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As Dusk Falls is the first game from indie developer Interior/Night. Headed by Caroline Marchal, the former lead designer on Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls at Quantic Dream, Int./Night set out to create original, interactive stories in games.
As Dusk Falls begins in Arizona in 1998 and tells the stories of two families with interwoven destinies. Through a unique art-style and interactive environments, As Dusk Falls asks players to make numerous key decisions as they experience an intense story unfolding across multiple time periods.
Speaking on the most striking aspect of the game since it first debuted at Xbox’s showcase, the art style represents a 3D illustration of live-action. Thus, scenes were filmed with real actors and then illustrated into picturesque frames. It’s incredibly unique and feels as though you’re navigating a digital graphic novel. After a few minutes of acclimating to its presentation, I sincerely appreciated the approach.
As Dusk Falls takes on the “choose your own adventure” approach of titles most are familiar with, such as the ones made by Telltale, Quantic Dream, and Supermassive. However, in As Dusk Falls, you do not control any character’s movement within the game. Rather, the screens presented are static, and players complete quick-time events, using a cursor to explore items within the environment and selecting verbal responses. While a different approach, I believe it works extremely well as it allows the presentation and narrative to be front and center without distraction.
Throughout your journey you’re introduced to several key characters and a large accompanying cast. The characters are well-written and realistic, and I feel As Dusk Falls does a good job making situations and responses feel more natural than some similar games. I also enjoyed being able to select often from several choices during conversations, rather than a generic “yes or no,” again making the conversations feel more real.
The bulk of your journey is spent with a few core characters (those that occupy the key art). Jay is the youngest son of the Holt family, a family that has gained a reputation for being troublemakers in their home town of Two Rock. Jay is soft-spoken and not as inclined to bad behavior as his siblings. Vince is a loyal family man who is looking out for his wife, daughter, and father during a cross-country move. And Zoe is Vince’s daughter who is presented across two different time periods due to her experiences as a child with the Holt family.
As Dusk Falls tackles a wide-range of mature subject matter, which makes the crime drama feel more grounded and realistic. Rather than dealing with something supernatural or acutely “videogame-y,” the title feels like an R-rated movie in which you play many roles. Many of the choices you make are to flesh out the characters and to further explore their personalities.
Make no mistake, however, As Dusk Falls puts you in numerous tough situations with decisions that will leave you sitting distressed in front of the screen. These decision points are called “Crossroads,” and when made, they signify that they will impact something later in the game. The game also references when an earlier Crossroad comes into play later on, which I thought was a nice touch.
Some games with similar designs have often left me feeling as though I had very little impact on the overall arc of the story. Fortunately As Dusk Falls doesn’t fall into that trap. It invests players into the characters and story quickly, and decisions are often meaningful with widely varied outcomes.
The story is broken up into two books, each containing three chapters. After each chapter the game provides some insight into your playstyle, and you are able to explore the decision/outcome tree. The tree shows you how many possible outcomes and branches there were, along with the percentage of the community that made the same decisions as you. This is fun to explore, and it even saves prior playthroughs so you can see what you have done in the past.
Structurally, I thought the story was told well, and I enjoyed how the transitions between characters and timelines were interwoven. An aspect that can often be challenging for developers making these titles is how seamlessly transitions occur when there are multiple ways to end a prior scene. Fortunately I can report this is generally handled gracefully, though I did pick up on a few inconsistencies from prior choices.
Over the course of my two playthroughs, I made drastically different decisions and witnessed the fate of the characters turn out very differently. I had a really good time seeing how I could manipulate outcomes, and how choices would divert paths when compared with a prior decision. It also allowed me to engage with the characters more as the different paths endeared me to some more than others depending on what was chosen.
As Dusk Falls challenges the player with several themes echoing the drastically varied experiences that life can offer. In varying ways, it touches on trauma, the impact of upbringings and family values, friendship, love, forgiveness, revenge, and more. And of course, these develop throughout the course of the game with guidance from the player. It’s sure to strike a chord with players in some manner relating to their own life experiences, and, in that vein, I certainly have to applaud what Int./Night created.
While I played solo, As Dusk Falls is a journey that is meant to be shared. It is playable by up to 8 players on a single playthrough, and you can download an app on your smartphone to use as your controller. Additionally, it has an integrated broadcast mode where you can allow your viewers to vote on key decision points. This is an awesome addition, and I bet some communities will have a really good time playing through the story together.
I have one major complaint to levy, however, and that is that the game ends on a cliffhanger. While it’s hard to describe without context, it ends referencing something from the earlier part of the game that is never fully explained. In fact, it was a key reason I wanted to do two, full playthroughs, as I wanted to see if I missed or misunderstood something. But, alas, I had not. I’m unsure why Int./Night chose to end the game on the note as it left me feeling incomplete and awaiting explanation.
Regardless, I truly enjoyed my time with As Dusk Falls. As a form of interactive entertainment, it is well-written, well-produced, and engaging. I found myself continuing to want to press on just to see what would come next, while, at the same time, feeling genuinely concerned about the outcomes of decisions I was making. I also found myself angry or frustrated with some characters, which was expected and appreciated given the content and story arc.
My two playthroughs averaged just under 7 hours each, and I had no technical issues at all along the way. Quick Resume was a very handy feature for As Dusk Falls as it allowed me to jump in and out seamlessly. If you enjoy story-telling games and/or interactive experiences, I highly recommend giving As Dusk Falls a look. As a new, independent studio, Int./Night’s work has left me impressed, and I’ll be paying close attention to whatever they decide to do next!
Final Verdict: 8
Fun Factor: 8
Technical Prowess: 7
Time Investment: 7+ hours
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As Dusk Falls was reviewed on an Xbox Series X thanks to a code provided by Microsoft / Xbox.