end of my demo, I could bounce my thrown weapon between multiple enemies before it returned to me).

A woman swings a bat at a bandit, the words SOW appearing in block letters across the screen in Dustborn.
Quantic Dream

What’s keeping me interested is just how much developer Red Thread Games is packing into what I expected to be a compact indie. The slice I played teased a surprisingly large adventure game with deep character and world building, alongside its eye-catching style and occasional gameplay twists (I’d use a power throughout my demo that would let me unmask invisible objects by tracking a sound and recording it). I may have seen a bigger slice than what we saw in March, but the final picture still feels much bigger than that. I’m excited to see where that road trip eventually leads.

Dustborn launches on August 20 for PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. A demo is now available on Steam through June 30.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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