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Duskers (PC) artwork

Duskers (PC) review

"Masterful use of sounds, console messages, and video feeds create a very tense layer of fear"

Duskers (PC) image

Space Investigator

Earlier this month, I played a horror title called Layers of Fear. For those that are unfamiliar with LoF, a very crude description for it could be provided as "doors, doors, and way more doors." Duskers, much like its terrifying brother-in-arms, also employs the use of doors as a method of conjuring up dreadful tension. It's a very effective way to incorporate fear of the unknown, and all game developers know that horror junkies just can't shy away from an unopened door. Something so unassuming and innocent will most likely be the cause of your demise. Curiosity just had to get the best of you, but to be fair, opening doors is what Duskers is all about. Actually, opening doors and surviving what's behind them is what Duskers is all about.

In this sci-fi rogue-lite strategy game, Duskers tasks you to pilot drones through derelict space crafts in an effort to uncover how the universe became a giant graveyard, while fetching necessities for survival along the way. The story is fed to the player in bits and pieces through data logs from these Derelicts, and although it is the primary motivation for progression (logs/objectives are retainable upon death), the story is somewhat of a backseat experience in comparison to the shining gameplay. The logs are categorized by theories, and delving into these theories by following the objectives and investigation targets slowly, but surely, reveal information on what ultimately caused the devastation of the universe. Some of these logs don't actually clue you in on anything either, but help build the unknown world with remnants of the ghostly past. Daily routine logs, chat logs, and post-mortem logs are only some of what you will find, and they all help paint an eerie picture of the dark and horrific present.

Drones Are a Man's Best Friend

These cute little robo-buddies, each with very disarming nicknames, will be sent to board the Derelicts throughout the entire length of the game. You, the player, are seemingly the only surviving human, so naturally, all non-GUI interactions will be performed through these drones for the sake of safety. Equipped with mostly random abilities, each drone will generally have one to three specific functions in its performing capacity, such as: gathering, powering generators, towing objects, utilizing interfaces, etc. How well the player safeguards these drones often foretell how successful the expedition will be. Many creatures of various infestation types lurk behind the Derelicts' doors, and the premise of Duskers' strategy involves around finding a way to lure, herd, kill, or bypass these creatures in order to get what you can and leave.

The drones and Derelict exploration will be controlled through console/command programming, although it is possible to also manually control the drones. Utilizing your own "aliases" (self-made scripts) can make life a lot easier by combining a lot of common commands into a single, customized command. For the programming-challenged audience members out there, worry not, as there are really only a handful of commands that you have to use, and if you forget anything, quick reference information can be pulled up at any time. Duskers also uses an autocomplete system, similar to your favorite search engine or texting program, so the actual typing is relatively minimal enough that any inconvenience by it is pretty negligible.

Duskers (PC) image

One of the most common items the drones will be gathering are scraps. In this world, scrap is king, and this utility/currency will be required to upgrade, repair, create, trade, etc. With fairly minimal scrap found in each Derelict, sticking to only one style of strategy will end up putting you in a major pinch at some point. Lures will run out, stealth will lose efficiency, motion tracking will degrade and you will not have enough scrap to repair what you want; not to mention that it can be quite common to have to ditch your favorite drone in order to save the rest. Every now and then, decommissioned drones/ship upgrades can be found in a Derelict and towed back for use in future endeavors, helping ease this burden. This harsh reality of reducing scrap loot forces players to adapt, and keeps the gameplay intense, and tension high.

Other than scraps, you will also be hunting down fuel. There are two main types of fuel, P-Fuel and J-Fuel. P-Fuel is used to travel inside a system, from Derelict to Derelict whereas J-Fuel is used to jump to a different system altogether. Every time you enter a new system, the P-Fuel in your main tank will replenish. Traveling outside systems to other points in the universe will require reaching a Stargate.

Creative Incorporation of Horror

Masterful use of sounds, console messages, and video feeds create a very real and tense layer of fear, blanketing every thought and action you will have during each boarding procedure. Light moans of the metallic hull, warnings of a door under attack, and radiation causing static feedback are some of the things you must overcome to get what you need. Furthermore, nothing is more mentally jarring than accidentally opening an adjacent or connected airlock and watching the heart-dropping consequences thrust upon your drones in real time...


I did happen to find the early game rather pointless, objective-wise, since I noticed that all logs are gathered upon boarding, rather than upon departure. If I ever got to a point where I needed to reset, I made sure to save one drone alive, that way I could just go on a huge Derelict hopping-spree and gather up tons of logs before my J-Fuel ran out. Eventually, new objectives that forced more direct means of involvement prevent this, but it never made me feel any better about spending so much time on the early objectives. I would have preferred it if the logs were scattered throughout the Derelicts, that way I would have had a reason to actually care about getting into those final and difficult to reach rooms.

Duskers (PC) image

The mid/endgame objectives come with a rather large spike in difficulty, and this was the point where everything started to get extremely fun. As opposed to aimlessly searching Derelicts, you will now be asked to perform some challenging tasks requiring a lot of fancy thinking. One requires you to board a Quarantined Derelict and lure a live biological creature back to your ship, and another wants you to exterminate and commandeer a specific vessel without powering anything on (no electricity means extremely minimal options). Excluding these types of objectives, the Derelicts will also be much more difficult to explore. Some require Transporters in order to teleport drones from one room to another, while others are infested with some truly erratically moving monsters. At certain points during these expeditions, I swear that my fastest typing speed doubled in words per minute.

Misfits Attic managed to successfully utilize rogue-lite strategy and horror elements to create some very interesting gameplay mechanics. Add in a programming aspect and the niche genres mutually reinforce each other to create one of the most unique and addicting experiences on the market. Thus, I am able to easily recommend Duskers to all fans of rogue-lite strategy, programming, or horror games. Duskers’ proficiency in each genre allows it to satisfy those that may only be interested in one aspect, but not another.


silversuriv's avatar
Community review by silversuriv (October 14, 2016)

silversuriv loves to review games as an escape to reality, preferring to stay on the analytical side of the spectrum. Steam

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