As Dusk Falls Review

As Dusk Falls Header

Choices matter. In everyday life, we’d give anything to go back and see what happens if we make the other choice. It’s why narrative adventure games like As Dusk Falls are so appealing. The power to make big decisions that if you don’t like, you can always go back and see what the other outcome would have been.

This genre, primarily brought into mainstream by Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, has had its ups and downs over the years. Telltale’s own games tend to give you the illusion of choice mattering, with the larger arcs leading to largely predetermined outcomes while you fill in some of the blanks. On the other side you Supermassive’s Until Dawn in which you could make it to the end with the whole cast either living or dead.

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As you’re playing As Dusk Falls, the decisions you make feel like they carry weight, even the small ones feeling like they matter. Maybe it’s down to the way it’s presented with an on screen timer and a light shake during particularly intense scenes, but on many occasions I found myself really thinking about how my actions would affect each character as I tried my best to get what I thought was the best outcome.

Even then, As Dusk Falls does an excellent job of blurring the lines and really makes you question what truly is the right course of action. That’s down to good writing, plain and simple.

As Dusk Falls follows two families and their intertwining paths across thirty years, with the power within your hands to decide their fates. On one side, you have Vince and the rest of the Walker family, who start the game travelling to a new life in a new city, when they cross paths with the Holts in a seemingly small moment of misfortune. A botched home robbery later and the two families meeting once more, this second event uniting their fates forever.

As Dusk Falls Review Exploration

The beauty of the story is mainly its ability to tread the grey line with a lot of decisions never being completely black and white. A simple white lie might seem like the best option, but could result in a death. By the same token, being too honest could sully people’s opinion of you, despite being morally correct. It also lightly treads a path through some difficult subjects in a very intelligent manner, which you don’t always see done well these days.

QTEs are also present to aid in the storytelling process, adding some real tension to difficult, fractions situations between characters. I was fairly on the ball with button prompts so never really got to see many fail states for them in the first run, but after examining the timeline at each chapter’s end, you can see there are some clear branching paths for failing them.

Much like Detroit: Become Human, you can view the entirety of each chapters branching paths, decisions and other specific elements such as what the majority of the community went with, what a major story changer was, and where certain deaths can happen. You can even opt to start from certain points in the timeline if you fancy seeing the other outcomes, which is really neat. With developer Interior/Night being led by former Quantic Dream lead designer Caroline Marchal, it’s easy to see the similarities here.

The replayability of As Dusk Falls is very high, especially if you want to see everything. There’s a number of different endings to achieve and I for one will be going back to explore the ones I haven’t yet seen.

As Dusk Falls Review Crossroads

Since its reveal, the art direction has been subject to much debate. Real life actors have been motion captured and digitally rendered into As Dusk Falls, but with still images instead of smooth animation landing it somewhere the rotoscoped cel shaded animation of A Scanner Darkly and a painterly graphic novel. It’s something I wasn’t sure I liked to start with, but it quickly grew on me and fits the direction of the game and what it’s trying to achieve. It probably means the actors had to work extra hard to capture the right emotions in single stills, but they did it really well.

Only a handful of characters had different voice actors, most notably with Vince’s being lent Oliver Britten’s visage and voiced by Elias Toufexis (Adam Jensen in Deus Ex). Meanwhile, Sharon Holt was fully performance captured by Jane Perry – you’ll recognise her as Returnal’s Selene and Hitman’s Diana Burnwood. As you can see, they pulled out the stops to get the right people, and it shows.

Sound design overall is excellent. You really do feel like you’re in the nineties, from the background music on offer to the dialogue used between characters. It all adds to the atmosphere during intense scenes.

As Dusk Falls was designed with multiplayer in mind, and the way it works is a lot of fun. Up to eight players can shape the story, playing with controllers, a smartphone companion app, or connecting online (in which case remote players will need to have their own copies of the game or a Game Pass subscription). There’s also a separate broadcast mode, letting an audience chip in via Twitch.

I tested this out with Tef, each player’s cursor able to choose any dialogue option they want. This is fine if you are in agreement or there’s a clear majority, but any ties are decided by randomisation, or each player has a limited set of overrides to seize control of a decision.

As Dusk Falls Review QTE

QTEs are also done in the same manner. Everyone is prompted to do the QTEs, passing them only if everyone succeeds, and potentially relying on a single person’s reactions. Prepare for arguments when character A falls in a ditch!

It was fun with just two of us and I can imagine it would be even more so and chaotic with eight, as character decisions will likely be completely all over the place.

When you complete levels, you get a rating on how you played with the Insights system, letting you know what you valued the most, be it family, telling the truth or something else. It also tells you your top traits and play styles which you can compare with the community.

There’s also a decent amount of accessibility features included, like text to speech settings, UI customisations and even the ability to extend things like QTE timers and choice timers, letting you tailor how you want to experience the story.

And it is a really intriguing crime story, keeping you hooked through each of the six chapters, told across two ‘books’, and with scope for more in the future. Some might balk at the relatively short time to complete (roughly six to eight hours), but it’s still roughly equivalent to a TV miniseries, and that’s before considering all the branches to the narrative and replay value. It’s the kind of game where you want to see everything.

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Summary
As Dusk Falls caught me by surprise, taking a genre of game that's become a bit too familiar and injecting it with a tense crime drama and a singular flair. My hat goes off to Interior/Night and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do next. 
Good
  • Beautiful art style and great acting behind it
  • Intensely intriguing story
  • Lot’s of decisions to explore
  • Decisions feel like they carry weight
Bad
  • Art direction takes some getting used to
  • QTEs are on the easy side of things
9
Written by
Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.

3 Comments

  1. I’m half interested in this, although I tend to avoid narrative-driven games. Roughly how long does it take to play through?

    • Each chapter’s roughly an hour long, so it’s like a shorter Netflix series in playtime.

      • Thanks, as soon as I hit send on the original comment I realised I’d glossed over the 6-8 hours bit!

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