Dustborn is all about friendship, fighting, and finding your way | Hands-on preview

by on June 24, 2024

Dustborn feels like many different games while also feeling like its own thing entirely. Few developers manage to find that spark to create something new while being inspired by what has come before, yet Red Thread Games has done a great job leaving me wanting more. Life is Strange, Borderlands, Road 96. While it has elements of all three of these titles, getting to know Pax and her friends as well as exploring this alternative America was always exciting, despite only spending around two hours with it.

It’s not the easiest game to try and explain, but essentially Dustborn is a story-driven action-adventure where you travel across America with your bandmates. You get to talk to all of them at various junctions, choosing different dialogue options depending on what you feel is the right response. I warmed to most of the characters, especially Sai, Pax’s best friend and all-round lovely person. Theo seemed like a decent enough guy, if a little mysterious, and despite Noam being quite quiet and guarded, she was another character I liked.

Spending time talking to your bandmates whether on the tour bus, exploring the world, or sat around a campfire, it’s clear a lot of thought has been put into conversations and making them feel natural. It’s something that developers don’t always get right, but like DON’T NOD’s Life is Strange, Dustborn is certainly on the right track. Talking to your friends is also a great way to understand what you have to do during missions. My preview began a little while into the story, so I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on at the time.

I started off on the tour bus, and shortly after my band and I were abandoned at a gas station, I had to try and find a way to get out of there. I talked to the robot behind the counter at the gas station, stole some liquor, and started a fire to try and attract a biker gang. By asking questions and exploring, I was able to get my friends to use their abilities to help me. For example, Sai was able to launch a huge rubber tire into an area I was going to start the fire. There’s also something known as the ME-EM which captures Echoes, which are fragments of dialogue that you can listen to.

It was enjoyable trying to find the solution and finding out which friends could do what, all while having discussions with them as we tried to start the fire. Once we did, the bikers came and I was able to see how combat worked. While it isn’t as intense or as fun as I thought it might be, hitting enemies is pretty straightforward and easy to get used to. Pax has a bat and a shield she can use to hurt the enemy, along with the ability to use your friends to pull off attacking moves together. You can also launch your bat at enemies which is always a lot of fun.

After the gas station, I got to see a little more of Dustborn’s world and how the mechanics come into play. At this point, I’m excited to see more of the story and get to know the characters. After a short time playing, I was already warming to my fellow band members, and I love how they all play a role in solving puzzles and fighting. There are some nice touches to the dialogue system which seems well thought out and detailed, and I’m a sucker for well-written characters and a hefty emotional undertone.

Dustborn will release on August 20 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.