In the narrative adventure game As Dusk Falls, at a pivotal moment in the story, one of the characters says, “Life is not about what you want.” In many ways, As Dusk Falls is a lot like that, at least in the case if you are playing in multiplayer mode with friends, in that you will likely be forced in majority-based instances to make difficult choices that you may not always want or fully agree with. But like life, that is all part of the fun.
On the surface, As Dusk Falls is a narrative, story-based adventure where you will play as several main characters as well as a few people from the supporting cast. And when the story arrives at a branching point, you will be asked to make a choice as to how to act, which can change the story in subtle or huge ways depending on the choice. Characters can even die.
And if you are playing in single player mode, then the game will not be much different from other narrative adventures, like the kind made famous by Telltale Interactive and many others that have come out over the years. But one of the things that sets this game apart from others is the fact that it’s designed for multiplayer from the ground up, with the ability to invite other people to play with you either locally or online.
When playing As Dusk Falls in multiplayer mode, up to seven other people can join the game locally or using a downloadable smartphone app. If you are playing on an Xbox Series X or Xbox One, then you can use the Xbox Live network too. However, since we were playing the game through Steam, we simply streamed it from there. The game will generate a unique invite code so that remote players can connect with the game to register their choices through the app. When playing in multiplayer, everyone will get to vote on critical choices, with the majority winning and setting the path.
However, each player is also given a set number of overrides (you can set how many each person gets at the start of the adventure) which will let them override the popular choice and steer the story the way they want. When played this way, the multiplayer aspects make the game especially fun and also more tense than normal. While we played, we set it so that the choices had unlimited timers, and often had a good discussion or debate about which was the correct choice.
As for the game itself, everything about As Dusk Falls is quality. Nothing against the aforementioned Telltale games, or the many other good titles I have played, but As Dusk Falls rises above most of them to the level of a television drama in a lot of ways. You won’t get any “He will remember that” kind of prompts, but your choices will change the story, sometimes in unexpected and even haunting ways. A few times things went off the rails so badly that the entire group voted to replay most of a chapter again so that we could try out something different. And had the story not been so engaging, we would not have bothered.
Part of the reason why the game is so good is the quality of the voice actors. There is not a weak spot in the bunch. I recognized Elias Toufexis from Deus Ex fame right away, although the character he plays is a far cry from a superhero-like figure here. Instead, he is a pudgy father trying to keep his family safe. There is also Erica Luttrell, Brytni Sarpy, Sam Douglas, Jane Perry, Josh Taylor and several other actors known for video games and other major projects. They form a tight cast that is really stunningly good, especially for a video game.
The plot of the story is also well written. Without giving away any spoilers, it spans multiple years (with several flashbacks and flashforwards) with the bulk of the gameplay revolving around a tense hostage situation where players sometimes take the role of victims and other times as hostage takers. That pivotal event is at the centerpiece of the entire game, and it will influence the characters who survive it in many different ways as the story continues. And unlike many games, the character’s fates can vary wildly depending on your choices. Some endings are pretty good for most of them, while many end very badly.
Graphically, the game looks amazing. The characters actually look somewhat like their voice actors in a lot of cases. I am not sure if the developers digitized the real people and then turned them into animated characters or what, but in any case, everything looks great and has a real style to it that makes As Dusk Falls just drip with atmosphere.
The only negative I can say, and this is a minor gripe, is that at times the characters or the world itself does not act as expected. For example, there is one point when my group was pretty sure that a certain dramatic action would end the game and get most people out of a dangerous situation safely. However, an army of police officers decided not to take the advantage we gave them and instead decided to stay behind cover, afraid of a lone gunman armed with a double barrel shotgun who had just unloaded both barrels (and was thus helpless). This was only in the second (of six) chapters, so I suppose the “plot armor” had to protect the situation so we could keep playing. Still, there are times when you have to accept that a few less-than-realistic things will happen in the name of storytelling.
I had a great time playing As Dusk Falls. It was a lot like watching a really good drama series on television, but one that me and my cadre of friends could control. If As Dusk Falls was only a single player game, it would still be really fun. However, playing a game like that with friends and discussing every single choice (and sometimes really debating them) was even more exciting. It easily took up an entire evening for us, and everyone had a really nice time.
As Dusk Falls does not radically reinvent the story-based game genre. But it does improve it in several key areas, while also upping the expected quality. The game is better than at least half of the films currently available on Netflix. Jump in if you are looking for a title that includes a deep story with difficult choices and is well acted and well-designed.
As Dusk Falls earns 4.5 GiN Gems. Play it alone or invite some friends for a really unique kind of party.