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DUSK Early Access Review

Dusk is a nifty little shooter from the dawn of the FPS era, and while it feels like a long-lost DOS game that time forgot, it brings a fresh twist to the FPS table while reminding us why we fell in love with shooters in the first place. Guns are cool, levels are fun, enemies put up a good fight — and with the game being in Early Access, there’s more yet to come from this gem. It's a promising title with a bright future.

FROM THE DAWN OF FPS

Rusty, iron-barred jail cells line the walls of a long, dark corridor; the yellowish glow of a flashlight illuminates the floor, crawling along the dirt and dust, finally creeping up a wall to reveal a message: “DON'T TRUST YOUR EYES” is splattered across the planks in blood. Heavy breathing, then footsteps in the distance. They're getting louder, and closer, until blood-soaked prints materialize. A shot in the dark causes the creature to shed invisibility, revealing an eldritch horror composed of bones and blood, which closes in and strikes quickly. This is Dusk.

Dusk is a FPS developed by David Szymanski of New Blood Interactive that has recently entered Early Access with two episodes currently available, and a third on its way. It shows promise in shaping up to its final form: a nostalgic shooter reminiscent of DOS FPSs like Blood and Doom, but built aesthetically to mimic Quake. This look is achieved through low poly models and rough-looking textures that you'd expect from a PC game found on a back shelf at Goodwill — yet this isn't a bad thing at all.

Cult members assault you as you run through ramshackle farm houses beneath a blood-soaked moon, with metal playing in the background, evoking the right kind of nostalgia this game needs. Dusk is the type of game that's best enjoyed with pizza bagels and Mountain Dew with a Star Wars Trilogy promotion on it. Little details, like a fake DOS boot up screen and options to change the window size using the plus and minus buttons on the keyboard, help support its nineties feel, although Dusk can stand alone without the nostalgia factor.

SOMETHING OLD AND SOMETHING NEW

Dusk can be seen as a break from all the more conventional features “modern” shooters possess that have graced the market recently. After spending the last few years playing games like the new Doom, The Evil Within, and Wolfenstein — which are by no means bad — it's refreshing to delve into a run and gun that isn't littered with collectibles and cutscenes. In their place, Dusk has “secrets” and bloody walls of text between episodes. There's a certain satisfaction to be found in mowing down a horde of enemies with dual shotguns, while sprinting across the map at near light speed, without having to worry about missing a gold bar or suit upgrade. It's a liberating feeling that helps Dusk feel like the homage it’s designed to be, while still bringing fresh content to the table.

In the two episodes of Dusk currently released, there’s a total of twenty-one levels, one of which is a secret. From start to finish, there will be moonlight shootouts at a farm with fireball-hurling cult members and shotgun-toting scarecrows; intense firefights on large military bases stocked with grunts and turrets, all shooting dozens of bullets that whiz across the map; solemn, creeping moments of fear in dark, dismal catacombs while being stalked by invisible skeletal creatures; surreal exploration in a dank factory-like setting, swarmed with mad scientists; and at one point, ever so briefly, a Xen-like dimension reminiscent of Half-Life. Playing through these levels, it’s easy to see where Dusk drew inspiration from, as tastes of Blood, Quake, and even Redneck Rampage all seep into its intricate, yet easily navigable levels.

Disappointingly, Dusk lacks any sort of map system. Even though it's difficult to get lost, this might be itsbiggest flaw. Years of playing Doom, Quake, and many other shooters have trained our muscles to expect “tab” to open a map of the level. In Dusk, however, tabbing opens a small list of stats, which feels out of place. Whether or not the final release will have maps is unknown, and although it doesn’t feel essential, it would be a helpful feature.

DUSK FEELS MOSTLY COMPLETE

Aside from furniture and dead enemies clipping through walls and floors, and a few difficulty spikes, Dusk has an excellent polish to it — especially for Early Access. The several modes included each provide a unique way of enjoying this engaging FPS: Story mode is fun, with scenic maps and balanced enemies. Endless mode, with eleven levels per episode (including the secret level in each campaign), offers a destructive and varied arsenal, making it a great way to kill time and hordes of baddies. Competing for high scores among friends and online is rewarding, which is where Multiplayer mode comes in. It's still in the works, though, and can be buggy or straight up not work. This is understandable, since a majority of the effort is going toward getting the third campaign out and polishing the rest for a proper release. (Such is a practice that should be taken in by other, less morally inclined companies.) As long as multiplayer works eventually and doesn’t disconnect when my parents pick up the phone, I have few complaints.

8

The Verdict: Excellent

As it stands, Dusk is mostly complete, with features yet to come looking promising. Worth playing for its own sake, it's also a nostalgic experience that reminds us of what shooters used to be, while still maintaining its own identity. Complaints are few and compliments are many, as the only thing really missing that would complete the experience is a floppy disk that can be passed around and copied between friends, and a federal court case citing violence in youth.

Mike Juray
Written by
January 29, 2018
Published in FPS

Mike was first on the scene with a SNES and kept up-to-date on the hottest games thanks to his older brother’s shared love of all things video games. He loves staying in on rainy days with classic horror games like Silent Hill or Clocktower, but has experience across the the gamut of genres, from racing-sim to rhythm-action. He is always looking for new and different experiences, both in gaming and real life. His go-to genre is platforming, but he also enjoys a good FPS or puzzler. When he’s not holding a controller, he enjoys sushi, fluffy dogs, cold lemonades, and urbexing.

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