Welcome to a pulse-pounding, metal thrashing, twisted and bloody world full of cultists, possessed soldiers, and demons trying to end your life. The only way forward is with bullets, blood, and mayhem. If you’re going to survive until dawn you’ll need wits, speedy reflexes, skill, and a little luck. Bring your “A-Game” or be dead. This is our DUSK Early Access review.
The nineties were an era of great action shooters that merged first-person gunplay with fast and furious avatar speeds in Quake, Hexen, Heretic, and DOOM among others. DUSK is a brand new fast-paced shooter from horror veteran David Szymanski and indie developer-publisher New Blood Interactive, inspired by those great games and the heart-pounding pace they offered. DUSK looks and plays like it was transported from the nineties but with twenty-first-century performance and customization.
From the first moments the game is launched, it’s apparent that a lot of effort has been put into small details to recreate an authentic experience. You’re greeted with a fake DOS 6.66 boot screen complete with chattering hard drive in the background while the game loads up.
Before even heading into the game take a minute to check out the graphics and display options because there are a lot for a retro styled game. You can change the color palette, bloom, filtering, and of course level of pixelation. The game also supports full screen and modern resolutions, something which several of the older titles don’t do well if at all. In addition to all of the graphical flexibility offered, you can remap all of your key bindings as well, and if that’s not enough there is partial controller support. The game even has an aim assist slider that goes from disabled to “Just a Little” and all the way to “Shameless”.
The basic objective of each map is to find the exit and make it out alive. Just like the classic nineties shooters you’ll need to find the colored key/door combos and tiny hidden switches that open the way forward. In between you and these doors are a bunch of monsters you’ll need to get past or take out any way you can. You can speed run through the levels or take your time and defeat all the monsters and search for all the hidden areas. As much as the game doesn’t hold your hand it doesn’t tell you how to play either and doesn’t punish you for doing what you want. In addition to the main campaign mode there is are “endless wave” maps and multiplayer.
DUSK is fast, fun, brutal, mayhem. It doesn’t hold your hand or apologize when you get stuck. It leaves you to figure that out for yourself because that’s why you bought the game in the first place. There aren’t any participation trophies here. You must earn your way through the hell you’ve been surrounded by finding through to the exit while blasting all sorts of nasties.
Rounding out this experience is the background music of metal master Andrew Hulshult of Brutal Doom (IDKFA) fame. The music moves between pounding and thrashing to sinister and eerie setting just the right tone giving the game a solid well-rounded feel.
New Blood Interactive isn’t happy with simply creating a great shooter that has an awesome backing track. They want to bring the entire community experience that was map design and game modding. Trenchbroom is the officially supported map editor, but other programs like JACK have also worked for some. Modding is still a work in progress, but will be fully functional after the game is released.
That’s right, DUSK is still in Steam Early Access. This isn’t some EA marketing gimmick either. This is an indie team and the game isn’t finished as they still need to add the final campaign chapter. There are also some rough spots in the game, like getting stuck trying to climb a ladder when baddies are chasing you, but they’re uncommon and the development pace is brisk. I think the AI could be a little smarter too so hopefully that will see some improvement before launch.
Like a nineties infomercial, that’s not all. After the game is released and the modding suite and SDK is complete the team is going to open source the engine. You heard that right, they’re giving away the engine. The DUSK assets will remain their property of course, but can be used for community sharing purposes according to their Steam forum FAQ. That means the base engine itself can be forked and used in your own game!
DUSK is a great retro shooter that can easily stand on its own feet among the giants on gameplay alone. What makes it stand out how this game is being developed with a community mindset and longevity in mind. If you enjoy shooters like Quake, DOOM, Heretic, and Hexen then I can’t recommend this game strongly enough. You can check out DUSK for yourself on their Steam page.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by PR.