By: Brian Gunn
Duskers is an ambitious new title from Misfits Attic, the developer known for A Virus Named Tom. That game didn’t make many waves on the indie scene, but Duskers seems poised to mark the developers as ones to watch.
Duskers is a very deliberately designed game, and one where the controls can sometimes feel a bit clunky yet seem meant to function that way. There are two ways to controls action, the first being through typing commands to your small squad of drones, instructing them to pick up items or hightail it to the exit. Alternatively, you can also directly control one drone at a time, which is useful for scouting and precise actions where the typing interface struggles.
Drones are a bit slow and clunky, and prone to getting stuck on things, particularly each other, and remembering all the typing commands can be tough as well. That’s the beauty of the game, however, as an alien attacks or meteors pierce the hull of the current level, maintaining your composure and not panicking at the relatively limited and imprecise controls are the true challenge when it comes to saving your little crew of robots.
Visually, Duskers is a fairly simple game, though it nails what it is going for. Clearly inspired by ’80s sci-fi like the first two Alien movies, the main interface in the game is that of a dingy lo-fi computer. Everything is done from there, and it really helps sell the atmosphere of this lonely desolate world. When directly controlling a drone, the graphics are a little more modern but still manage to maintain the eerie ambiance.
Sound is used to similar effect. There’s no music in Duskers, nor is there any voice acting. The sound effects have to pick up the slack, and boy do they. From the constant hum of the computer to the sound of doors opening or alarms going off, each is important, and each silence ominous.
Something has happened. Something vague. Somehow, life as you know it has changed. There are no humans to talk to, and everything is dead except for the horrors that now stalk the carcasses of derelict spaceships. Adrift on your own ship and starting with just a few droids, players are tasked to pick up the pieces, explore this dead galaxy… and hope for answers.
While you’ll occasionally find computer logs about mysterious experiments and unknowable horrors, there’s not really much of a story to be found, and the focus is more on survival. You’ll need to manage fuel in order to jump between ships and systems, as well as scrap, which act as a currency to upgrade and repair your drones and ship.
And so you’ll need to decide which dead vessels are worth exploring, and how far in you want to go. This is largely a game of attempting to master the unknown, and learning to recognize when to stop being greedy and hightail it out of there.
Drones are your primary window into the outside world, and they can be equipped with all sorts of tools. You’ll often start with ones that do things like provide power to generators or tow objects, but eventually you’ll start getting things like a stealth field to play around with. These will let you explore more and more, though enemies are incredibly deadly so a sense of fear still permeates.
The typing system is the highlight of Duskers, and one with a decent learning curve. Expect your first few runs of this roguelike to end pretty early as you forget to close doors or send all your drones to the wrong area. Still, once you put some time into it, typing out actions becomes even more second nature than controlling the drones directly, and you’ll be able to pull off some advanced tactics like venting rooms into space that you think might hold enemies.
Duskers is a unique take on the roguelike genre. It features an incredibly immersive visual identity as well as controls that are unlike many other games. It has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s well worth the effort to master.