Duskers is a curious little game where you play someone stuck in a spaceship and you need to survive by exploring other vessels in order to collect resources to repair your ship and tools. To explore you have drones that you control either manually or by typing commands in a console. The game has a very interesting style and some neat mechanics - especially related to how you explore using your drones and the way everything breaks down over time - but the lack of direction and the fact that it’s one of these games where you need to restart when you lose (which I feel like I don’t enjoy as much these days, especially if a run lasts a few hours) made me drop it after one such run.
Starting up the game puts you in a nice tutorial that explains you how the game works. You open doors by typing commands in order to explore ships. Some rooms are not powered so you need to use a drone or special ability to power them up and explore further. Your starting set of drones has pretty much everything you need to explore; The aforementioned ability to power up rooms, a motion detector, interfacing with computers, looting and towing larger objects. You explore ships until you’re happy and then go back to your vessel and leave. You can also commandeer ships if you have explored them fully and made them secure, but I never managed to do that.
Using motion sensors is vital to explore the ships you come across because you have no vision in rooms you aren’t currently in. Furthermore, enemies are extremely deadly and getting attacked while controlling one of your drones is startling and almost scary, so you want to avoid confrontation as much as possible. Adjacent rooms will light up in red, green or yellow depending on how the scan is going. My carefully opening and closing doors, you can move enemies to rooms you already have visited, but that won’t defeat them, the best way for that is to find a room with ship defenses and activate them.
Between ship explorations you’ll navigate through solar systems and galaxies by using two different types of fuel. You can’t explore the same ship twice so you always need to be moving and always be consuming fuel. By exploring ships you find some logs that allude to a greater story and objectives, but they are very vague and don’t direct you enough. If you run out of both types of fuel, you… lose? I’m not sure. I ran out of fuel and couldn’t explore anything else, I expected the game to show me a pop-up to tell me about how my ship will drift in space forever and that my adventure is a failure, but no, the game just… keeps going. I kinda wish it would’ve hard game-overed in my face. After having played for 4 hours for this one run, I wasn’t really going to start over.
The game’s economy runs on scrap. You use it to upgrade your drones, fix your abilities and your ship. You gather it in ships and by scrapping unwanted drones and abilities. It’s a bit weird how you can’t tow destroyed drones to scrap them and how most ship upgrades you find are ‘stuck’ to their ship. Between ships, your drones and vessel slowly deteriorate, so it’s a race against time; Having vital upgrades cease functioning is always a possibility, so you’ll need to find more scrap in order to fix what you really care about.
Ultimately tho, I really don’t feel great about the control scheme. The fact that you can control your drones manually but ALSO using command line prompts feels strangely disjointed. I really wish that the game would’ve focused more on one of these control systems, or maybe use mouse controls instead. While you use manual controls you can’t really work on the console and while you’re using the console you have 0 manual control on your drones. The game is really scary in some ways when you’re in manual control and feels strangely strategic and detached when you’re in command line mode, but I wish the game would’ve stuck with one scheme.
Duskers was fine, I wish it did things a bit differently and sent me through a story that doesn’t expect you to restart a few times in order to finally figure out how to play it right and what to do. The core gameplay loop is pretty interesting, but it could’ve focused more on one control scheme over the other. Still a nice “stuck in a dying spaceship” simulator, if that’s your kind of thing!