As Dusk Falls is an interactive crime drama developed by INTERIOR/NIGHT and published by Xbox Game Studios, releasing on July 19, 2022, on PC, Xbox, and Xbox Game Pass. Utilising a unique animation style that plays like a motion graphic novel, you make decisions for the characters, react to quick time events, and ultimately decide the fate of all involved. With branching crossroads and alternate storylines, this is a game you will want to play multiple times, and with friends too.
The game includes playable situations related to intense violence, family conflict, mental health, suicide, and other mature themes. This is stated up front and, for chapters that contain heavy graphic content, you are given a choice whether you want to continue playing or to skip the chapter. In this instance, you are given a generally positive story choice timeline. I thought this was a fantastic option for players to make their own informed decisions.
As Dusk Falls explores the entangled lives of two families across thirty years. Starting in 1998 with a robbery-gone-wrong in small town Arizona, the choices you make have a powerful impact on the characters’ lives. There are two books of content to play through, each with three chapters. The first book is intense, pulls on the heart strings and gives you little time to make impactful decisions for the characters, leaving me in shock at the end of each chapter. The second book wasn’t as suspenseful but rounded out the story well enough for my first playthrough.
The game has been built for multiplayer too, so up to eight players can play locally on the same screen with controllers, or online, as well as utilising the As Dusk Falls companion app for Android or iOS devices. How it works is decisions and quick time events are determined by the number of votes cast for each option. There is also a broadcast mode for streamers, allowing your community to make decisions in your game.
Upon starting chapter one of As Dusk Falls, I settled into the slower pace of the storytelling, setting the scene with Zoe floating in a pool as she tries to find some peace in the quietness of being underwater and holding her breath. We then shift to May 29, 1998, along route 66 in Arizona where we see a family pulled over at a rest stop. There is a father, Vince, and daughter Zoe playing guessing games together.
We are prompted to explore a scene as we need to pick something for Zoe to guess the colour of. By moving the cursor around the scene, I could select from a few pre-determined objects. This commenced the interactivity of the player to the story, allowing you to make selections for what starts out as simple decisions, to later becoming life or death ones.
Some are quicktime events where you need to follow controller prompts on screen, like helping a character dodge out of the way or jump over a fence. Then there are the hard-hitting decisions that you only have 15-20 seconds to make. Some of these moments may have 2 or 3 options, and an additional option may display a second or two later. There were many moments where I was really stuck for what to do.
Sometimes there was no ‘good’ outcome so you had to make a quick decision that will have both an immediate outcome, as well as affecting possible future outcomes as well. In my first playthrough of these types of games, I try to make decisions based on how I would react if that happened to me in real life, so my emotions were high and there were intense moments.
Being a father of two daughters myself, any game that has me making decisions that could potentially hurt or put the in-game wives or daughter(s) in jeopardy, I really struggle with. I remind myself that this is a game, but it doesn’t make the decision any easier, rather I know that I can switch the game off and take a break if I need to.
At the end of chapter one, I did just that. I sat there with mouth wide open pondering the events that lead up to that moment, and the possible outcome if I was to continue. I liked the moments we go back in time to decisions that were made that helped explain existing relationships. That helped me to make some of the difficult decisions affecting those characters as it gave me some history to influence my thinking.
I gathered myself and then read the summary at the end of each chapter. First, it gives you a summary of your value, trait and play style. Second and most important, it shows you the story tree of all the decisions you made. You see two branching pathways based on the story you just played through, and you can see the path your decisions took but also blank spaces where other decisions could lead.
On my second playthrough, it shows if you made different choices, the previous seen timelines/decisions. There are decisions that are story changers, which are the ones I tried to chase on my second playthrough to experience different outcomes. In addition, each choice has a community choices percentage, showing what percentage of players made the same decision that you did.
I was playing in the review period so there aren’t many people playing the game but there was still a lot of variances in numbers that chose the same as me or different which was great to see. I look forward to watching these percentages variate once the game goes live on July 19. The voice acting was brilliant and really nailed the drama and intensity for the characters and their situations. When the father Vince was talking, he is played by physical actor Oliver Britten, but as I was playing I thought I recognised the voice of Elias Toufexis (Deus Ex, Crossfire Legion). I wasn’t entirely sure until a few hours in when I looked it up and sure enough, it’s Elias and he’s one of my favourite video game voice actors.
Overall, As Dusk Falls is a superb narrative adventure. I enjoyed the depth of characters and the overall storylines being told, and the music really added to the immersion. It felt like I was in the game with the characters, feeling their emotions. It was also cool to be able to finish the first playthrough and felt I could start a fresh playthrough straight away to try to make different decisions and see alternate stories being told.