Have you ever wondered what would happen if a steampunk, cowboy and a copy of Borderlands got into a fight? Well you would get the rootinest-tootinest Roguelike in the Wild West. Dust & Neon is developed by Swedish David Marquardt Studios and is a very interesting blend of gameplay with old classic top-down twin-stick shooter tones, a dash of RPG progression, a hint of Rogue-lite and a healthy crack of looter shooter too.
You play as the mysterious gunslinger who may be a clone and is a law man of sorts – who is tasked with cleaning up a post-apocalyptic Wild West that is overrun by villainy. It’s a light tale to be honest, but does all you need: hunt down a number of robot bosses while scrapping their hordes of foot soldiers to get to them. Gameplay embodies its Roguelike inspirations that will see you push as far into the world as you can, aiming to unlock permanent unlocks and buffs – all while trying to level up your abilities as well.
One area the game nails is the gun play, as this is far from a blast and dash affair – with you actually feeling like a gunslinger and each weapon you wield will need you to actually aim to land that killing blow. You’ll get your hands on three core guns that all have pros and cons; these are the pistol, shotgun and rifle. Taking a leaf from Borderlands you’ll be forever finding new versions of them as you explore each level, with reportedly over 2,000+ out there. Some will be more powerful… but at a cost, as you may only have four rounds in the chamber before reloading, so it’s a gamble swapping out for new iron sometimes.
Whilst talking about reloading… the game has captured the art of it perfectly, as you have to manually reload all your guns. This sees a cool visual of the weapon sliding onto the screen and you chambering each round one at a time. Is this needed? No not really, is it as cool hell? Damn straight. There is also a solid cover system at work that will see you bunkering down behind objects, like crates and barrels to better take aim or have a few seconds to reload. Levels are broken into four different areas that will see you playing a number of missions to hit the level requirement before taking on the boss, though these appetizer missions do grind after a bit as you can only rob so many trains or take down so many posses. This really hits home once you hit a certain point, as the upgrade progression tanks with you going from earning two points a level to one and this means not only is it twice as long to level up, but you’ll have to grind out side missions to get there.
Visually things are crisp and very eye catching cell shaded look, with a healthy dash of neon of course and sound-wise it’s OK… with some voice acting, but used sparingly and the soundtrack fits the tone and theme well. Dust & Neon starts by busting into the saloon in a hail of bullets and for the first half hits hard, but the tail end sees a real grind set in beyond the standard Roguelike tropes, that is more down to poor design choices. That said there is fun to be had here no question about it, as you walk into town and lay down the law one bullet at a time.
An Xbox review copy of Dust & Neon was provided by David Marquardt Studios’ PR team, and it’s out now on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and mobile for around £20, depending on platform.