Review: Veil Of Dust: A Homesteading Game – Home Is Where This Game Is

Let’s travel back in time, shall we? Back to when we had to build our own houses, grow our own food, and work harder than ever for the clothes on our backs. Back in Oregon where forage was sought for and traveling by foot was a necessity and, uh, where faeries and water nymphs existed, and evil spirits tried to kill us..? Veil Of Dust: A Homesteading Game developed and published by Calamity Bay Games brings all of this to the table and more as a fun and passionate story-driven farming and resource management game.

Veil Of Dust follows the story of the Callahan siblings, Shane and Áine, who, after losing both of their parents in horrific ways, are now on their own. We start by choosing which of the two siblings we want to be, each with their advantages and disadvantages. There’s Shane, the very protective older brother who will stop at nothing to keep his sister safe. He carries a gun and has the ability to go into town. Then there’s Áine, the positive and outgoing younger sister who isn’t allowed into town because she can wield magic and speak to animals. The townspeople finding out about this could very well mean death, so she needs to stay in hiding despite not wanting to do so. While Veil Of Dust ends the same way no matter who you choose, the journey itself is experienced differently from each point of view. This time around, I decided to go with Áine.

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Sometimes, a little spirit will play a mini game with you to help water your crops

Veil Of Dust follows that of a typical farming-type game. There’s a stamina bar (along with other stats, such as morale, health, and hunger), there’s farmland for you to grow crops, a home for you to upgrade, and areas for you to explore. It’s unique in its own way, however, for many different reasons. For one, you have to keep track of you and your sibling’s stats. This can be done by gathering ingredients you either grow or find in the wild to cook meals with and feed to them. Unlike most other games, stamina does not fully reset each morning. It depends on how well your home is upgraded, and how long you sleep at night. That being said, building stamina is difficult at first, but it’s a welcome challenge.

Visually, Veil Of Dust has a pretty “made with love” art style where it’s clear that every portrait and every gorgeous CG was drawn with the utmost care. Emotions are captured perfectly, and certain animations, like hugging and kissing, are smooth. I enjoy the audio the game has to offer as well. While there aren’t fully voiced lines, the main character’s names are said from time-to-time in a way that fits well with the game. The music differs depending on time of day and whatever the current situation is. Calm music when you’re at the farm and ready to work, and up-beat, energetic tunes when you’re fighting against these creatures for your life. The visuals and sounds truly work together to make Veil Of Dust that much more engaging, though I do wish there were a place to see all of the CG I unlocked.

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The Callahan siblings

Life on the homestead doesn’t start off that great. Our sleeping conditions are fairly poor, there is no money to our name, and our inventory is quite bare. But thankfully, you can gather resources to upgrade your home and start off with crops to start bringing in the cash. An upgraded house comes with extra regeneration to stamina and health, making it well worth it so you can get the most out of every day. Your home isn’t the only thing you can build up, either. There are home for animals, like cows, chickens, and bees, and machines to make life a little easier, like the preservation machine that can sell certain items for a lot more money. It’s a rewarding experience, getting to see your farm go from a tiny shack with uncomfortable floors and holes in the walls, to an entire farmhouse with crops and animals awaiting your care outside.

Though conditions aren’t perfect, things are going swimmingly (this will be a terrible joke once you play the game) until suddenly, we’re attacked by some magical creature—a large boar-like animal with its head not quite attached to the rest of its body. This is what sparks the start of our story. What is this creature, why were we just attacked, and what are we going to do about it? As the siblings journey to find answers to these questions, we meet some faces along the way. Some are friendly, like Prince Laan, a Fae who swears he isn’t responsible. Other’s aren’t so friendly, like the ones who accompany him. But it’s while meeting these people that one of Veil Of Dusts biggest aspects begins to shine: the characters and the dialogue.

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Alysse, the love of my—I mean, of Áine‘s life

I will be the first person to admit that I am a sucker for good dialogue, and I have to say that in Veil Of Dust, it’s this feature that excels. When the dialogue isn’t repetitive, it truly stands out. Conversations between the siblings, whether they’re arguing, comforting, or showing off their individuality, are done extremely well. That also ties into the romance aspect of the game. For each sibling, there are three unique romance options to choose from who they can eventually get married to once the house is fully upgraded. Playing as Áine, I didn’t hesitate to choose the only woman available—Alysse, a water nymph who’s bound to the river. There were so many wonderful moment between Alysse and Áine, and I laughed and even cried when they touched upon the topic of sexuality. Their story felt so fleshed out and raw and real, and the dialogue, no doubt, is the reason for that.

Veil Of Dust has an impressive number of accessibility settings, including dialogue settings for larger font, a visual impairment setting, and an option for dyslexia friendly font. There’s are also points in the game where you travel from Point A to Point B (quite often, actually), and every time, there’s a little mini-game where you can pick up items as the screen quickly passes by. There’s an option for you to slow the screen down so that if your hand-eye coordination isn’t the best, or the speed of the moving desert is making you motion sick, you won’t have to worry about that. Though I personally didn’t need any of these settings, a grin sat on my face knowing it’ll be there for those who do.

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Just hugging over the crops as siblings do

Now, as much as I thoroughly enjoyed Veil Of Dust, there are a few things I’d like to point out. There were points in time where I feel like we could have benefitted from extra dialogue. For example, there’s a scene where the siblings are afraid to cross the river. The build up is perfect, they’re terrified, they don’t know if they can do it, but they do know they have each other no matter what, so across the river they go…and they make it! I wait for their celebratory hugs and cheers and maybe even tears, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t come. There’s no dialogue at all, actually. We just move on. On the contrary, there are point where I felt the dialogue should have been less. When the siblings would get into a fairly heated argument (where once again, the dialogue sincerely impressed me every time), afterwards, I could have them interact and it would be one of the positive, repeated dialogues that really took away from the tension the two were supposed to have. When hanging out or socializing with romance options as well, I do wish what was said afterwards was more diverse.

One of the most frustrating experiences in Veil Of Dust is the hunting. It’s mostly the moose that will run away before I can finish killing them (it’ll take three attacks, and it doesn’t help that I have to wait for the attacks to finish charging before trying again). I’ve tried coming up with strategies but nothing seems to work. I get lucky sometimes when they get stuck, but other than that they stay close to the edge and escape after one or two hits. It might just be a skill issue on my part, though.

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One of many boar-like beasts, featuring Prince Laan in the corner

Veil Of Dust is one of those games where I kept finding myself saying, “Oh, just one more day. I’ll get through one more day and then I’ll stop.” But then two hours and twenty days later, I’d find myself still gathering resources, still trying to push the story along, still running to Alysse to spend time with her, and most importantly, still enjoying myself. The Calamity Bay Games team, though small, so obviously put so much thought, care, and love into their game, and it shows. Veil of Dust is a gem that I’m grateful to have stumbled upon, and I urge you to play it. It will not disappoint.

Inanna played Veil Of Dust on PC with her own bought copy.

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