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Dust & Neon Review – Twin-Stick Roguelite

Dust & Neon is a roguelite action twin-stick shooter developed by David Marquardt Studios and published by Rogue Games, releasing on Steam and Nintendo Switch on February 16, 2023. It’s an isometric game set in a futuristic Wild West, so it gave me elements of playing a mix of Weird West and West for Dead. What started as just a quick game to see what it was about, turned into a couple of hours of intense gunfights as I tried to take out the first boss way too soon. Rather than get repeatedly defeated and frustrated, the boss goes in hiding which forces you, in a good way, to go away and get better.

Death is just the beginning in Dust & Neon, and while you lose the weapons and cash you were carrying at the time, it’s all a learning experience. You start with a basic revolver, and you may come across weapon crates in mission zones of varying rarity, from normal weapons up to orange legendary weapons that are scaled around your current level. You can’t fight the first boss until you are rank 6 and so I was completing missions my rank and finding them relatively easy. You do have to be accurate with your shots and my mouse aiming was a little off at first. Holding the weapon arc in place for a second or two narrows the field of fire which I thought was a good touch.

By default, you also need to manually reload your weapons which took a little bit of getting used to. You can turn on auto-reload in the options menu but once I turned that option on, I was manually reloading myself as well as I had more control over my weapon as more robots charged toward me. Guns only have small amounts of ammo until you unlock some upgrades, but thankfully ammo crates are spread everywhere while ammo, money and cores dropped from enemy corpses. I liked how we ran through the oily remains of a robot and leave oily footprints in the sand. I started using run-and-gun tactics but learned the hard way that you should use cover until the enemy need to reload, then press your attack.

At rank 4 I thought I was fighting a boss as the enemies I faced in a particular mission were bloody tough and I died quickly. I felt this was a planned failure though as it taught you about death and how to recover from it. After reviving in the cloning facility back at the base, I had a starting pistol waiting for me and enough upgrades to unlock a free shotgun too. At first, I felt there was too much running at the home base, but it all makes sense as you unlock blueprints. You start at the cloning facility which is also where you can spend ability points when you rank up. You then run down a corridor to an elevator, out of the room then across another pathway where I had unlocked a Gunz shop to buy new weapons. You can also pay to reroll the stats of guns on display, but in the early game you need as much money as you can get your hands on. Finally at the end of the path is the mission select screen where you see four lands.

We start our missions in Outer Wilds and we will have missions like taking out marked targets or sabotaging the enemy base. Missions are colour coded in difficulty, with green being easy, orange being medium and red being hard difficulty. I loved the smart-ass comments your character makes after taking out a group of robots. After completing a few main missions, you will have earned blueprints and unlocked the Gunz shop as well as Frank’s Mind Blowers which are expensive one-time-use buffs that have random stats that could work in your favour. Given their high cost, I generally saved these for boss fights, or any missions I was struggling with and need some extra oomph.

Eventually I got to rank 6 and tried to take on the first boss, Prototype 41, but I got owned quickly as he has three phases and each one has harder robots to kill. If you fail an attempt, you can’t just run straight back to the mission board and try again as the boss goes missing for a short while. It made sense as this then allowed you to complete a couple more missions, gaining rank and hopefully finding some stronger weapons for your next attempt. I finally took down Prototype 41 after six attempts and when I had levelled up to rank 10. It was a triumphant victory!

The game performs well on PC and the graphics style suits the game’s name with plenty of Dust and Neon coloured glows to show off the varying environments in missions. I liked how lootable containers flashed occasionally which, for the loot hungry gamer that I am, was a treat. Searching houses or saloons always got you a heal, some ammo and some cash, and if you are lucky a nice rare, epic or legendary weapon crate. The game’s music has good variety and suits the general gameplay, then amps up well for the boss fights.

Overall, Dust & Neon surprised me the more I played, adding in features that don’t make the game easier but extend the gunplay and abilities of your character. There is a one-more-run feel to the game and it’s a treat to find loot crates and the chance of a legendary weapon to use against bosses. If you’re a fan of roguelites and twin-stick shooters, definitely given Dust & Neon a look.

This review utilised a Steam key provided by Rogue Games and Dust & Neon is out now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.


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