January 07, 2019
Dusk - Review
There has been a trend of late, to remake games from the late 80’s and early 90’s but with modern tech, Shovel Knight has been perhaps the best example of that, but no-one had really attempted a modern take on Doom, until Dusk.
Dusk tells the story of a nameless, faceless protagonist, who awakens in a room, only to be attacked by things wearing straw masks and wielding chainsaws. All you have with you, are a pair of sickles, as well as your wits and its up to you to escape, find a proper weapon and just what the heck is going on. The plot is light, at least to begin with, but is enough to get you moving and as you move on, more hints will be dropped as to what is going on, if you can put them together of course. The story, and the game as well, is broken up into episodes, with each one containing a dozen-ish levels, each with their own theme, which are thankfully connected, helping to keep you engaged as you play. Because the main enemies appear to be devotees of some cult, they tend not to like you, but again, as you explore more, you will begin to learn that not all is as it seems.
The gameplay is almost a carbon copy of Doom, the original, not the 2016 version, you run very fast, shoot without the need to reload and pick up more weapons than one could possibly carry. Littered around the world are ammo boxes, health and armour pickups and countless waves of enemies, each set on ending you, the unbeliever. While health is quite easy to come by, defeating enemies that have mystic projectiles as their weapons, will usually result in you picking up some potions, which can also restore health. For protection, you don’t need to pick up large pieces of body armour, here the game requires you to pick up coins and gems, as morale, a way of boosting your belief that you can’t be hurt.
Whilst the enemies are strong, especially in close quarters, you are armed with enough guns to defend a small island, ranging from the old stand by of a pistol to the run, but slow firing crossbow and of course, the powerful shotgun. Most of the weapons will also allow you to carry a second, letting you duel-wield those cultists to an early grave, some, like the super shotgun or hunting rifle don’t, but given their powerful kickbacks, that’s ok. As you explore the levels, you will find a bunch of things to interact with, some of them are just boxes and planks, nothing to fun, other items are sawblades and switches, they can be fun. Switches will usually open a door somewhere else, the result is usually more enemies to kill, but sometimes they lead to a secret, or a key.
Key’s are important as without collecting the right key, you won’t be able to progress in the level and just like Doom, a single key is tied to that level, meaning they don’t carry over between stages. One of the earlier stages has a church in the middle of a field, in order to unlock the door, you need the yellow key, something I never found, instead I used some boxes that I had found, creating a series of steps, which let me climb up to the windows height, thanks to some neat destruction physics, the windows were no-more and neither were the enemies inside. The game does keep you on a path, more often than not, but its not rigid, int hat you can explore if you desire, doing so will usually result in a secret.
The problem that I had with the gameplay is quite simple, there was not enough to do in each level, unless you want to repeat it and try to beat the developers time or find all the secrets. There is no real incentive to revisit a stage, even locating all the secrets does nothing, not even unlocking any concept art, it is just something nice to see on the level complete screen. Whilst the game is episodic, you do get all of them in one go, which is very welcome, but the length of the levels, some more than others, are not that long either, meaning it does not take long to beat the game and while it’s a fun journey, it is over far to quickly.
Looking at the game’s presentation, they have clearing taken a lot of inspiration from Doom, Quake, Hexen and other shooters of the time, levels are generally flat, save for one or two large locations to explore, there are a lot of tight corridors to explore as well, given you a chance to enjoy that enclosed feeling, perfect for a scary shooter. The texture quality also duplicates the same effect, they look low quality, but are able to still provide a lot of depth, most of them, would not be out of place on later PlayStation 1 or Nintendo 64 games, it’s a nice touch. The enemies are pretty basic, the cultist theme is milked for its worth a lot and it's not until the final stages for the first episode where things start to become more varied, both in enemy and world design.
If there was a singular elements of the presentation that I did not like, it is the music, now if you have already played the game, don’t get me wrong, the music is excellent, the issue is that it does not match the games mood. When you are done killing enemies and left to explore the surrounds, the game provides music that perfectly matches the atmosphere, eerie and with a touch of danger, the problem is when enemies come at you. The music will kick up to a rock score, much like that of DOOM 2016 and whilst the music is nice, it just does not match the atmosphere that the game is attempting to portray. Worst still, is that the two types of music help give the game a sense of multiple personality, ensuring that players will be confused as to what type of mood it is trying to give.
Dusk is a game that if you have any sort of love on the old school PC shooters, you need to play, the gameplay hook is simple, but in this modern gaming era, that is just perfect. The story is only really there to get you playing the next stage and the next episode, but with some deviously hidden secrets to discover, playing through is not a real challenge. Whilst the game becomes split in its mood, thanks to some strange music choices, it still is worth playing.