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As Dusk Falls

As Dusk Falls

After being taken hostage at a dusty motel somewhere in Arizona, we've got to experience a story different from any other we've ever played.

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I like adventure games in general, I like when game narratives go deeper than what we're usually given, and I also like when developers try something new. With this in mind, it's perhaps no wonder that I was looking forward to As Dusk Falls, an adventure that offers a seemingly nightmarish story set somewhere in a small Arizonan town. A typical town where the long arm of the law has not fully reached, and where the inhabitants live in a daily struggle.

The basic idea of the adventure is to give us more perspective on the story, which begins with the Walker family being forced to move to Missouri for a number of reasons during 1998. Since this is a very, very spoiler-sensitive game, I thought I'd just tell you the things that happen in the first hour or so, so you can experience the adventure for yourself. To quickly sum up the foundation, the Walkers don't get to Missouri as planned after the car breaks down in the desert of Arizona. Within the first few minutes we encounter a trio of unpleasant people, who will soon play a major role in the adventure, but at this stage disappear.

As Dusk FallsAs Dusk Falls
It's rarely black or white in As Dusk Falls, which allows you to experience a story unlike anything else we've seen in the gaming world so far.

Fortunately, the Desert Dream motel is not too far away from where the Walkers - consisting of a father, his wife, a very young daughter and grandfather - choose to go. What looks to be a relatively successful misadventure, after the car is towed by a helpful assistant at the motel and the family is checked into their rooms, soon takes a major turn.

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For the aforementioned trio, we soon come to know them as the Holts brothers, have decided to pull off a heist. But they haven't chosen a bank or even a store for the purpose, but the house of the local sheriff instead. It may seem odd, but early on it is suggested that it may not be as random a target as one might think. However, the crime doesn't go great and it all degenerates into a hostage situation at the Desert Dream.

Exciting! On top of this, of course, I'm constantly having to make decisions and also do simpler Quick Time Events to solve various things, which can be anything from packing boxes to picking locks and fighting. Everything I do then has a consequence, and at regular intervals I'm showed what the payoff is for my choices or actions. Often there are two, three and maybe four possible outcomes for each scene, and sometimes they surprisingly connect later on. However, I am not shown exactly what the other options would have been, only told that they are there, as if to make me play again and do things differently.

As Dusk FallsAs Dusk Falls
The controls, the design and a slow storytelling often counteract something that could be really good.

So far, everything is actually pretty good with As Dusk Falls. Of course, a game where the story can wind its way in so many different ways won't be quite as tightly put together as a more straightforward story, but that's of course part of the allure of a game like this.

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Unfortunately, though, I'm not entirely happy, because there is one very big flaw, and it would have been easy to remedy. For those who play on console (as I did), As Dusk Falls is very poorly optimised in terms of game controls. Controlling a mouse pointer with an analog stick is never satisfying, but that's exactly what we get to do here and it's not well done at all.

However, developer Interior/Night has tried to remedy this by adding smartphone support, allowing us to play with a touch screen instead via an app. Connecting this solution is very easy and works without the slightest hiccup, but the screen lags considerably and also sometimes doesn't respond at all, hence why I opted for the controller instead. Moreover, I might add that a glowing smartphone screen in front of your eyes in a dark room is not very nice, plus it adds to the problem that it's hard to watch the TV while drawing circles or lines on your phone.

As Dusk Falls also suffers from another problem. Its unique graphic style is designed to give a realistic, yet cartoonish look. A bit like reading a well-drawn graphic novel. But it's as if Interior/Night doesn't quite know how to use the technology, switching stills so often that it mostly looks hideously shoddily animated. This while other parts are actually fully animated instead. Although the brain eventually seems to adjust to this strange solution, you never really end up liking the look. In fact, a better variation would have been to have the images stand still more often, instead of using about one animation per second or so during key scenes.

These negative bits make it unnecessarily difficult to enjoy the very dark and unexpectedly adult story that is, after all, here, which is actually so dark that it a warning pops up before heading into a certain chapter. I won't spoil anything, of course, but it describes in detail what happens and you get to choose whether or not to take part, which left me on edge wondering "when does it happen" during what should have been a terrifying surprise. I know games can be controversial, but I'd rather have a general warning before the adventure begins and a higher age limit than this solution.

As Dusk FallsAs Dusk Falls
You can play multiplayer and let groups of players participate in the decisions. We have only been able to test this locally, but do not feel that it is rewarding.

As a result, for me, the adventure is never really enjoyable, and it doesn't help that the narrative is a tad slow. I struggle with the controls, which cause me more mistakes than the challenges itself, and the counterintuitive movements of a mouse pointer with analog sticks drags down an already slow narrative even more. It doesn't help that, as I said, there's a story hiding here that's so good I wanted two perspectives on it and I am considering a third playthrough, and that the voice acting is almost universally very good (other than the young daughter Zoe, who is portrayed by a grown woman, which mostly sounds odd).

As Dusk Falls is a title that falls a short of the developers' inability to actually make a good game out of their story. The shortcomings of the adventure's controls could easily have been solved by tying each selectable option to a button instead of the solutions we got here, and the graphics could have been fully animated or more like a graphic novel, and the narration should have been tighter.

What's left is a very capable foundation for something that could have been incredibly good in the right hands, but instead is something that only manages to get an above average rating thanks to the gripping story that actually dares more than we're used to in the gaming world, and ensures that no two playthroughs need be the same.

06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
+
Surprisingly mature story. Good voice acting. Choices have consistency. Unique layout.
-
Poor controls for controller, nauseating graphics. Cheesy storytelling.
overall score
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As Dusk Falls

REVIEW. Written by Jonas Mäki

After being taken hostage at a dusty motel somewhere in Arizona, we've got to experience a story different from any other we've ever played.



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