What would you do for family? That’s just one of the insightful questions that As Dusk Falls poses. An interactive drama developed by INTERIOR/NIGHT and published by Xbox, As Dusk Falls begins its story in 1998, following two entangled families over the course of 30 years.
Vince and his wife, father, and daughter are moving home because his wife was offered a new job. Along the way, they get into a car accident and are stranded for the night in a small town in Arizona. At around the same time, Jay and his two brothers break into the local Sheriff’s house to rob him blind, but something goes wrong, and they’re now on the run. Where these two families collide is at a local inn, where the three brothers take Vince’s family hostage. This whole premise is an amazing start to the drama that will keep you engaged from start to finish.
You’ll play characters on both sides of the conflict throughout the game. For example, in the first book, you’ll control the actions of Vince and Jay. And this is integral to the story’s impact. While at first, the conflict between families feels black and white, the deep dive into characters’ backgrounds and all the unexpected revelations quickly add nuance to the conflict. The game has a wonderful way of challenging your perceptions of each character. And it’s all because you get to walk in Jay and Vince’s shoes and see just how similar but different their motivations are.
You’ll get to control each character through making choices about what they do or say or how they act, usually on a time limit, along with completing quick time events and just sitting back and watching your choices unfold. It’s rather simplistic gameplay, but it really enforces the living novel aesthetic the game offers with its painted, still graphics.
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. While made up of unmoving pictures, movement is evoked through rapidly changing between images, and the amount of emotion that comes through with the rather simplistic graphics is impressive. And it’s certainly helped along by the excellent voice acting. Overall, As Dusk Falls is a unique experience and one I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did.
The most challenging part of the game is the choices you’re asked to make. The quick-time events can be altered in the options menu if they truly get too hard. So, the choices you’ll need to make under duress are the highlight of the gameplay. How characters react is all up to you. You’ll decide their fate; their literal lives are in your hands. What will you do to save your family? Can you break free of the toxicity that runs through generations? The developers really make you sweat with some of the situations they’ve crafted.
On top of the tough choices, the game offers insights on your decisions after each chapter, like how quickly you make choices, if you put family first, if you’re confrontational, or if you value peace. While this part is moderately illuminating, the flow chart showing your decisions and how they compare to other players is the highlight here. It’s not the first game to include this, but it’s fun and certainly encourages replaying the game to explore different branching paths.
As Dusk Falls does include some sensitive themes like suicide, but the game treats them with the utmost respect, especially when considering the player. In fact, players are notified of the suicide scene immediately when they begin the chapter, and you can choose to skip it altogether and allow the game to give you the best possible outcome. There are a lot of things that the game does that make it really accessible on multiple levels.
My only gripes are pretty small ones. For example, some of the transitions in the graphics stutter or are abrupt for no discernible reason. Additionally, at times, it can be hard to tell what the response options will sound like or what the person will actually say. And there are certainly some ups and downs in the plot; some situations are much more interesting than others. But these really are minor blemishes on overall excellent execution.
As Dusk Falls is a memorable experience. The generation-spanning story is intriguing with its many twists and turns and too-human characters. Add on the gorgeous artwork and the challenging decisions you’ll face, As Dusk Falls offers many, many hours of great gameplay.
As Dusk Falls is available July 19th for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
As Dusk Falls
As Dusk Falls is a memorable experience. The generation-spanning story is intriguing with its many twists and turns and too-human characters.