As Dusk Falls Review – a gripping family/crime drama

As Dusk Falls Review – a gripping family/crime drama

Translating the choose-your-own-adventure format into a game has been a fascinating idea fraught with the risk of turning real choice into an illusion. Branching dialogue can still be implemented with relative ease but taking the story in a completely different direction based on the player’s choice is a hard feat to achieve. With each choice you introduce in the story, the number of potential outcomes goes on increasing exponentially. Some games try to get around this problem by grouping decisions into various categories. The major choices are those which could potentially change the ending you get, while smaller choices would affect your environment or other characters’ disposition towards you. The first Life is Strange does this by essentially boiling down the ending to one final choice, while the other decisions made through the game affect the story up to that moment. Other games, like Life is Strange 2, keep track of your actions throughout the game and based on an evaluation of the same, serve up an appropriate ending. In recent years, we’ve seen branching behemoths like Detroit: Become Human, most notably from Quantic Dream.

INTERIOR/NIGHT’s debut, As Dusk Falls, learns its lessons from some of the best titles so far, and puts them together to create its own interactive, branching graphic novel. And what an adventure it is.

Plot

As Dusk Falls chronicles a tragedy spanning decades. You start off as Vince, who is on the road with his wife Michelle, daughter Zoe, and father Jim. The family is moving to St Louis, Missouri. From their conversation, we learn that Vince has recently lost his job. It is hinted that this wasn’t his fault, rather the company trying to pin an incident on him. Run off the road after narrowly avoiding a collision, they hike to the nearby Desert Dream Motel for help, kicking off the events of the game. Not long after, the motel is taken hostage by the Holt brothers, who are on the run after robbing the Sheriff’s house.

Sheriff Romero in As Dusk Falls
Image: INTERIOR/NIGHT

Book 1 (chapters 1 to 3) focuses largely on the resulting hostage situation, interweaving glimpses of the future that show an adult Zoe struggling with PTSD from the incident. As the hostage situation unfolds, the stakes rise. There are quite a few twists and turns along the way which are sure to keep the player on the edge of their seat.

The second book (chapters 4 to 6) tackles the aftermath of the hostage situation. Zeroing in on Jay, the youngest Holt brother, we see him on the run from the police as his loyalty to his family is pushed to the limits. We also get to see more of his past, and how his abusive father’s volatile presence has affected him.

Hostage situation at the Desert Dream Motel in As Dusk Falls
Image: INTERIOR/NIGHT

When it comes to painting a picture of conflicted protagonists, As Dusk Falls does a much better job than most games I’ve played. Initially, I was quick to judge Jay because of his role in a robbery, but learning about his past gave me a deeper understanding of his motivations without justifying them. I tried to balance family with doing the right thing (as much as a wanted man can) for the longest time, until I couldn’t anymore. In a way, this follows prestige dramas such as Breaking Bad where characters indulge in theft, murder and more in the name of a good cause or loyalty to the perpetrator. But how far does loyalty go? And what boundaries would you cross to remain loyal to family? I had the most fun with his section of the story, and my playthrough with Jay slowly turned into a redemption arc of sorts as he embarked on a The End of the F***ing Worldesque road trip to the border.

Gameplay

Like most interactive movie- style games, As Dusk Falls has minimal gameplay that consists of examining highlighted objects with a click, and several QTEs (Quick Time Events) that include either swiping the mouse in a certain direction or mashing it. The influence from Quantic Dream games is undeniable, which comes as no surprise as Caroline Marchal has led the game design team on both Beyond: Two Souls and Heavy Rain in the past. Similar to other Quantic Dream titles, the decisions you made can be reviewed along with all possible (hidden) branches at the end of each chapter. For the completionists, you can also go back and start the game from a certain decision point if you wish to explore what would have happened if you chose differently.

Graphics & Performances

As Dusk Falls plays out like a graphic novel, with vividly painted scenes accompanied by dialogue and other sounds. Though this takes a bit to get used to, the rest of the game flows along smoothly once you settle into its rhythm. This is also thanks to the amazing performances delivered by the entire cast, specifically characters such as Zoe, Vince, and Jay. The voice acting is passionate and quite well done by all those involved, which for a game that relies heavily on story is crucial to achieve.

Zoe trying to calm herself underwater in As Dusk Falls
Image: INTERIOR/NIGHT

Conclusion

Combining some of the more popular game mechanics in recent interactive gaming history with a mature crime drama narrative, As Dusk Falls is an exciting debut by a studio to watch out for. The branching storyline along with the ability to dive back into the game from a certain point will provide plenty of replay value for completionists. Backed by a unique art style and solid performances, this is one thriller where you can sit back and enjoy the story instead of being involved with the controls every step of the way. Collaborative gameplay via an app that supports polling for decision-making enhances the experience if you’re gaming with a larger group or streaming for an audience. With its mysterious ending, the game is sure to spark discourse and fan theories within the community surrounding its characters and their true motivations. INTERIOR/NIGHT have delivered a gripping first title here, we can’t wait to see what comes next from them!

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