When it comes to video game genres, it’s hard to think of one older than the point & click adventure game. In the early days of PC gaming, titles such as Monkey Island and Myst were introducing beautiful art designs and explorative gameplay mechanics that brought new life to the genre. Fast forward to 2012 in which Telltale’s The Walking Dead took it a step further with mature storytelling and character-impacting decisions.
The genre continues to remold itself in series such as Life is Strange and Supermassive Games The Quarry. Developers INT./NIGHT As Dusk Falls sticks to the core elements of the genre and a wide variety of visually stunning images, tension-filled audio, and wonderfully voice-acted characters helps deliver a suspense-filled crime drama that will have you hooked till the very end.
At first glance, it would appear the game is compiled of beautifully drawn high-resolution still images with a blending effect from frame to frame. However, if you pay close attention, you will see there are a variety of other visual effects all happening simultaneously. In one scene you may see a character on a bike which is clearly a still image but the background is moving and in the next frame the bike will actually be moving as if it jumped off the still image. These visual effects are seen throughout the story and masterfully blended together. From the lighting, location design, and facial detail, each frame looks carefully stitched together with little to no waste. So, if it’s on screen then it’s there for a reason and contributes to the story.
As Dusk Falls tells the story of two families that cross paths at the Desert Dream Motel. One consists of three brothers currently making one bad decision after another while the other is a family just passing through while en route to another state to start a new beginning. A series of events will not only alter the present but also the future for many of the characters. To whom and in which way is entirely up to you. Each character is unique and offers just enough info during conversations to allow you to decide if the person can be trusted. Creating alliances is key to progressing the story but maybe not your desired character so think logically and two steps ahead.
As you would assume, the majority of As Dusk Falls gameplay consists of making dialogue choices, however, it’s not as simple as a good, bad, or in-between reply. In some cases, you could have five or six different choices all of which can produce a different counter-response. At certain points, a crossroads sign will appear on the screen before making a decision. This is pretty much a fork in the road and either way the story is about to dramatically change regardless of which path you choose.
You are given a good amount of time to make your dialogue choices so the stress on time is a non-factor. The real stress is how you balance your decisions to obtain your desired outcome. In some situations, the best response could be no response. It’s during these heavy conversations that the story shines as you truly feel in control of the characters since there is always a good mix of responses all fitting and all of which could be valid.
When it comes to actual gameplay or character movement, there is little to none. For example, if you are in a room and need to examine your surroundings this act is performed by using the left thumb stick or using the directional pad to highlight and press (A) to interact. So there is no character free roam movement. The action sequences take place in fast frame shots and QTE (quick time events). Press up, down, left, or right on the thumb stick when prompted. For the face buttons, it’s primarily the (A) to either quick tap, rapidly tap, or long hold.
Again, you are given a good amount of time to perform these QTEs and these settings can be changed in the accessibility settings. There is even a text-to-speech option that will not only read all the dialogue choices but also notes, signs, and other key menu text. There is also no random item collecting and in some cases when searching for an item to help complete a task your first choice might be the correct one, therefore, moving the story forward without the need to explore the other areas. It’s also worth mentioning that if you missed some QTEs or just didn’t like the decisions that you made then you can always go back and replay the checkpoint.
As I mentioned, there are crossroads and once you complete a chapter you can see a scene tree layout of the paths that you selected and the ones that you had not. You can then either replay the chapter from the beginning and select the other crossroad path or in some areas, you can play a key moment before a major story change such as character death.
You can also choose to play these paths just with the “explore” option. This will allow you to play the path without overwriting your save. You also have the option to overwrite or create a new save file just for that alternate playthrough. In one chapter, a character that you play as will have some rather dumb dialogue choices along with some really dumb action choices. While I explored this making all the wrong decisions and while it clearly ruined this character’s story, it was hilarious to see how bad everything got for him so quickly.
In As Dusk Falls, the most interesting new gameplay features are the multiplayer components which there are a few. You can either play local or online with up to 8 players. If you are playing local with a group then you can use controllers or download the As Dusk Falls companion app (Android & iPhone). Once installed, click join and enter the invite code from the game and you’re all set. How it works is that the group votes on the choices which are selected. The choice with the most votes wins. The 2nd multiplayer option is called Broadcasting. You will need to sign in to your Twitch account and this will allow viewers to vote for which dialogue choice you choose. These are very cool features that can quickly turn As Dusk Falls into an interactive party game.
As Dusk Falls tells a multi-layer crime drama that is on par with any triple-A show currently running. All the characters fit and the conversation/storytelling is smooth regardless of your choices. In fact, I only encountered one situation in which the choice I made did not reflect in future conversations. Overall, the beautiful art design and the entertaining story puts this up on the top shelf as one of the best in the genre.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of As Dusk Falls for Xbox Series X provided by Interior Night and Xbox Game Studios.