Dusk, review of an old-school shooter for Nintendo Switch and PC



After achieving considerable notoriety on PC, Dusk also arrives on Nintendo Switch with a conversion really good, let’s find out in the review

Among the various neologisms that have emerged in recent years to explain genres and trends in the world of video games there is one particularly ridiculous – and even wrong in conceptual terms – but very successful both in terms of sound and the fact of condensing perfectly in two words its complex idea: “boomer shooter”. With this definition we mean the nostalgic evocation of the classic first-person shooter, the one belonging to the early 90s, the origins of the genre. It must be said that the use of the term boomer would also be incorrect for a wide range of reasons, but what matters is the self-mockery with which it is applied and the precise image that emerges from a definition of the genre within a video game market dominated by Fortnite, the new Call of Duty and the like.

Instead of complaining about how much better it was to play when it was worse and go to see the construction sites on the street, some group of developers have decided to roll up their sleeves and propose precisely that kind of shooter today, with graphics faithful to the style of the time and gameplay pushed to a thousand. An operation that in some cases succeeds perfectly, as we see in this review of Dusk.

New Blood Interactive has taken the basic elements of old FPS such as Quake, Heretic, Hexen and Painkiller and reassembled them in an amalgam that is obviously derivative, but does not lack a specific and very prominent character, managing above all to be immediate and fun, putting the gameplay on top of everything and proving once again, after Ion Fury, Project Warlock and the like, that this type of experience still has a lot to say.

Gameplay: Action of yesteryear

Dusk, an image with some hooded cultists, among the more

You can select one of three starting levels, but there is no time for any explicit narrative element in Dusk, since we are immediately immersed in the action from the very first moments of gameplay, with a level of challenge that is already selective in the very first areas of the game. What emerges, giving quick glances at the surroundings (the only thing allowed, considering the pace) is that we have to deal with a horror derived from a mysterious cult, which seems to mix the demons of Doom to metaphysical elements like Lovecraft, including mysterious altars, places dedicated to some ancestral religion and bizarre symbols. It’s all a pretext to unleash the fierce violence that is staged from the first seconds of the game. The levels consist of more or less large areas, indoors or outdoors, full of enemies of various types intent on hitting us using different contact or distance attacks, forcing us to try to dodge the blows and respond with firearms or melee.

It’s a return to the basic elements of the video game as a constant challenge, which requires skill and timing to juggle in a world characterized by a pervasive and oppressive danger, where survival is always in the balance. A crosshair in the center of the screen, environments built with few polygons and enemies at will to be eliminated as quickly as possible: these are the ingredients of the most classic formula in the world, but always perfectly functional.

What strikes you about Dusk is the speed and fluidity of the action: there is no key to run because the basic movement is already very fast, and this says a lot about the gameplay, all focused on the dodge and the speed in the elimination of threats, without shields or energy regeneration but with the good old medikits to collect around, when possible. A feature that emerges very clearly is the feeling of the damage inflicted, something that stands out both using one of the many and varied firearms and melee weapons, which include swords, scythes and other means capable of inflicting heavy and atrocious blows on enemies.

Simple but constructive levels

Dusk starts from a rural village, as in the image, and transports us into a metaphysical nightmare

There’s a certain logical progression between the three “campaigns” that can be selected at the beginning, with one representing the natural continuation of the other, even if they can be tackled in no particular order. It starts from the outermost sections of a rural village now in the hands of a mysterious sect of cultists and then move on to an industrial section and finally to crypts and laboratories, in a descent into horror that transfigures the settings into an increasingly surreal nightmare. In all this, there is also a remarkable care in the design of the levels: although at first everything seems simply functional to the destruction as fast and violent as possible, the levels are built with a certain criterion, also filled with features that stimulate exploration as secret passages, objects to find, “secret technologies”, hidden weapons and elements of real environmental narrative.

Everything always follows the extremely low poly aesthetic that characterizes the game, of course, but the construction of the maps makes the various elements of scenery and passages always quite original, helping a little ‘sense of direction as it is also necessary a little’ backtracking to continue. Dusk takes up classic and now obsolete features such as the need to collect certain keys to open specific doors, so the careful exploration of the environments becomes essential in order to have the elements to continue, even if everything is always done at super speed. On the other hand, in the general simplicity of the narrative are also appreciated some elements that help to build a kind of “lore” in the game, such as messages written on the walls that help to immerse us in its particular atmosphere.

Nintendo Switch version

Dusk proposes more and more strange levels, like this one in the screenshot

Dusk is a game built primarily for PC users and the willingness shown by the developers to bring it on Nintendo Switch has also surprised, at first. It took a while, since the game arrived on Windows about three years ago, but the result is truly remarkable. From the technical point of view there are no particular differences with the original, of course, considering the deliberately low level imposed on the graphic complexity. However, there could be doubts about maintaining the same lightning fast performance that characterized the game on PC, but these were definitely dispelled: even on Nintendo Switch, Dusk runs smoothly, at impressive speeds and without missing a beat, maintaining a very stable 60 fps, which is of paramount importance when even the enemies move and attack like crazy. Considering that the software base is Unity, which often leads to uncertain results on the Nintendo console, is really commendable work done by New Blood Interactive, even technically.

Also notable is the presence of several options and settings to change to customize the experience, such as the FOV slider to change the field of view and various graphical parameters to adjust to meet different needs, as well as a considerable amount of difficulty levels to select that actually change substantially the experience. The only really noticeable difference from the PC version is found in the control system: here the Joy-Con emerge a bit ‘as a limiting element, since the high speed of the action is not perfectly associated with the sensitivity and the stroke of the analog sticks, but it is mainly a matter of habit, perhaps starting from the lowest difficulty levels to go then up. Finally, a special mention should be made for the audio accompaniment, which obviously offers metal-style songs particularly apt, by Andrew Hulshult, author of the soundtracks also Brutal Doom and Quake Champions.

Comment

You have to be a bit prepared before going to encounter Dusk, because the impact could be brutal. Just like the great classics that wants to pay homage, the game is violent, fast and dynamic as the FPS of the 90s and does not forgive mistakes, forcing you to always play on the edge, pumping adrenaline with each new room and also making it necessary to manage with rationality the levels of difficulty present. It is obviously a very basic gameplay, deliberately far from the structural and narrative depths to which we are accustomed today, but able to recover the essence of the classic FPS with a certain study in level design. Dusk finds its highest expression in the immediacy of the clashes and the speed of execution, but to appreciate it you have to accept to give up any refinement in terms of graphics and structure, as well as having to manage a little ‘difficulty in the control system on Nintendo Switch.

PRO

  • Fast and immediate gameplay that captures you right away
  • Some care in level design that encourages exploration
  • Simple but consistent aesthetics, excellent soundtrack
  • The repetitiveness of the action is felt in the long term
  • More variety in weapons and enemies would have helped
  • The controls on Nintendo Switch are not very comfortable
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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