Dusk throws back to '90s FPS; find joy in shooting everything again

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Episodic gaming appears to be becoming more prevalent as franchises are choosing to break up their stories and adventures into quick playing events. Rather than having players invest 20 or 30 hours or more to reach a conclusion, game makers provide a complete mini-story, much like a television series, with the promise of an overarching narrative for the complete collection.

Dusk is a first-person shooter with the look of the original Doom and the feel of a DOS game. The retro game is also an episodic adventure with the promise of three releases to tell their entire tale of mystery, magic, and military might.

Episode 1, released on Steam, is played with the keyboard and mouse. As the game starts, an old-school DOS screen appears and begins “loading” the elements of the play. As the screen disappears, the game throws the player into the heat of battle, being attacked by three masked men with chainsaws.

Here we go.

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Armed in the beginning with only a melee weapon, two scythes, players will collect stronger weapons, mostly ranged weapons, as they fight their way out of a nameless cult’s lair. The game looks and feels like a retro 1990s game, because who wants pretty graphics when they are flying through the air and destroying bad guys.

There are 10 missions in episode 1, but the action is very non-linear and encourages exploring and experimenting all over the place. The hero can’t regenerate health, requiring pickups along the way to stay alive.

There is no limit to the number of weapons that can be carried and used. Some weapons are out in the open while others are hidden in secret locations, which is why exploration is necessary. There are limits on how much ammunition you can hold, but don’t be skimpy with using it.

Flaming and hooded KKK wizards, shotgun-toting scarecrows and powerful witches are only the beginning of the seemingly never-ending wave of enemies that want to kill you during each mission. Oh, and don’t forget the blood-spitting cows.

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The goal is always to survive and escape, but safety never seems to last. Different enemies, environments, and secrets await in the next mission, and your weapons are still loaded.

If there is a narrative to the first episode, it is likely to be the overarching theme of shoot bad guy in the face. Players do move from one area to the other in an attempt to flee toward sanity. There are not deep character reveals, personal interactions, or a plot worthy of a novel.

This feels and plays like an old school Doom, and there is joy to be found in such a game. The action is frantic, and the thrill is real.

In an industry where real world features and lifelike designs seem to be the norm, Dusk offers a different but familiar look on how a game can be fun. We’ve seen it before, but that only means we get to enjoy it again.

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Dusk is available on Oct. 31 through Steam, but Episode 1 can be played for those who pre-order the game. It is not rated by the ESRB at this time. This post was written after playing Episode 1 on Steam with a provided digital download code.