The next-generation god-game From Dust is due out for on Xbox Live Arcade this July 20th (PS3 and PC shortly after) and Ubisoft Montpellier had a visually captivating experience to present to us during E3 2011.

The spiritual successor to Populous has players acting as a tribe-worshipped God who must make rapid changes to the environment to save and teach a local tribe of natives. Check out the From Dust trailers here if you want to see what the game is all about – we got some face time with it for ourselves, and want to share the experience to any who might be interested in the title. And by “might,” we mean you should be.

Firstly, the controls of From Dust are simplistic enough that any player can jump in and find themselves quickly changing the completely dynamic landscape in minutes. You press on button to scoop up a globe of whatever is underneath your God (sand, water, vegetation, lava) and press another to drop what you’ve collected. By doing these simple movements, players experience real-time events as sand plummets into a raging lake, most of it getting swept away as you try and make an impromptu dam. Lava collides with water to create a steamy, chaotic environment in which solid rock is formed. Vegetation turns a lifeless mass into a sprawling tropical forest. It’s a beautiful thing to watch as it allĀ  unfolds on the screen.

After seeing the raging waters erode the land, dumping it over a landscape and watching as From Dust makes it all flow naturally, it must be said that the game is, quite simply, jaw-droppingly smooth. Of course, From Dust isn’t just about watching how natural the landscape is – you’ve got a tribe of worshippers attempting to find out ancient knowledge, who require your protection. Within minutes, a tsunami will be hitting the island, decimating all that stands before it. Above the village across a raging river lies a shrine which contains the Repel Water ability for your tribe. It’s time to get things done.

You’ll find, as any child playing in a sandbox or river discovers, blocking water flow with sand is no easy task. Merely dropping sand into the path of the water is likely to see some lightning-fast erosion and will take a lot of work to quickly damn it up. While you’re free to try and solve puzzles/situation any way you want to in From Dust, an alternative and faster strategy would be to look at the pace, slope and locations of the river as it splits up into streams – by moving dirt from an area that was already damned up, the water flow is completely redirected, stopping the current from hitting where the villagers needed to cross. With that, a sandy path was quickly made and a village wiseman was able to cross to the totem, learning the power of Repel Water a mere minute before a tsunami came crashing down, obliterating any living thing on the island except for a small circle where the tribe exists.

New From Dust Trailers Emerge“Hey, um, you remember the spell, right? I forgot a word or two.”

The path-finding of the villagers, who go wherever you tell them to, was able to handle itself pretty intelligently as the God character (the player) was busy making changes all over the place to try and be two steps ahead of the next objective. They react to the changing landscape as any one of us would – avoiding sudden bursts of water, not attempting to traverse terrain that would kill them, and moving around minor obstacles. As the demo continued, more and more ways to solve puzzles were unveiled – some purely creative, some with quick, brute force.

From Dust is looking to be a great example of how a simplistic concept can create gorgeous gameplay. It’s a game made for those who want to experience an entire environment simulation, to play and mold an island at their whim – in short, to be a God. From Dust is a single player experience, though Eric Chahi (creator of the game) wasn’t objective to the idea of a multiplayer experience down the road. It’s looking gorgeous, bug-free and very entertaining.

From Dust earned not one, but two Game Rant E3 2011 Award nominations for most original and best of show.

From Dust will be showing up on the Xbox Live Arcade July 20th, and later on PSN and Steam.