Halloween Terror-Challenge... Linux-Style

The quiet masterwork that is "Duskers" might not be much to look at, but is guaranteed to punch-face your terror-parts till you ghasp-scream in adrenal extacy
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 7:15pm
"...once you understand a little bit about the game - once you have something to lose, something you care about and can comprehend - that's when the deep and terrible silence of the game's inscruitable patience really begins..."

Editorial disclaimer: let's get one thing out of the way: as mentioned numerous times on the podcast, I am the world's greatest player of "Duskers." Those wishing to challenge me for this title are more than welcome to message me so that we can set the time and date of their educations as to how woefully inept they are at the game. And no, I am not kidding. I am the greatest, and am taking all challengers. Message "Skookiesprite" on Steam, or hit me up on twitter @Vegaswriter and I'll show you what it's like to be outclassed in every single way in "Duskers."

Also: to hear my actual review of the game, please listen to episode 85 of the podcast.

I fell in love with the magical horror vortex that is "Duskers" from the very first day it finally left Early Access on Steam in May of 2016 and have basically been entranced by it ever since. Each moment of the game is an absolute test of the player's mental acuity, tenacity, methodology, tactics, strategy, cunning, real-time free-form problem-solving, and (second only to discipline) their ability to manage their own raw, visceral, crazed terror when faced with absolutely horrible situations whose outcomes will be disastrous.

You see, the great genius of "Duskers" (unlike any other "horror" game I can think of, and pretty much unique to its design across the broad panopoly of all games throughout history) is the way in which the game allows the player to bring the full breadth and depth of their wits to bear against the sinisterly silent and dreadfully patient surface of its gameplay.

"Duskers" will not assault you with demon clowns exploding from the closet to rape your sanity (and person) with rusty butcher knives; Duskers will not consume you with a symphony of hellish, tortured screams designed to pressure-point shock and jolt you with cheap and manipulative jack-in-the-box roller-coaster idiocy. Nor will it handicap or hinder you with arbitrarily slow movement speeds, insultingly scripted action sequences and camera angles in which it shoves some lazy designer's pro-forma concepts of terror down your throat while it cooly cashes its paycheck and punches out to get drunk and try to forget the money it stole from you in exchange for yet another trite, vapid, tepid, insulting "survival horror" game.

No. Duskers uses none of these constructs or tricks to generate its white-nuckled terror. Instead, Duskers provides you with a premise, a few rules, some easy-to-learn (yet infinitely robust and complex in their combinations) commands and actions, and then, like the abyssal grin of some terribly quiet cosmic ticket-taker for a freak show so hellish that the silence from the inner folds of its tent speak for itself... it's arms open before you: the void, studded and resplendent with its dark quasars and quagmires of absolutely patient, silent, yet completely crushing horror.

This approach, of course, means that your initial hour in Duskers won't be at all scary; as you wander the derelict spacecraft and stations, exploring them like the clueless neophyte you are, directing your drones using the delicious and horrifyingly distopian elloquence of the command-line interface that you will eventually come to master, you will simply perish pointlessly, too new to the game to even know or care about danger.

Then, once you understand a little bit about the game - once you have something to lose, something you care about and can comprehend - that's when the deep and terrible silence of the game's inscruitable patience really begins; it wears at you in every thin spot of your mind, slowly and insidiously working its evil magic and terrible spells, spinning its corner-room cobwebs while it watches you crab-crawl through its perfect, procedural machinery. Each door, each decision, each moment WITHOUT decision, it waits.

"For what?" I hear you ask.

For your first mistake.

Ya see... when things go wrong in Duskers, they go very, very wrong; catastrophically and horrendously wrong. And they do so at such a vertiginously horrifying rate of speed as to intoxicate the savy player with its incalculably addictive sense of car-accident ambush slow-motion. As your fingers FLY, deftly issuing series of complex commands whose syntax you effortlessly assemble in the moment, working as fast to create, type, and execute them as your own speed of thought and comprehension can allow, it's in these moments you will become addicted to this amazing edge of truth or consequences catastrophe; the magic of the game is this razor sharp mitigation of disaster, the keyboard keys hammering like hacker poetry with such speed that, to really appreciate the sheer number of things you are doing and at such expert-speed, one really needs to see a video of their own play to appreciate it.

Once you can see it, and understand what's happening, and what you were trying to save, undo, redo, escape, destroy, sacrifice, accomplish, only then will you realize the truly shocking and awful terror within Duskers: not only does it feel like you are totally there in real life, being "there" - in the game's universe, controlling the drones in your effort to discover what the fuck has happened - is a situation so claustrophobically dire, with consequences for your actions that happen with such cataclysmic speed and intractible violence, that your one thought is (constantly): holy fuck I am SO FUCKING STUPID... I... I need to get better; faster; smarter; smarter damnit...

And by then, I'm sorry to say it friend, but you are fucked... because Duskers is inside you now, and you will forever be learning, adapting, expecting, planning for, avoiding, preparing, mitigating, and understanding - ever deeper levels of - the deadly logic behind its silent-bulkhead emptiness as it consumes you with static, IR shadowed demi-CRT monitors and endless, twisting terrors. Then, it will leave you cold as dead space itself, and as broad and merciless as an empty room, your own voice still soundlessly screaming, "OH NO! NO NO NO NOT LIKE THIS, DAMNIT..."

And you will learn.

-Happy Stall-O-Ween!

SPOILER ALERT: do not read further if you don't wish to know of an awesome secret in the game...


For real (and somewhat more visceral, utterly terrifying) scares: find and capture the ghost and see what it does. For me, this unbelievable-ness occured after a 12 plus hour long session in the game, and I only discovered what "it" does around 3 AM. Scare the pants off you, it will!

-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")