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I’ve completed Firewatch and DUSK. They’re both amazing in their own genres

DUSK

I hate to hype up a game because I risk making people put high expectations for a game that they might not find enjoyable at all, but goddamn I'm trying really hard not to. If you've never played DUSK and really need to scratch that classic shooter itch, boy is it the game for you!

For a bit of context: I admit that I… really don't care much for Doom. I really don't. I'd much rather play Hexen instead (with a guide of course because labyrinthic level design) since the classic Doom games have this very copy-paste type of design, with corridors that many times are virtually indistiguishable from each other for your typical not-so-seasoned Doom player. Then I played through 4 scenarios of Blood (or was it 5, counting the one added in Fresh Supply?) and my God was my mind blown and did my testosterone levels skyrocket: GORGEOUS atmosphere and level design, as well as a much more pronounced (very gothic at times) horror setting and vibes, with tons of references to great movies, a character that isn't mute for a change and has genuine fun mutilating every single enemy in sight. I know, this is a review of DUSK, not Blood, but I needed to use this for context…

Because DUSK, despite having some clear inspiration from classic Doom, ends up being an EXCELLENT mishmash of all these games: a beautiful love letter to a lost era of first person shooters, while still managing to be original and therefore also earn a neat little spot, next to the greats. With that said I still prefer Blood: Fresh Supply… but damn, DUSK gets a very close second place. If only it had another scenario… 3 just ain't enough.

The retro graphics look great. The levels, regardless of setting and of how open or enclosed they are, benefit from a great mix of the classic feel, mixed in with updated and improved level design ideas. It feels fresh, yet dated (in a good way). Just like Blood, it features some really great nods to pop culture (Big John being my absolute top favorite). And although sometimes it gets really weird sometimes in terms of theme and aesthetics (as well as the references), it somehow works extremely well! It tells a simple story in a subtle way (as you might be guessing, this game really doesn't have the deepest plot), using mainly the areas in which you'll find yourself as a way of evocating a narrative. As you progress, the deeper the rabbit hole goes and the more you'll understand about what transpired.

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The music? Mind-melting metal goodness. Andrew Hulshult brought some really tasty tracks for this one and they are all unique throughout the game: this means you'll never hear the same track twice unless you're replaying through the scenarios. Speaking of sound, everything sounds crisp and all the voices have this old shooter vibe from the 80s/90s, one great example being the cultists immediately going "SACRIFICE…", "NON-BELIEVER!" and "HERETIC!" whenever they detect you.

As for the gunplay? Absolutely fantastic. It feels good to play. It feels good to shoot. It feels good to just turn your enemies into little blood clouds with the heavier weaponry, or in nice chunks of meat that can be kicked around for funsies. And it's difficult enough to give you a really nice challenge! My only negative critique would go to most of the bosses: some just feel downright uninspired and generic, while others are great. Also, no 4th episode.

FIREWATCH

Alright, so after such an action packed adventure, it was time to cool down. I finally decided to give Firewatch a shot.

So… between walking sims and adventure games, I'll always pick a nice adventure game that makes me pull my very few hairs from my (nearly) bald head as I try to solve the next mystery or puzzle. By norm, walking sims usually don't get my attention since they mostly consist of "keep going forward to continue". Surprisingly enough, Firewatch little enough to not really deviate from a "walking sim" label, but does just enough to warrant my interest. The gameplay is absolutely basic and there's no way to die: but the devs are kind enough to give you freedom of exploration through the mountain, although you'll have a much better time just going with the flow. The gameplay consists of walking, jogging, pressing a button to climb, jump down, set a rope, rappel, and pressing the shift button to report things to your supervisor… who is actually quite friendly and talkative. All of these actions (except for the radio) follow the basic template of "press the button to do the thing", but since it's varied enough it manages to remain interesting enough to keep me going.

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I really don't have the most recent laptop, yet that did not stop me from enjoying the visuals in this game: they feel like they're somewhere between the cartoony and the real, but manage to be beautiful instead of falling into the typical uncanny valley. The mountain area you're in charge of watching has a lot of verticality to it and there are quite a few interesting areas and paths that you can take, most of them being illustrated to you by your lovely supervisor as you report your whereabouts and she proceeds to talk about some really interesting stuff related to it.

Speaking of which, I have to point out: the sound in this is pretty damn good. The voice acting is on point. The tracks and ambience fit pretty well with the setting (1989). You'll find this game to be quite pleasing to the ear.

Obviously the writing helps the voice acting, and it is perhaps the selling point for me, together with the theme: the plot feels simple and discreet, but before you know it it gets pretty heavy, to the point where the ending may feel disappointing for some. Your playthrough will feel like you're just a standard dude who just happened to take a firewatch gig and knows little about the job, so you kinda learn things as you go (before you start skipping days that is). It is something that I really enjoyed, and despite the gameplay being basically "walk around and press this button for this action", it was varied enough it felt like I was an actual ranger, making sure that nature would not be disturbed by any wrongdoers.

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Still, it's a very plot driven game, with no real puzzles whatsoever. So if puzzles and awesome gameplay is what you're looking for, you'll be disappointed as the gameplay serves an experience, rather than being more gamey. Feels like an adventure and has some sense of freedom, but it's still a walking sim, albeit a good one. It is very well paced, hence why I'll still recommend it regardless. Plus, it does feel like your choices in dialogue matter, as they are remembered throughout all your voice interactions with your supervisor, both in conversation and in other ways you'll discover down the road.

Understanding the context and the genre of the game, I still do have a few critiques though: for what it was building up to, I was expecting something more in the end. Also, the options at the beginning of a new game didn't feel like they mattered that much in the long run. It felt like they were just there, to serve as background, rather than being something that impacted my playthrough more directly.

And… that's about it. Two very good games, for two very different crowds. Happy to have played through both. Hope this review helped someone!

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