As Dusk Falls review – a bold new future for interactive movie games

An interactive film that tells a memorable story of human choices.

Don’t be put off by the unusual art style: As Dusk Falls is good. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the best interactive movie game I’ve played, and in that breath I consider all of Supermassive’s output (the Dark Pictures games, etc.), Erica from Flavourworks, the Quantic Dream stuff (there’s a Quantic Dream link here by the way). And okay, it’s not a massive subgenre, but definitely more and more studios are getting involved and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a very good thing.

Just in case you didn’t know, interactive movie games are largely as they sound: the action mostly takes place without you. Your input comes in at major decision points when you’re asked to make choices that drastically change the story. It’s no exaggeration to say that the characters will live and die based on the choices you make. These are the big moments, but there are also smaller decisions, on top of that, and there are quick events to fill in the gaps and keep you engaged along the way.

The magic of this formula is its ability to engage viewers like movies do. People will shout things like “No, don’t do that!” And, “Flee!” and that kind of thing, getting unwittingly involved in what’s going on. The games are almost as fun to watch as they are to play.

This gives a good overview of what you can expect in As Dusk Falls. It really goes places.

As Dusk Falls goes a step further by allowing viewers to join the game directly with a controller or, via a companion app, with phones/tablets, and selecting what they think the characters should do. The most popular choice wins. There’s even Twitch support for viewers to do the same. I haven’t had a chance to test the game with friends, but I played it through the companion app and it controlled well. The app effectively turns the phone into a giant touchpad.

But none of that is what makes As Dusk Falls good – it just makes it a certain type of game. What makes it good is how it delivers. There’s a real understanding here from developer Interior/Night about what makes games like these work.

Take the art style, for example. It’s unusual – it reminds me of photorealistic comics from years ago which I always found too realistic to be excited about – and it’s not fully animated, which means, among other things, that the lips characters do not move when talking. It takes a while to settle in, but when you do, it’s actually very effective.

A man hides during a shooting at a motel.

Here is Vince, one of the main characters. I love that he’s not a typically chiseled male lead.

It’s remarkable how relying on just a few keyframes per scene manages to convey the same sense of drama and emotion as fully animating them. A key part of this is how well the characters’ expressions are captured. It can be a head thrown back on one shoulder to produce a loving gaze, or a distant gaze as a character sinks into melancholy – either way you can clearly see it and understand it. These are the kind of images you can only create from close observation, and I had to dig into Ed’s interview with Interior/Night boss Caroline Marchal (former lead designer of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls) to find out that’s exactly what happened here. : the images were taken from live performances, captured and then painted. It really works. Layer the usually impressive audio and voice work on top, and once you stop looking for lips to move, you forget there’s anything missing.

What’s so clever about this is that it eliminates all the laborious, time-consuming, and expensive animation work usually involved in creating a game like this. There is no need to lip-sync, which has the side effect of making the game very easy to localize into other languages ​​(and there are plenty of voiceovers in different languages ​​included). This means the game is also easier on the hardware, running well at 4K on Xbox Series S for me.

It also feels like by dodging the heavy cinematic workload, Interior/Night has saved more time and energy to focus on the things that really matter in a game like this: the story and characters. After all, if we don’t care about them, why should we care about what’s on the screen?

The bearded Vince in As Dusk Falls looks down as quick events appear on screen.

A choice and consequence flowchart at the end of a chapter in As Dusk Falls.

An example of quick events, which involve sliding your thumb or controller in different directions, depending on the input method, and pressing the screen/a button in different ways. Also, a look at the flow of possible choices and consequences. Don’t look too closely to avoid any potential spoilers (but I tried to pick a fairly neutral one).

Basically, the story follows two families who collide in a motel in small town – small town – Arizona. One is a family with a small child and an elderly grandparent on their way to a new home, and the other is a family with a more troubled composition. But what initially seems like a contained confrontation soon turns into something much bigger that will span a wider area and many, many years.

It’s in telling the story that As Dusk Falls really excels, taking the time to show and walk around almost every character we meet so we understand who they are and why they do what they do. make. I’ve never seen another game like this go so far, or go as deep and tackle the kind of topics as Dusk Falls does. Ultimately, it’s a game about humans and the twists and turns real lives can take, a drama rather than a monster movie or sci-fi adventure. That’s not to say it’s boring – it goes far beyond what I expected given the monotonous beginning – just that it presents situations, however extreme they may be, from a point of view human and relatable. This is how the game tackles mental health issues and, fair warning, suicide (although it’s clearly marked and skippable) and never feels sensational.

The game does this in different ways. There’s a storyline that takes place in the present, but there are also flashbacks that fill many of the characters you meet. These are anchored to a few key playable characters, but draw others around them. Some flashbacks go back weeks, others years, and they all have the powerful effect of being able to completely upend your perspective on what’s going on in the current timeline – and expand the game dramatically.

A pre-chapter warning screen about skippable suicide-related content in As Dusk Falls.

The game tackles heavy subject matter, and that’s part of why it stands out as a sophisticated dramatic experience. Everything is handled with care and as you can see lots of trigger warnings.

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys is a debate you constantly revolve around, and being able to play both sides of the equation melts some decisions. I sat there for minutes chewing on the toughest ones, staring at them like doorways to a future I wish I could see.

The bigger choices are not timed, but the smaller ones are, in order to maintain the rhythm and the tension. This is another area where Dusk Falls exercises considerable skill. The art direction helps by ridding the game of all the in-between moments it doesn’t need and, while there are moments, you have the freedom to look around an area. – move the cursor to highlight points of interest much like in a point-and-click game – you’re never left alone for long. The rhythm never falters. There’s always a nice feeling of tension building, and there are wonderful surprises during the climaxes – I wrote “wow!” taking notes a handful of times at events I didn’t see coming; As Dusk Falls is not afraid to go there. There are more twists than a jumble.

“As dumb as it can sometimes be, As Dusk Falls feels real”

It’s clearly inspired by TV, breaking the game up into chapters with catchy intros of their own that wrap up and set you up for another night out. The chapters are then grouped into two “books” which represent the game’s two main timelines. In all, it took me around six hours, but there’s a clear call here to go around again to make some different choices. – webs of choice and consequence are presented to you after each chapter, showing but not spoiling all the possibilities you missed.

As Dusk Falls represents a bold new future for interactive movie games – a future where games can do away with supernatural spectacle and thriller thrillers to rely on human drama to entertain us instead. And OK, sometimes it veers into soap opera, but other times it’s soft and deep and dark, even deep. It shows how well games can handle stories and themes like these when done with care and understanding, and how well they can pull us into the lives of others and invest us in the decisions they make. have to take. And that’s what I’m really left with in the game: stories – human stories. These are the troubled, awkward and beautiful stories that I can see in the world around me, that I can tell to myself. It’s a game that mirrors, in many ways, our own lives. As silly as it can sometimes be, As Dusk Falls feels real, and I can’t think of a bigger compliment for it.

About Victoria Rothstein

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