Games that break down the barriers of what a genre is can often end up gaining a reputation for what they’ve been able to do to move the game forward. And, when it comes to story-driven games, As Dusk Falls s relies on his ancestors and manages to exceed what they were able to accomplish.
Born from former Quantic Dream developers, indie studio Interior Night is behind As Dusk Falls. The game captures the gravity and heaviness that defines these story-driven experiences. However, the combination of this gripping story, unique art style, meaningful choices, and the parallels it shares with some of the best tv series means that As Dusk Falls exceeds much of what has come before. And all because Interior Night broke down the barriers of what an interactive narrative game can be by doing its own thing.
While most interactive games focus on realism or tell a story with a more stylistic visual framework, As Dusk Falls blends the two into one.
The result is a beautiful flip book type game where the real actors playing the game characters are filmed live and then painted to give the game its own visual style. These individual character shots are then put together in classic comic book style that pushes As Dusk Falls into an entirely different category.
And, while you might be wondering why Interior Dark didn’t settle for the tried-and-true FMV format, by the end of your roughly six-hour read, you’ll understand why this creative decision was the right one for As Dusk Falls.
And that’s because it gives more and more free rein to your imagination. Since I wasn’t directly controlling the characters, using simple button prompts and quick events to navigate the story, this style forces you to step back and fill in the gaps about what a character is doing between each action or dialog option.
It kept me engrossed in its six digestible chapters and stopped me staring at my phone or being bored while a scene played out, which is exactly what creative director Caroline Marchal set out to do. It is not limited to the easily accessible styles that the genre has used before. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but if you can overcome any reservations you might have, you won’t find a better experience on Xbox Game Pass.
As I lived through this story of two families, the Holts and the Walkers, whose lives intertwined because of a single day in Two Rock, Arizona, I found myself becoming more and more invested in the characters and their journey.
Part of that was due to the excellent cast, which really helps sell the serious story of death, loss, and life that As Dusk Falls tells. While some story-driven games struggle because their wonky facial animations serve as a distraction, the visual style removes half the problem. And the writing here is equally top-notch, helping Marchal to that lofty ambition of bring crime drama fans into the gaming world.
The other reason As Dusk Falls succeeds is that every decision in this incredibly human story feels big and big. From small, instantaneous changes to consequences that unfold over the course of the game, every decision has a lasting effect on the characters around you and their relationships with each other.
But make no mistake; these decisions are not just one-dimensional or black and white. In two separate parts, myself and editor Jess Wells found ourselves in totally different situations and that’s because our instincts told us to behave very differently as the story unfolded.
A character’s fate was at stake in different ways due to the decisions we made earlier, leading to different conclusions in the final chapter of the game. Jess even visited an entirely different location and sequence of events due decisions she made that I never laid eyes on.
Even the simple decisions you make in the introductory chapter have far-reaching consequences, and you’ll need to think deeply about each option. For example, in the game’s opening moments, Vince and Michelle consider moving their one-year-old daughter Zoe to school.
I chose to support this decision, but it – understandably – influenced her development, making her more introverted as the game progressed. And, you can completely miss that option if you go a different path as well.
Clearly what Interior Night has accomplished is very impressive. This style of play has always struggled to make your decisions matter, but the more I think about it, the more I think As Dusk Falls might be the first linear game of its kind to deliver on the promise of a story shaped by your decisions.
The game satisfies your appetite for these different choices by presenting a detailed story tree at the end of each chapter that shows how your decisions led to events. It’s the butterfly effect at its finest, but the gray areas that show the decisions you haven’t made are an impressive show of strength that will have you coming back again and again.
The game goes even further by attributing your dialogue choices and actions to traits that give you insight into how you played the game; whether you are analytical or looking for a fight, loving or someone who thinks with their head before their heart.
And, these ideas stand out because the story of As Dusk Falls is grounded in human experience. It does not address any moral theme, it is purely centered on these two families and the events that connect their lives. And, as such, you can put yourself in everyone’s shoes quite easily because everything you see in the game could one day happen to you.
And if you play the game as you would have acted in real life, this information provided by Interior Night may well reveal new details about your fundamentals. My traits and values were all about the money – despite being put in some tough storylines – making it arguably one of my favorite parts of the game.
It’s these systems, combined with a stunning story, that make As Dusk Falls one of the best in its class. While there may be some weaknesses here, the gripping narrative, relatable cast of characters, consistent decisions, and unique art style help the game shine as one of the best interactive adventures of the year.
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