I’ve had my eye on Dusk since its reveal all the way back in 2016, back when the world was a little less kooky. But Dusk is here now to remind us of simpler times; particularly the golden age of shooters like Quake and Doom.
Developer: David Szymanski
MonsterVine was provided with a PC code for review
Dusk, made by David Szymanski, has accomplished something I haven’t seen another shooter ever do, in that it captures the exact feeling you remember from playing those old shooters. Most games nowadays that claim to be a retro throwback fail at the task because they either force in too many modern elements, thus losing the game’s retro inspirations, or recreate the clunkiness of some of those older games in an attempt at “authenticity”. I don’t know if you’ve played some of these games recently, but while they still more or less hold up (which is impressive in its own right) they still have some elements that haven’t aged as well. Dusk strafe jumps around these pitfalls by keeping things relatively simple: only add some minimal modern enhancements (such as a slick sliding move) and instead, recreate the way you remembered those games playing, and not particularly how they actually played.
Dusk is fast. Like, blisteringly fast once you get a handle on the strafing. And you need to because this game does not play around with its relentless onslaught of enemies just looking to make a meal out of you. You can reach some pretty impressive speeds that just makes some of the moments in the game feel so incredibly good you’ll likely have a grin on from start to finish. To add on top of that, you can even turn off the y-axis lock allowing you to perform full flips when jumping in the air. And let me tell you, it feels real damn good to launch yourself in the air, shoot an enemy real dead, and then nail a celebratory flip as you land and continue hopping along your way.
Keeping to the tradition, you’ve got a host of different weapons to play with that can all be swapped between quickly and the best part that so many games fail to realize: no reloads. Hitting the reload button does nothing but make your guns do sick flips which are also great to do while you’re doing your own sick flips. Now Dusk keeps things pretty standard with its armory, there’s nothing like Duke 3D over here, but what’s here feels great to shoot and that’s what matters the most. Firing off the dual-wielded shotgun while jumping around or shooting a mortar into a group of enemies just feels great and the sound design here is absolutely top notch as well.
What’s perhaps one of my favorite parts of the game for me is how varied Dusk keeps thing between episodes. For the most part, almost no enemies are reused between episodes, with a whole new group of baddies slowly introduced to you as you make your way through each episode and they all function differently. You’ve got some pretty standard guys like the soldier, but then there’s the invisible Wendigo or the scarecrow which may or may not be possessed and spring to life. Throughout Dusk’s three episodes, you’ll go from cultist infested farmlands, industrial factories teeming with mad scientists, and eventually into some really weird places. The game is also paced so incredibly well at ratcheting up the action as you work your way through each level and when the highs come, boy are they high.
Rounding out this package is an endless mode and competitive multiplayer. Endless mode features three stages based on the episodes of the game and, while a lot of fun, eventually reach a point where you know exactly where each enemy is going to spawn and what’s (for the most part) going to spawn there. Multiplayer, titled DUSKWorld, is the full suite of what you’d expect from a shooter harkening back to the glory days of arena shooters. You’ve got eight maps, various characters to choose from, you can edit the colors of those characters, and a community of players who are infinitely better at the game than you’ll ever be.
The game’s development has also been fairly interesting to observe from its initial “opening of the floodgates” of allowing people to play the pre-alpha build of the game and slowly taking in community feedback to improve upon each released episode and tweak finished ones. This kind of openness and transparency of a developer and publisher with their community is something you don’t see very often and resulted in a game that’s simply phenomenally polished. And stupid, Dusk is a very stupid game. Now I’d like to clarify, when I say the game is stupid I don’t mean it in a dismissive way; I mean that it’s gleefully stupid. Dusk, and the community behind it, have a wonderful sense of humor with in-game mechanics like a bar of soap being hidden in each level that can one-shot any enemy, to the host of menu options that lets you customize everything from the pixel density to even making your crosshairs that “S” symbol we all drew back in middle-school. The game, while still managing to solicit some genuinely unsettlingly creepy moments, is very much self-aware. And all of this is supported by an absolutely killer soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult who’s perhaps most known as the composer for Brutal Doom.
The Final Word
Dusk captures the essence of those 90s shooters you grew up playing and adds enough new to not only set itself apart, but also stand toe-to-toe with those giants. Dusk is not only one of the best shooters of the year, but possibly one of the best in years.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 5 out of 5 – Excellent