While this is a recommendation in favor of From Dust, it comes with a lot of qualifiers. This is not a game that is worth full price. Yes, the graphics and production value are above average. And yes, this is a well designed God Game. And yes, because of the dynamic way in which the world behaves in reaction to your choices can drastically change the playthrough of any particular level. And ultimately yes, the levels (what few there are) are well designed.
But that brings me to my first complaint: There are only 12 levels (not counting the finale which doesn't really count since you can easily win simply by not using anything but the Breath of Earth.) For a full priced game, this is scaled more as a tech demo and paying full price is outrageous. (And I mean that to be a bit dramatic, because Fromt Dust is offensively short.)
It took me roughly 6 hours to beat the game (And I had to play at least three maps over.)
Which leads me to my next complaint: There are no saves. If you fail, you have to start over from the beginning of the level. That's not horrible, but it is made painful by the unskippable cutscenes and monologues at the beginning of each level. If you're not beating the level in the first or second try, the tedium of unskippable cutscenes is likely to drive you slightly mad. The cutscenes are "cute" the first time through, but after that they start to grate on your nerves. Your followers don't speak English. Everything is subtitled. While this seems like a novel idea at the beginning, people speaking gibberish at you on the start of each level (coupled with the fact that you cannot bypass it) quickly becomes annoying. This annoyance is mercifully mitigated by the short "single player campaign." (Of questionable value, since it also means there isn't much meat on the bones of this game.)
My third complaint is that it requires Uplay, Ubisoft's DRM. Ubisoft's DRM is draconian. There are multiple features in many games that simply do not work if you do not have an active internet connection (as opposed to Steam, where that connection is only required on first activation.) Additionally, Uplay fails to install correctly when installed through Steam and you have to jury rig it to work (I put a guide together under From Dust for anyone who buys this and runs in to the installation problem and goes looking for the solution.) While Ubisoft has removed some of the other unpalatable elements of Uplay DRM, it still remains the poster child for "what not to do" among game producers.
However, if you catch this on a sale ($5-10 tops) and you can tolerate dealing with Uplay, you will find yourself faced with a few (very few) enjoyable hours with Fromt Dust.
The gameplay that derives from wielding god powers (water, warth, fire and life-- no air here) is enjoyable. The sense of urgency that derives from the interaction between floods and earth washing away, or between a lava flow steadily working its way into your followers-- these interactions are compelling and interesting.
Unlike Molyneux's "God Game Remake in Godus" there is no farmville experience here. You really are left solely with Godly concerns. How do you unlock your next power?, how do you expand your followers across the world in the face of looming environmental disaster?, how do you help them escape the world before the tenuous balance you've maintained comes crashing down around you and your followers?
The story is nothing special. It starts as a question, and it ends as a question.
The graphics are pretty spectacular (for what it is). There's not a ton of individualized follower behavior (You typically zoom all the way out and do your best to stay on top of the floods, or the tsunamis, or the volcanos that are poised to end your followers.) But the environmental effects are pretty interesting. Water that is volumetric and looks like water. It has waves, it feeds plant life, it cools lava. Lava that is equally volumetric, and which cools when it thins, leaving behind a layered rock strata on which the next wave of lava will rise over it. Each river, be it water or lava, is unique and behaves according to physics which seem realistic (so long as you don't analyze them too heavily.)
The game performs well (one crash of the game, one crash of Uplay before I applied the installation fix I mentioned earlier). The audio is well designed, if a bit shallow and repetative. The digeridoo sounds are thematic and interesting (but if you don't like them, they become fairly constant in late game and that is likely to get on your nerves.)
All in all, despite its many flaws, I would give From Dust a positive rating-- at a much lower price point.
If you happen to see this on sale and feel like a few hours with a novel take on the God game genre, then give this a try. (But don't get it except on sale, because there just isn't much under the hood to justify the cash expenditure.)