One of my favourite activities to do as a group is watch a movie together. You get together, can discuss the story and characters, and on the whole have a lot of fun. As Dusk Falls asks the question: “what if you watch a movie with your friends, but you all make decisions that affect the story?”
As Dusk Falls is a noir crime story centred around two families; the Walkers and the Holts. Both are forced together by a robbery that escalates into a hostage situation. Billed as an “uncompromising crime drama”, this description doesn’t shy away at all from that promise, featuring dozens of twists throughout the story that are genuinely engaging to watch unfold.
AN INTERACTIVE CRIME DRAMA
Over the course of the game’s 6-8 hour playtime, you play as characters on both sides of the conflict, making decisions that completely change their lives forever. The multiple perspectives allows you to see a different side to each character, with no-one really being pigeonholed into a stereotype or one-dimensional role.
This extends to the amount of choice and diversity each episode has. “Choices Matter” genre games typically receive criticism for railroading you on the same path with very little variety in how the story plays out. Player decisions tend to not feel like they matter too much. It’s understandable why this is the way it is. Developers can’t justify spending time and money on entire sections of a game that only a small portion of the players will see.
However, As Dusk Falls at least feels like a step in the right direction in terms of how diverse each playthrough feels. There are lots of outcomes that really surprised me with how dramatically they shift the pacing and direction of the story. There’s even a handy flow chart at the end of each chapter which helps you map out how every possible scenario could go.
‘LIKE A SEASON OF JUSTIFIED’
Of course, it isn’t perfect. There were also plenty of moments throughout As Dusk Falls where I wanted to make a certain choice that felt realistic for the characters to make, yet this was not an option. It does unfortunately still fall into that feeling of situations feeling too contrived for the sake of pacing or drama.
But if we take this idea that the game’s tone is meant to replicate a TV crime drama, where all situations feel a little artificial and characters are thrown into a ludicrous series of escalating set pieces, it’s right on the money. It basically feels like I’m watching a season of ‘Justified’ or ‘Hap and Leonard’.
A lot of the feeling you get out of watching this plot unfold comes from the character performances. As Dusk Falls features actors filmed in live-action, which are then digitally rendered into painterly art style. This results in a unique style similar to graphic novels, where motion occurs between two graphics rather than fluidly.
Unfortunately, the art style doesn’t quite look as it good as it should. It just looks like frames of the actors with a Photoshop filter inserted over the top. It’s an interesting vibe, but might have worked better had the characters been more stylised like a comic book.
This also has a consequence of the characters’ emotions and personality being emphasised more in the voice performances. Again, my opinion of the performances are mixed depending on the actor. There are some performances that are truly outstanding; Returnal’s Jane Perry and 1917’s Ryan Nolan deliver particularly strong dialogue and performances, while other actors don’t feel quite as influential.
Going back to what was mentioned at the start of this review, As Dusk Falls’ breakout feature is the multiplayer. The game was designed from the beginning to accommodate multiple players, and that aspect of it feels right at home here. With the game taking such huge inspiration from other media like movies, TV and graphic novels, it makes total sense to retain as much of that sense of community as possible.
The multiplayer is practically identical to singleplayer, except now choices are counted as votes between each player. You can play the entire story of As Dusk Falls with up to 8 people, either online, locally, or a mix of both. There’s also a companion app for mobile phones which makes the process much easier.
built for multiplayer
As Dusk Falls’ multiplayer mode is iconic due to the interesting ways you play with everyone else. It will reveal insights about yourself and your peers, while also acting as a great title for non-gamers to join in with too. It feels like an experience meant for everyone. And thanks to the short runtime of each episode (less than an hour to finish each chapter), it should be quite easy to fit in a session between real life duties that plagues us adults.
So overall, is As Dusk Falls worth it? It has a captivating story with more than a few rocky moments, but is as close to feeling “genre” as it can get. It also has a lot of shortcomings that might only be saved by the interesting multiplayer features. It’s the perfect game to pull out for any digital or physical get-togethers, but is otherwise a reminder of wasted potential.
For our As Dusk Falls review, a digital Xbox copy was provided by Microsoft.
Featured Image: INTERIOR/NIGHT