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Dustborn preview – A story-driven adventure with a compelling cast

Launching later this year, Red Thread Games’ Dustborn, which is being published by Quantic Dream’s Spotlight, is a single-player, story-driven action-adventure game in which players take control of Pax; an exile and con-artist that also happens to be an ‘Anomal’ – in her case she can weaponise words.

Disenfranchised with the world and seeking a way out, she accepts a job: transporting an important package from Pacifica to Nova Scotia, travelling right across the Justice-controlled American Republic. But she’s not going to do it alone. With her friends in tow, the gig becomes a road trip, with Pax and her companions travelling undercover as a punk-rock band. Needless to say, this isn’t your typical adventure.

Going hands-on with Dustborn and spending some time with its ragtag crew, we’re pleased to report that it’s shaping up to be something special. Thrown into a sequence of events some time into the game, we quickly grew fond of its characters, learning more about them as we travelled by bus to their next gig. There’s Ziggy, Pax’s younger sister who suffers from anxiety but has the ability of super-speed, Sai, a strong, powerful woman with vitiligo, Theo, a hacker who keeps his cards close to his chest, and Noam, Pax’s on-off partner who’s a bit of an enigma.

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Image: Red Thread Games

It isn’t long until the crew run into some unfortunate trouble, however. Stopping for gas at a station, the crew’s robot, Caretaker, suddenly drives off, leaving them behind. Well, most of them – Moam is still passed out on the back seat. And so the crew has to suddenly devise a plan to get the bus – and their friend – back. It’s about here that we decide Dustborn feels a lot like a Telltale game, only more technically competent and with more gameplay brought into the fold.

Related: 20 best story-driven games on PS4 and PS5

A trip into the shop at the gas station proves to be fruitful, with its robot attendant giving us valuable information about a biker gang that frequently visits to cause trouble. That gives Pax an idea: what if they attracted the attention of the biker gang, then made off with some of their vehicles? It’s the only option you have, but how are you going to put it into action?

Aside from talking to your companions to learn more about them and shape a relationship, here you can also instruct them to do things for you. If there’s something heavy that needs moving, for example, then Sai is the one to ask. Meanwhile, Ziggy’s superspeed can come in handy in numerous situations, especially when you’re also causing a distraction. All this is achieved pretty intuitively, too, with character portraits appearing near objects that you might need help with. All you need to then do is hold the respective button down for a second.

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Image: Red Thread Games

Having attracted the attention of the biker gang by lighting a fire, we were then offered a choice: try to sneak around the gas station and take the bikes quietly, or engage them in an all-out brawl. We chose the latter, because why not? As you’d expect, the combat system here isn’t going to worry games like Devil May Cry, but it is solid enough, with Pax able to perform combos as well as dodge and block enemy attacks. Her power over words also grants access to a number of special attacks, which push enemies back and more.

After the fight, we’re treated to yet another gameplay sequence in which we’re throwing molotov cocktails at bike gang members trying to pursue us, keeping us invested in the action. At this point, it’s clear that Dustborn always wants its players to be somewhat in control of their destiny. And when the coast is clear and we finally catch up with our bus, there’s more of an investigative sequence that further whets our appetite for the full game.

Less than two months from its launch, then, Dustborn has just shot up our most-anticipated releases list. Aside from its varied gameplay, we’re also excited to spend more time with its diverse and compelling cast, with each member being interesting in their own right. And so, we look forward to learning more about each and every member of Pax’s ragtag crew, and seeing where this road trip ultimately takes them. We have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of trouble along the way.

Dustborn launches 20th August on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

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