As Dusk Falls Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Interactive Drama
 
Release Date: 19 July 2022
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


 

Positives


-Tense central event makes for an engaging drama
-Unique style that feels halfway between graphic novel and live action show
-Easy to use storyline tree tool allows you to explore options

Negatives


-The pacing and narrative drive slow in the second half, unable to match the exciting introductory episodes


Posted July 18, 2022 by

 
Full Article
 
 

As Dusk Falls more than anything else feels like a good Netflix series – a great hook, a short season and plenty of intersecting storylines. The game, releasing on Xbox consoles and Windows, is the first interactive drama published by British studio INTERIOR/NIGHT, founded by a developer previously involved with Quantic Dreams Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. However, As Dusk Falls feels more like a cross between the narrative-lead output from Supermassive Games and Telltale Games’ old episodic structure, as it presents two ‘books’ of three episodes each, where key moments, deaths and character fates are all influenced by player decision.

While the timeline jumps around a bit, as does control over a range of characters, As Dusk Falls primarily focuses on two families in 1998 in Two Rock, Arizona. You spend most of your time with Vince, a father moving his family across the country following some big upheavals in his professional and personal life, who’s forced to stop at the Desert Dream motel when their car breaks down. And there’s Jay Holt, the youngest of three brothers who gets caught up in a robbery gone wrong, escalating into a tense hostage situation at the Desert Dream. This standoff forms the core of the drama in As Dusk Falls, but the story itself spans several generations, examining the lead-up to the Desert Dream as well as the fallout, and the trauma that was both responsible for it and resulted from it.

That’s the general outline of the story, however the specifics are up to the player. It’s up to you how involved, or disdainful, Jay is of his family’s criminal activities, or how distrustful Vince is of his partner, Michelle. Playing solo lets you choose from a list of options at key moments, either for dialogue responses or to make decisions that the game warns you will strongly affect the outcome of the story. As Dusk Falls also offers some interesting multiplayer options as well, allowing several people to participate in the decision making process by voting on their mobile devices with a proprietary app (on the Google Store, but not available on the Apple App Store as of writing). Streamers can also enable a ‘broadcast mode’ that allows a Twitch chat to also vote and participate in voting. Whichever method you choose, even if it’s just sitting on the couch with a significant other and asking for their opinion, experiencing the narrative with others is clearly a focus for As Dusk Falls. Your choices can have immediate effects, or can play out much later down the line.

Like just about every other interactive drama out there, the main thrust of the story remains relatively the same, but offers branching paths along the way which can take the narrative off course, before re-joining later down the track. A single playthrough of the entire six episodes will take you about six hours, and a storyline tree is easily accessible from the main menu to see exactly how your choices affected the narrative, and how many other paths you could have taken, along with statistics on how many players made each choice. It’s a really cool tool, especially when replaying the game to see every possibility, but it also allows you to easily correct small mistakes made during a playthrough due to a blundered decision, or a mis-timed button press during the game’s many perfunctory QTE sequences.

As Dusk Falls is at its best in its first ‘book’, which forms the core of the drama surrounding the Desert Dream hostage situation. There’s plenty going on in these chapters, both in the external conflict between the Holts and their hostages, as well as the exploration of both their histories, and how things came to this point. There’s a few twists and turns thrown into the mix, especially surrounding the police who show up to handle negotiations, which help keep you on your toes as you try to find a solution where ideally everyone can walk away alive. The second book, on the other hand, shifts gears significantly and loses momentum as it does. Dealing with subsequent events and fallout from the Desert Dream, the back half of the game never quite regains the energy that the first three episodes had in spades, and certain storylines seem to resolve almost too easily, while others are apparently left open for future DLC or sequels.

Consistently memorable is the unique presentation of As Dusk Falls, which falls somewhere between a high-quality graphic novel and a live action series. Seemingly using live action actors filmed as reference, all the characters are presented as still 2D paintings, cross-dissolving between poses and inhabiting fully-3D rendered environments. The ‘animation’ as it were, is essentially watching key-frames that convey specific actions and emotions, and it works well to convey the story while also looking like a detailed storyboard come to life.

As Dusk Falls is a great time with friends, in much the same way that watching a favourite TV drama is. The multiplayer methods implemented in As Dusk Falls make it easy to engage with the content and argue with your mates over what’s the right decision, or who’s the dumbest, but even playing along the game is still an effective interactive narrative. It does lose steam in its second act, and while it is easy to replay certain decisions and branch off to see exactly how events would change, I don’t know if by the end of the game I’d connected enough with the characters to want to fill out the entire storyline tree. However, the Desert Dream standoff is still a corker of a situation to experience, from multiple sides, and As Dusk Falls makes for a gripping night on the couch that’s worth giving a crack, especially as a part of Game Pass.

 

This review is based on code provided by Xbox.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.