Duskers is a tactical roguelike survival game set in the depths of a universe almost devoid of life.
Produced by a small indie studio, Misfits Attic, it is their second commercially released title and was funded by the support of a variety of very generous and helpful indie devs and the good folks of Indie Fund. It just goes to show that indie developers stick together, and it’s about producing games they enjoy, not milking the customer for their monies!
A major point that is worth mentioning is this game is quite different than most games I’ve seen lately. The developers thought it would be a good idea to use a simple CLI, command line interface, to control some aspects of the game. Was this a good idea? Personally, I quite like it - it’s not something you see often, outside of full text adventure games, and unusual choices by developers make for interesting games. It certainly made me curious enough to want to try their game! Well done Misfits Attic!
So we know a little about the genre, but what’s going on in the Duskers itself?
Well, you are aboard what appears to be the last remaining manned vessel in this universe, and you need to figure out why, and what you’re going to do next; surely someone else is out there too, right?
Well, as you’ll soon find out (and this is no spoiler), there are a few things still out there hiding amongst the remains of hundreds, if not thousands, of derelict ships of dozens of designs and classifications. Some were civilian explorers, others were traders in large cargo ships, and more still were the space police in their military frigates.
Unfortunately for you, it seems like most of the things still moving don’t seem to like you very much - from automated defence drones ranging from little ones that aren’t really that scary, up to terrifying elite military drones capable of ruining your day in seconds if you bump into them unprepared.
There are also defence turrets aboard some vessels designed to deal with pesky intruders, and there is a strange infection aboard some vessels; could this infection be tied to the universe level extinction event that seems to have happened?
Fortunately, you don’t have to go wandering these derelict ships yourself; you are the pilot and commander of your own salvage vessel (lucky you) and this means you have some drones of your own to aid you. Of course, salvage ships don’t tend to carry around top of the line war machines, so you might not want to charge in headfirst; in fact, you don’t start with any weapons whatsoever for your drones (not so lucky you)!
But how to deal with all the nasty drones, turrets, and aliens who want to eat your drones without any guns? Well, here’s where tactics come into play - you might not have guns, but you control the doors and airlocks...if you restore power. Those aliens won’t be much of a danger after you blast them back into the depths of space! You could also repurpose those defence turrets we saw earlier too - find an interface and activate their motion targeting, then when an enemy comes into their field of view? Boom. No more enemy. Just remember to turn them off before you wander in there for the loot!
There are plenty of other items and upgrades to be found as you progress through the game to help you and give you new options in your quest for answers. That would be too simple though; you have to remember that most of the equipment is pretty old, and as old things break down, so too does your equipment. There is a chance your gear will break each time you use it, beginning relatively low, and gradually increasing as you wear it down. It can be repaired, even proactively, to reduce the chance of a breakdown, but repairing this gear costs valuable salvage! Do you repair your motion tracker to reduce that fail chance from 15% to 5%, or do you upgrade your drone’s speed so you can explore, run away faster? Decisions, decisions!
There is plenty of story hidden throughout the game just waiting for you to discover in the form of uncorrupted communication logs on the plethora of ships you’ll at least try to salvage from during the course of your game.
Some of it is of little import, such as an incident report on a mining accident and a poor miner losing his leg, while others may hold the key to understanding what exactly happened to the universe you knew, and probably at least found tolerable, given I assume less of it wanted you dead previously.
Now, we’ve had a look at the setting of the game and what to expect from the story, let's take a look at the game from a technical standpoint.
It’s not a graphically pretty game, at least in the sense of high end graphics, however the simplicity has a certain charm and suits the concept of the game. Supported by plenty of little graphical effects throughout the game, the graphics lend to the atmosphere of the Duskers, from deliberate camera refreshing - think old security monitor footage and poor quality video reception, again deliberate, from your drones in certain areas.
There is no actual music in the game; however, there are very fitting ambiance tracks and sound effects that suit the situation. Overall, the graphics, audio, and gameplay combine to set a tense atmosphere where you are always worrying you are about to get ambushed, to the point I literally screamed when I got attacked, and subsequently wiped, during one of my playthroughs.
If you are a fan of roguelikes and want to play something with a twist, this is for you. The controls and concepts are easy to pickup but with enough depth to allow you to master them. The graphics and audio are extremely well-suited to the game and create a great experience. A good showing Misfits, I look forward to playing more of your games!