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The Dawn of Dusk

Dusk screenie 1

There’s no shortage of games which try to mold themselves on titles from the early years of first-person shooters, when Quake, Duke Nukem 3D and their relatives ruled the scene. These modern efforts differ vastly, both in terms of their scope and their actual faithless. However, one game in particular does such a good job of replicating the look and feel of mid-90s shooters that you’d almost swear it actually was a long-lost classic from that era. I am, of course, speaking of Dusk. Revealed in a kick-ass trailer earlier this year, we at Hey Poor Player got a chance to sit down and play an early build.

Right off the bat, Dusk‘s influences are blatantly apparent. It mostly resembles Quake, complete with low-polygon enemies, weapons, and items, all drenched in earthy tones of brown and grey. Many other references pop up, such as farmhouses and hillbillies that are a nod to the zany Redneck Rampage. A magical crossbow bearing a striking resemblance to the one featured in Heretic even makes an appearance.

Dusk screenie 2

But Dusk‘s nod to FPSes of old aren’t just about the aesthetic. Understanding the substance behind the form, the developer has built locations that encapsulate the mindset of the time. Getting lost in sprawling, three-dimensional level chunks while searching for keys and hidden doors are once more the order of the day. Forget about ducking behind cover and regenerating health; you’ll need to be careful and find health packs to restore your vitality, especially since enemies are rather numerous and often placed in positions where they can be the most annoying.

The adversaries aren’t quite bullet sponges, and I find it fairly easy to pick them off with single or double shots from all but the first couple of weapons. Favoring frantic, fast-paced action above grinding encounters, the game looks set to more closely follow Doom‘s model with regards to enemy placement and combat (and by extension, its spiritual successors Serious Sam and Painkiller). Speaking of speed, Dusk‘s protagonist feels like he’s running around on rocket-propelled skates, mimicking the fast movement of early shooters. It’s an authentic touch, but sometimes it feels just a tad too fast for its own good. Like the games of old, the autorunning feature can be turned off, but I feel it definitely needs a bit of adjustment. And of course, players can carry loads of weapons at once, include shotguns, a mortar launcher, a hunting rifle and an assault rifle. Some of these, such as the shotgun and pistol, can be dual-wielded for extra awesomeness.

Dusk screenie 3

Despite its low-fi approach, the game manages to be genuinely creepy and atmospheric, complimented by a greatly moody soundtrack. Enemy designs are mostly interesting: a plaid-shirted redneck cultist with a sack over his head and a possessed scarecrow are among the most iconic, with robed priests and generic soldiers being slightly more forgettable. Sounds and speech samples are pretty great, though I feel the shotgun sound could be a bit more meaty.

We got to play two levels, one plucked from the campaign and one styled as a horde shooter featuring endless waves of enemies. Both are great fun to play, and with more than three episodes’ worth of content promised, we’re certainly looking forward to it. Multiplayer options are also planned, with some classic 1-vs-1 and cooperative play in the cards.

We live in an age of the “me-too” mentality where everybody wants to remake classics from a bygone era. What sets Dusk apart from its contemporaries is that the developer clearly understands exactly made these games so much fun in the first place. I felt the same sense of fun as I did when I first booted up Quake all those many years ago. It’s definitely one to watch out for and we’re keeping our radar firmly on its Steam page as its 2017 release draws nearer.

Delano Cuzzucoli
Delano is a lifelong gamer who resides in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. He's also a political student, artist, geek, writer, historian, skeptic, linguaphile, IT nerd and electronic music fan. An eccentric lover of the strange and beautiful who is equal parts harmony and discord.
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