Let me tell you about a game I’ve been playing lately. I don’t talk about positive things very much on this blog (especially lately) so allow me to gush for a few hundred words. Not even a gush. More of a spurt.
It’s called Dusk. It’s a retro first-person shooter valentine to games like Quake, Doom, and Blood. Personally, I think it’s closest to Hexen II, but nobody played that game, so the comparisons are fine. It evokes the days when fireballs shot from nowhere, blood was arcing cubes, and there were no waypoint markers.
These days I find myself liking the old games better than the new ones. My computer’s getting old so I haven’t been able to play anything new and good for a few years now. The triple AAA games like The Witcher 3 and Rocket League and even Batman: Arkham Knight are off the table. Even games from 5-8 years ago, I have to lower my resolution lower than I prefer so I can have a decent frame rate. I love Dishonored, but I can’t play the sequel until I get a new computer.
The last game I tried playing was Assassin’s Creed III and it was just boring. Lots of cutscenes with uncanny valley people and walking from one straight line to another. The combat looks complex but it’s just one-button mashing. The guy’s a superman compared to the cronies so there’s no challenge. Even when you’re fighting eight guys they wait their turn and then you wait for the triangle over their heads. The game is basically playing itself. It just needs a little input to activate the next sequence of cutscenes and–quote–gameplay.
Dusk has many many fewer A’s than Assassin’s Creed III. And yet, I’m still having more fun with it. It’s nice to go back to the days when environments were bleak and dismal, not because it was the fashion, but because that was the mood and tone they wanted. A jump away from the bleeps and boops of Mario 3 or Jazz Jackrabbit. The kind of games that made your parents worry. Yes, it is fun to be a rat in a maze, as long as the rat has a BFG or nailgun to mow down grunt soldiers and shapeless demons. And story? Who needs it? Shoot ’em in the head! Press A, motherfucker, press A!
It’s not without flaws. Overall, it feels like a chunky fanmod, which can be a good thing. Fanmods are made out of love, not profit. So that means the gameplay is solid, even if the graphics are not. Characters walk around a little like marionettes, like someone is holding sticks to their legs (reminds me a little of Half-Life 1, especially the asssassins). Some of the sounds are weird, like when you walk through toxic ooze, it gives this “boink” indication that you got hurt. It lacks the finishing polish games like Quake had, where the animations are tuned right and the maps are user-tested.
It’s just a neat game, and I wanted to call more attention to it. It deserves it–it’s cheap, it’s retro, it’s tonally gory, and it suits my sensibilities just fine. Certainly more than spending a hundred hours collecting every little trinket in whatever GTA clone of the month there is.