"Dustbowl is an indie offering that blends together the basics of adventure games and RPGs, sets them in a post apocalyptic world, then makes use of the most ancient of 8-bit style graphics to present the blend which ends up being quite a compelling experience.
It’s definitely a game that rewards exploration. One of the major attractions when it comes to a postapocalyptic setting - from my point of view - is to see how the world operates, to explore the surrounding environment and see what I can do with it.
Despite the 8-bit graphic, characterized by a general lack of detail, the game does pretty well in terms of immersion.
It doesn’t do this via its rather simple and wacky story, nor does it manage to do it via the writing which, for the most part, isn’t something to write home about. No, Dustbowl immerses you in its post-apocalyptic world through gameplay.
Food, water and rest are major gameplay mechanics which you have to keep an eye on and constantly deal with.
Keeping yourself fed and hydrated is a constant challenge and worry at the back of your mind - kind of like in real life. It always feels good when you can manage to scrounge up enough money, food and water to allow you to keep exploring unfettered. This is mostly true for the first several hours of the game, after a certain point, food, water and sleep aren’t that much of a factor anymore, instead the main factor that tends to influence your play-style is the amount of stuff you can carry - which never goes up from the start of the game. Yet another great choice from an immersive-mechanic point of view.
There is also a very limited number of items that you can build yourself from various bits and parts that you’ll find throughout the wasteland. Similarly you can also cook food - when you have it - and buy a tent when you can afford it so that you can explore more of the wasteland without having to return to home-base as often.
You’ll still want to do that from time to time though, because of the upper mentioned carry weight limit.
There are a bunch of status effects that can affect you as well, but thankfully there’s also a bunch of items that can treat them, like antibiotics for infections and antipoison for well..poison.
All of these great immersive gameplay mechanics notwithstanding, it’s very unlikely to have a post-apocalyptic, RPG-ish game completely devoid of some form of combat combat. Although, I’m sure I’m wrong and there has to be at least one title out there that revolves around some sort of wasteland pacifist, but I haven’t heard of it yet.
Combat is fun and weird and somewhat reflex based. It reminded me of Deep Dungeons of Doom, another 8-bit retro style game I super enjoyed playing and totally suggest giving a try. I don’t have a video review for that one but I linked the written one I did awhile back for it in the description.
Basically once your turn comes to attack, you don’t roll any dice and compare numbers, instead there’s a bar that moves left and right on a track, depending on when you click to stop it, you either miss, hit, critically hit or massively critically hit. Oh another cool thing, you can actually aim for various parts of the body, each one of them having different tolerances for the hit, critical hit etc. spaces.
The maps are always the same however, enemies will randomly generate and REgenerate both throughout the exterior map as well as in the various locations you explore. There is no automap function in the game so make sure to have a notepad and make some rough sketches of where various things are, especially at the beginning when you’re dealing with your first main quest but this more hands on approach will also pay off later if you do it for the exterior map which is made up of several screens.
I know that the graphics might be a bit of a deterrent for those of you who are a bit on the younger side and who haven’t gone through years and years of 8-bit gaming but those of us who will look past that and focus on what Dustbowl has to offer will not be disappointed.
Dustbowl is one indie retro-looking production that is definitely worth your time and money if you give it a chance.
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I uploaded the original article up on Rugged Gamers: http://ruggedgamers.com/dustbowl-review/
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