DUSK review: A loving tribute to Quake and Doom

Heretic: DUSK uses the classic FPS games of yore as inspiration and builds an excellent game. Pictured is a screenshot of the game, featuring one of the many enemies you will shoot lead through.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was playing games with my dad. Games like “Mario Kart,” “Prince of Persia,” “Turok,” and “Quake Arena” are the ones I remember most fondly. “Quake” was an amazing first-person shooter game, FPS, for its time, while “Arena” focused on multiplayer, the previous two were tough single player experiences, putting you through frantic fights with demonic enemies. 

“DUSK,” developed by David Szymanski and published by New Blood Interactive, released for Windows, Mac and Linux (with New Blood having plans to port it to the Nintendo Switch) harkens back to classic first person shooters like “Quake,” “Doom,” and “Blood” in an authentic, adrenaline fueled return.

In “DUSK” you play as the Dusk Dude, a silent protagonist who finds himself in a rural Pennsylvanian town. The story is incredibly thin, but you face various types of monsters: giant chainsaw wielding hayseeds, robe-wearing cultists and it varies from there. You are given access to all manner of weapons: a workhorse assault rifle, peashooter handguns, dual lever action shotguns, and some others I’d rather not spoil. It is divided into three episodes, the Foothills, the Facilities and the Nameless city, each with 10+ levels of carnage. 

One of the things immediately apparent about “DUSK” when putting a decent amount of time into it is the absolutely wonderful level design. Instead of a modern FPS’s usual going corridor to corridor, you are put into painstakingly mapped arena-like, not to mention incredibly atmospheric, levels filled with secrets and enemies to kill. With every single one having Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack playing in the background. 

While mostly being crucial to the atmosphere, there are some awesome tracks as well, adding to that adrenaline of you sliding around, trying to survive a mass of enemies. 

The most off-putting thing about “DUSK” is definitely the graphics. It looks very polygonal, and at first it just seemed to be a lazy corner cutter, but it is integral to the atmosphere. “DUSK” builds this unique, horrific and often metal as heck universe that is great. 

I only have two problems with “DUSK.” That is the weapons and the protagonist himself. One of the more recognizable things about those classic FPS games were their notable protagonists. Whereas Duke Nukem was the wildly politically incorrect action hero,  Dusk Dude has no personality, he doesn’t even have voice acting. While in games like the “DOOM” franchise the voiceless protagonist works, you really aren’t given any background or hype about the person whose shoes you fill. This absence of any real character in Dusk Dude is notable, and hopefully Szymanski adds something like that in in the future. As for the weapons, you are given access to most of them all too early. One of the most vital things about shooters is a diverse set of weapons that never gets stale, and once you get all the weapons, while you lose some episode to episode, there really isn’t much to see.

I could go on and on about this game. There is a such a fun factor to it, and it feels like at times the game was made for me. It understands what made those games so good, and delivers in a near perfect way.