Every narrative adventure game is lauded for its player choice and gripping storylines but, As Dusk Falls has taken centre stage as one of my favourites of the genre because of its bold creative stances both visual and written.
Set predominantly in the year of 1998, As Dusk Falls is a multi-generational story about “two families whose trajectories collide in the Arizona desert”. The hand-painted art style is based on photography of real actors performing scenes in a studio and reflects the weight and emotion of their performance in static form. It makes for a truly unique method of visual storytelling that’s rarely seen in videogame format outside of point and click adventures. Oozing a time capsule-like atmosphere from 20 years past, As Dusk Falls commits to a comic book style aesthetic as frames slowly fade-in while you progress through pinnacle moments and tense decisions.
Unlike anything I’ve seen before in other narrative adventures, juxtaposed to this static visual design was a somewhat jarring sight to see cars fully animated and moving across the screen with these two-dimensional figures seated within, but as limited as those moments are you get used to the static artwork very quickly and it ultimately compliments the rest of the game’s design beyond that which I’ve never seen before in other narrative adventures.
With that in mind, As Dusk Falls simply because of its presentation style and gameplay is only going to appeal to a small niche of players whose interests lie in interactive storytelling and those drawn in by the unconventional art style, however I cannot recommend As Dusk Falls enough (To every gamer) as I feel it is one of the best written stories of its genre - complimented by an incredible cast of models and voiceover artists that have made this game so gripping! Led by creative director Caroline Marchal, who was previously employed by Quantic Dream as a designer for Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, As Dusk Falls is worthy of your time and money.
As a famous Drag Queen once said, “all you ever do in life is what you think is the right thing in the moment” and this doesn’t strike any truer than with As Dusk Falls. Just like in real life, relationships are messy and people are even more so. The game doesn’t hide itself from tackling the harder topics and gives the characters enough layers to veil a plentiful manner of secrets and scandals to uncover… with the right prodding, and believably so! The morally grey choices and mature depiction of sensitive subjects convey the complexity of these fully fleshed out characters and how no one person is the hero or villain in anyone’s story leading to an incredibly likeable and diverse cast of chaotically neutral characters. I grew to care for each and every one of them regardless of their questionable actions and agonised over decisions that were very obviously going to affect someone else I also cared about in the near future.
Great pacing is one of the key elements as to why its left such a profound mark on me, the linearity of the genre lends itself to keeping the player focused on the story with no possibility of the player becoming lost or distracted by collectibles or nit-picking for minor details. Flashbacks are kept to a minimum and serve mainly to flesh out and disclose specific character motivations at just the right time to explain but never justify their actions, leaving you as the player to ultimately condone, advocate and support the lengths each character may go to for the survival and protection of the ones they love - based on your own moral compass. As Dusk Falls hides some beautifully written undertones about the tragic depths of desperate times and the inherent goodness residing in even the most unlikely of people… and maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much – it’s spoken to the long dormant hope for humanity in me.
Narrative Adventure games often fall prey to offering an extensive list of choices and divergent story paths when in reality the illusion of choice leads only to minor consequences that reflect the games ending very little. Here however, As Dusk Falls’ extensive spider web of events completely changes the narrative for the rest of the game wherein in every choice can lead to totally different scenarios, locations and characters. It made the multiple playthroughs for the achievements feel fresh each time and that’s rare treat for a game of this genre. One of the ending scenes however remains the same no matter what and felt like more of a tacked-on attempt to make room for a sequel.
An interactive adventure would be nothing without those ubiquitous QTE’s and thankfully they aren’t that plentiful or difficult to the point where I left the controller to my side and enjoyed the game more like a movie than anything else. Developer Interior/Night “believes as many people as possible should be able to play and enjoy As Dusk Falls” and as such, the game comes loaded with a handful of accessibility options to ensure this. Players can increase the amount of time they have to complete button inputs, increase visibility for player choice options and text-to-speech functions. But what I found most interesting however was the extended override timer which in itself is an interesting feature for a genre that up until this point has been pigeon holed into being a Single-Player experience.
While I didn’t play it this way myself as I felt it removes too much of the immersion and intimacy of the experience. As Dusk Falls can be played in a Multiplayer format (either online or locally via a mobile app) with player choices being left up to a voting system and the override option whereby players can take control of a decision a limited number of times to force the narrative down the path of their choosing. Streamers are also given the Broadcast Mode to make for a more community led experience and gives their followers the ability to contribute to the story, although I fear this implementation bites into the game’s potential profit more than the developers realise. Once again, I think playing through the game in Multiplayer takes away from the overall feel and flow of the game when too many cooks are in the kitchen.
Nevertheless, aside from a few minor and mostly avoidable issues with the main menu’s interface being needlessly confusing and clunky with registering multiple profiles, saves and lobbies just to get started with their respective modes, As Dusk Falls is sitting pretty as one of my personal top picks of the narrative adventure genre right next to Batman: The Enemy Within and Tales from the Borderlands thanks to its striking art style, top-notch writing and incredible acting performances.