Many choice-driven games vary in degrees of quality. Games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, developed by Telltale Games, feature believable, dramatic stories with nuanced characters. The choices made with these characters bring unforeseen consequences that affect the world around you. While others, like Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human and Supermassive Games' Until Dawn, try to create an engaging story through multiple characters who can live or die at any point, changing how the story progresses.
As Dusk Falls stands out amongst the list of these well-known choice-driven games. Developed by INTERIOR/NIGHT, this game piqued the interest of many when presented at the 2022 Tribeca Festival. This interactive drama provides a gripping, emotional story through a simple but effective art style that grows on you. Its memorable style and the decisions you will make will keep you engaged for hours on end, even with the gameplay being simple at best.
The story of As Dusk Falls takes place in the desolate desert town of Two Rock, Arizona in 1998. You initially follow a trio of brothers carrying out a heist to retrieve cash before encountering a family that is staying over at the local Desert Dream Motel. This is where the game fluctuates between two central characters: Jay, the soft-spoken youngest brother, and Vince, a married man contemplating his marriage, struggling to maintain a job.
Parts of the narrative jump forward and backward in time as the story progresses, exploring the game’s cast and their conflicts across thirty years. Certain sections of the game where you don’t even play as Jay or Vince exemplify this, making the narrative dynamic and engaging to play through the eyes of a diverse range of characters.
The voice acting is top-notch across the board, helping to create a believable story and cast. There was only one character who should have been performed by a younger actor to help continue the authentic storytelling experience. This, unfortunately, took me out of the experience.
As mentioned prior, the art style is certainly unique to where I initially didn’t like it at first. I thought that having the actors framed in still images with art traced over them seemed like a waste of time. However, after a while, I became used to it. It became a way for me to fill in the gaps in the story by imagining how they would continue to play out.
The Impact of Choice
Certain choices might seem trivial at first, like guessing the number of stars on a backpack or answering a question relating to US History. However, a lot of the decisions that you make in As Dusk Falls will affect the story no matter how big or little they may be. The moral dilemmas that you face will question how you would react to those given situations and will make you want to replay the roughly six-hour story several times.
To help players keep track of their choices and the story so far, there is a flow chart present after every chapter. Here you can see which choices led to a definitive conclusion as they will affect the next major story beat. The game keeps players on their toes and it’s best not to assume that one ideal choice will lead to the most straightforward outcome. Sometimes, if you wait a bit longer, you could choose the newest dialogue option that would make a dramatic shift in the next scene.
Many of the choices that you make will lead to a tug-of-war of twists and turns where certain moments could derail your account of the story, with disastrous results. Though you have the handy option of replaying certain scenes to go for a favorable outcome — if you’re picky — I highly recommend playing through the game once to see how your decisions play out on your first go around. Part of the replayability of the game is revisiting the story and seeing how different decisions can shift the narrative.
Voting on Choices & Gameplay
The game features an eight-player mode where everyone can vote on the decisions that you make via a companion app on your iOS or Android device. You can use this feature either locally or online, where you have the other participants enter a code to join the lobby you have created.
You can also use your phone as another input device when playing As Dusk Falls, which I found to be quite intuitive, and it surprised me at how well it responded to my inputs.
While having a party game mode seems novel in concept for a story-driven adventure game, I found it somewhat jarring to have a group of friends or your significant other play along with you in a game that features themes such as familial conflicts, mental illness, and suicide. However, I guess it depends on the people that you have with you that can handle that subject matter.
The gameplay mainly focuses on the choices that you pick on the screen versus moving around in an open environment where you need to find clues or objects to proceed to the next cutscene. I found that to be a welcome change of pace compared to other adventure games of its kind. Certain actions like taking some drugs at a house party or declining them entirely can lead to diverging paths that briefly shift the trajectory of the story.
Other choices can lead to a character’s death later on, which can transform the story and test your reaction time. Sometimes these decisions might seem pointless at first, but they tend to influence the overall direction of events. Something you saw hours earlier may show up later in the story as a larger consequence. This made the game exciting, encouraging players to remain attentive and note the details.
After each chapter, the game will show a summary of your decisions in three brackets: value, trait, and play style. It’s a neat component of the game that lets you in on your personality. This could lead to some fun discussions you can have with your friends or loved ones by your side.
While I had only beaten the game once, I am eager to return to this harrowing Arizona and discover what other decisions I could have made. What new events or certain predetermined events will transpire through another character’s viewpoint? This opens up the chance to change my perspective on the story and how I view the cast.
This enjoyable game has room for improvement. For example, with the quick-time events, I wish the developers provided a more thrilling or creative moment that you have to complete versus performing simple gestures such as “rotating the thumbstick” or “quickly tap a button” to move on to the next scene.
Some of these prompts show up in random spots, like having to wash dishes or fixing an air-conditioning unit. While they are conventional, they serve a purpose in showing peaceful moments in a crime story that can surely compete with other crime-centric dramas like Breaking Bad and The Wire.
Overall, I would recommend As Dusk Falls to anyone that appreciates adventure games or for those that are looking for a thrilling, interesting story that’s filled with plenty of action and suspense that can satisfy any TV crime drama fan. The comic book-style artwork does a good job of giving you details without having the action expressed via motion.
The game’s many choices can cause unforeseen consequences that can spiral out in several compelling directions you wouldn’t expect, even on multiple playthroughs. While the quick-time events are simplistic and uninspired, they don’t detract from the narrative that gives you morsels of information from each character. Each action, reaction, and piece of information discovered quickly forms a larger picture that you want to expand upon in multiple playthroughs.
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