Battle through an onslaught of mystical backwater cultists, possessed militants & even darker forces as you attempt to discover just what lurks beneath the Earth in this retro FPS inspired by the '90s legends.
In THREE distinct campaign episodes hand-crafted from straight outta the '90s, players battle through an onslaught of mystical backwater cultists, possessed militants and even darker forces and attempt to discover just what lurks beneath the Earth. Featuring a vast arsenal of badass weaponry including saw blades, dual-wielded shotguns from 1887 and an incredibly necessary grenade launcher, DUSK is unapologetic retro action from start to finish.
OS: Windows 7 Or Later
Processor: 2.4GHZ Dual Core Processor Or Higher
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce 9800GT or equivalent
DirectX: Version 9.0
Storage: 2 GB available space
Additional Notes: Don't go in the ruins.
~10 hours (including Ep3)
January 11, 2018 (Early Access)
Wolfenstein 3D kicked off the FPS genre in 1992 with fortuitous timing. By the time 1996 rolled around, Quake would introduce not the possibility of moving 2D sprites around in a 3D space, but moving 3D sprites around in a 3D space. From there, the industry would benefit from the release of games such as Goldeneye 007 and Half-Life, along with a deluge of “Doom clones” that shall be remain unmentioned. Consider that these games were on the market twenty years ago, and yet here, developer David Szymanski, with the blessing of New Blood Interactive, seeks to recapture the feel of the trailblazers in the FPS.
Dusk specifically aims to reproduce the atmosphere of games like Blood, the original Quake, and Hexxen. Therefore, gamers will not encounter the kind of lasciviousness found in Duke Nukem 3D or vulgarity of Shadow Warrior. This is a game that aims for the dark and the occult. Enemies wearing costumes made of bedsheets sporting a glyph-like symbol on their chests squawk “Unbeliever!” when they catch sight of the player. In one scene in particular, they congregate in a church, though they are certainly not there to worship God the Father. In fact (un)holy books are sprinkled about the game, and as players progress, they may find such books encircled by runic symbols as if to conduct a stance or summoning. Cryptic messages written in red letters on strategically-placed walls elucidate the story for the attentive eye; the inspiration for this mode of communication remains unknown at this time.
As Dusk is an FPS, it should be natural to expect some violence. In the 90’s, it might have been exciting or shocking depending on how one falls on the spectrum, at the sight of blood splatters and gibs raining from exploding grenades. Yet while this will most certainly qualify as an M-rated game, I find that its violence is tame in comparison to modern shooters, and some to modern fighters too.
First and foremost, I want to make it known that it is not standard protocol for us at Geeks Under Grace to publish an official review of a game that is still in Early Access such as Dusk. However, publisher New Blood Interactive is confident that what is available for purchase now is essentially finished, and they are now focusing on the final episode of the game. For those old enough to remember shareware, I feel that Dusk is in a similar state; there is enough content in the first two episodes such that the third would contribute very little in my overall assessment of the product.
I am not sure if I ever made the adjustment to “Modern Warfare.” Halo was the first FPS that I remember playing and being frustrated if not also disgusted by two-weapon limitation, forcing players to choose. This (lack of) choice may have something to do with balance in multiplayer, but as someone who, with few exceptions, only plays FPS for the single-player experience, balance is of minimal concern to me. I want to be able to carry my shotgun, my assault riffle, and my heavy artillery weapon of choice, as an FPS is only as good as the weapons I can use. DOOM (2016) brought back the 1-0 weapon selection array, and Dusk does no different here.
Players will begin trapped in a room with three triangle-hooded, overalls-sporting, chainsaw-wielding brutes while only armed with a duo of sickles. This encounter, especially on harder difficulties, feels designed to establish Dusk‘s pacing as a frenetic FPS, because if one attempts this fight in a linear fashion rather than circle strafing, their experience with this game will be truncated. Emerging from the basement of what appears to be a farmhouse, I soon find a pistol, a staple for first firearm in FPSes. It is not long before I encounter a shotgun, but before I discover the inevitable assault rifle, the second pistol I pick up does not merely add more ammunition to my total, but granted me the ability to run, pistols akimbo. The “rip and tear” speed of the player-character here and the DOOM-like enemy placement and density works in Dusk‘s favor. One of my favorite features of the game (that literally put a smile on my face) is the fact that the shotgun’s “pump action” resembles that of how Arnold Schwarzenegger flip-cocks his custom-made Windchester Model 1987 in Terminator 2. Even better is that it can also be dual wielded. Holy alternating literally-flippin’ dual shotguns man!
Rounding out the arsenal: the super-shotgun is as strong as it is compulsory; the assault rifle fires with more authority than I would have expected, making it my second-favorite weapon in Dusk; in place of a grenade launcher is a “mortar” that behaves more like a grenade launcher which is unfortunately not as satisfying the one in Quake due to a lack of satisfying clanking sound accompanying the bouncing projectile; the hunting (sniper) rifle serves as the game’s long-range weapon which is useful, but feels out of place in a game like this, especially when considering the two final weapons; the magic crossbow pierces everything in a straight line like a railgun, so it is best to align enemies before firing; the riveter hardly differentiates itself from the rifle and crossbow besides its ability to 1-shot most enemies. TO reiterate, where the bottom half of these weapons feel great, the top half is redundant—I particularly dislike the similarities between the models for the riveter and mortar. There is also at least one secret weapon, but rather than discuss it here, I’ll leave fans it to fans of games like The Elder Scrolls to find it.
Gunplay might be king in FPS games, but one needs good targets too. The first episode of Dusk contains the aforementioned occult enemies, including the floating “Klansmen” whom I enjoyed fragging the most. Episode two adds a dose of realism in the form of soldiers as enemies who also make for great cannon fodder. Nevertheless, it is through other enemy types where Dusk struggles to place itself as a serious Lovecraftian simulacrum, or a Redneck Rampage homage. Walking scarecrows tread the line between creepy and absurd. A stalking elk-like creature might remind some of the Pinky demon, yet its mundane presentation resembles the threat of a deer crossing into traffic on a dark country road. One boss actually is a giant deer (seriously), and another, a crocodile—both spew projectiles. The last boss (so far) is a soldier who cackles in Schwarzenegger one-liners. Wut?
Compounding the capriciously haphazard enemy array is are the game’s graphics. The original Quake blends brilliantly industrial metal with concrete, and I do feel that Dusk is mostly successful in regard to finding a medium between wide open spaces and corridors, though one level comprising of a mine maze is particularly misplaced. Yet while the environments are successful in positioning the mood toward despondency and at times, the bizarre, Mr. Szymanski could have certainly used an artist to polish these character models. There is level of quality what we have come to tolerate from indie developers, and here, the texture detail and animations encroach upon the amateur. Scarecrow witches float around listlessly before instantly turning to fire a relatively non-threatening projectile. Soldiers resemble Quasimodo running around with assault rifles. A high-level boss/enemy is essentially a female mannequin with a rocket launcher for an arm, that only moves at the legs and bends at the waist. At this moment, the final boss is what I would describe in intricate detail, “a giant red blob with a frog for a face that fires for massive damage” I can give Dusk a pass for its perfunctory story, as that was never a strong suit of FPSes from the 90’s, but I suffer from no compunction for haranguing these retrograde character models.
For those who are interested in experiencing, in modern times, a classic-style FPS, Dusk successfully delivers good pacing, as each level can be completed in just over five minutes for those interested in speed-running. Weapon feedback is overall satisfying, as is exploration to find secret stashes. The average enemy design and lack of groundbreaking…anything, is what might prevent this game from being memorable beyond a quick $20 dose of heavy nostalgia.
Review code generously provided by Tinsley PR.
+ Dual-wield shotguns son!
+ "Rip and tear" style gameplay
+ Survival mode adds some longevity
+ Environments successfully imitate Quake without
- Mood sometimes founders between serious and silly
- Multiplayer is all about circle-strafing bunny hopping
- Takes a serious hit in texture quality and character models