Play, ponder, play again
Review: As Dusk Falls
In 1998, a family embarks on a cross-country road trip to restart their lives after everything has seemingly fallen apart. An incident at a roadside motel involving another family impacts both for the next few decades. The story that unfolds spans several decades, and explores themes involving family, trust, forgiveness, crime, and death.
This is the premise behind As Dusk Falls, a new adventure game that moves its story in different directions depending on what choices players make.
Players don’t ‘move’ a character around in As Dusk Falls. Instead, they move a cursor around the environment in the traditional way favoured by adventure games, finding objects or interacting with the environments.
On other occasions, they will encounter events that require a fast response with a button press. These ‘quick time’ events are less cumbersome than in other games, but the occasional button mashing can prove to be slightly irritating.
By far, the gameplay’s most interesting feature is sections where players need to make quick decisions that impact the story’s development and direction. While many other games purport to give players choice and freedom to guide their narrative, As Dusk Falls has many outcomes that change depending on what players do. The game has seven endings in all.
Choices vary, and can range from whether or not to forgive a loved one all the way over to whether to respond to a vague threat with violence. The game can be played in either single-player or co-op mode, or with an online audience watching.
Characters live or die, relationships alter or end entirely, and the only way to really get all outcomes is to play through multiple times. The game’s narrative is broken up into three main ‘books’ that span several decades but centre on the hotel incident in 1998.
Creative Director Caroline Marchal previously worked with Quantic Dream on Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, but As Dusk Falls stands out as being a more mature version of this kind of storytelling than those two efforts. The game’s writing handles subject matter like infidelity and forgiveness with a level of grace and nuance that is rare in many films and TV shows.
As Dusk Falls has a unique visual style, where every characters’ image is captured as still images that shift slowly, giving the impression of watching a graphic novel. The cast’s performances are displayed well in this format.
While As Dusk Falls is by no means flawless, its maturity and handle on the branching storyline concept make it a title that should be played, pondered, and played again.
As Dusk Falls is available now on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. It is included for free in Game Pass.