DUSK

Genre: First-Person Shooter

Original Release: January 10, 2018

Developer: David Szymanski

Publisher: New Blood Interactive

Platform: PC, Linux, macOS, Nintendo Switch

Played on: PC

I will always welcome Evil Dead references.

I remember seeing a video on DUSK by Jim Sterling a few years ago. I wasn’t absolutely sold on the game, despite the fact that you start with dual sickles, the movement is fluid, and Andrew Hulshult’s music is a perfect fit for the game. I dunno if it was just the gameplay I watched or my being in the middle of a depressive episode at the time, but it didn’t click.

Then I played The Pony Factory while going through the Dread X Collection and I realized “Man. These controls are pretty tight. I really should give DUSK a shot.” And I’m so glad I did. DUSK is awesome. At time of writing, I’ve never played Quake beyond maybe a little bit of the N64 title, but DUSK’s movement feels as if it was lifted right out of Quake and given new life. I like that. Being able to move in eight directions, all at the same speed, strafe around enemies, and watching my weapon of choice bob up and down with my movement just felt great. The choice of a low-poly aesthetic really adds to the charm as well!

Scarecrows also get much more scary as a result.

Sadly that’s about the extent of my Quake knowledge. But! DUSK follows an episodic format, so its mission structure is akin to classic DOOM (E1M1, E1M2, and so on) and you retain your weapons, ammo, health, and morale between missions. Provided you continue straight on that is. I never tried the level select option, but I would assume that, just like in DOOM, you start with full health, no armor, and your melee weapons to your name. And you can save at any time, so if you’d prefer to pick up where you left off rather than restarting from zero any time you load up the game, you can do that! And you can name your save files, too!

My Episode 2 and 3 save files were “Well Heck 2” and “Well Heck 3” respectively.

That covers pretty much everything I can think of for comparisons to earlier games. How does DUSK stand on its own? Pretty well, actually! A few different levels of difficulty, depending on what you’re most comfortable with, plenty of secrets to be found which encourages the player to explore the map as much as they’d like, and really solid level design. Seriously, there are environmental clues as to what you can or can’t reach hidden everywhere. It’s nice to have that much freedom to move around and explore. There are no invisible walls, just very clearly visible walls that define the edges of the map, and solid objects that you can’t walk through because that would be silly.

In addition to the wonderful arsenal at your disposal (including a rivet gun that fires exploding rivets), DUSK has some excellent enemy variety, depending on which episode you’re playing. As weak as the possessed soldiers are, I can’t help but mimic their deep, distorted voices. Any time they were around, I would say “flank him” right alongside them. Man, the voice work in this game is excellent.

In fact, this game has some excellent horror to it, especially in the later portions of Episode 2 and the entirety of Episode 3. Few games have ever made me squeak out a prolonged, uncomfortable, high-pitched “eep!” but DUSK pulled it off quite well. And once it started to scare me, it just kept the horror rolling. I won’t go into specifics, but at one point I found myself asking “what the hell is that?!” every time something new reared its terrifying head. And don’t even get me started on the end boss fight. It was everything I was hoping for and so much more. I love DUSK and if I had a stamp of approval there would be at least three stamps on it…Maybe I should make my own stamp or something.

Anyway go play DUSK. It’s brilliant.

I got nothing, this says it all.

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