If only touching the buttons on your controller once a minute and the still images put you off, you’ll hate it. As Dusk Falls, and that’s a shame. Because the first work from the INTERIOR/NIGHT studio is overwhelming, with assumed artistic choices, a masterfully led narration and an ingenious multiplayer component.
From the outset, we are warned quite heavily: As Dusk Falls, an Xbox Series and PC exclusive, includes scenes of intense violence, family strife, mental health, suicide, and “other mature themes.” However, it is another aspect that strikes us: there is practically no animation in the action scenes, only a superposition of still images with transitions. The images are beautiful, with faded colors and a disturbing realism, but this artistic choice surprises then irritates. It takes a good few hours of play to not stop there.
One desert, two families
Say As Dusk Falls has some good arguments to overshadow this aspect. The script is worthy of the best Quentin Tarantino-but without the humor-or of the Cohen brothers, those films where the darkest sides of the American soul rub shoulders with the brightest. On the one hand, we have the three Holt brothers, the two oldest of whom are genuine scoundrels abusing the youngest, Jay. On the other, the Walker family, who left Sacramento, California after an apparent blunder by their father, Vince, an aeronautical mechanic.
No spoilers here, the preamble is in the trailer. In 1998, the Holt brothers attempt a burglary at the home of the sheriff, Dante, and are about to get caught. The Walker family, after a breakdown on Route 66, finds refuge in a motel in a remote village, Two Rocks. The Holts arrive and take everyone hostage. This is the starting point of a story in six chapters divided into two “books”, Collision and Expansion. Virtually every character has shameful secrets. None are as pure or evil as they appear at first glance, apart from six-year-old Zoe. The dialogues are fine, hard, often surprising and the story keeps you in suspense for a good ten hours, the time to complete the story for the first time.
The interactions are essentially two-fold. You have from time to time about fifteen seconds to decide on the reaction of a character-Lie? Make fun of? Keep quiet ? -and this choice will guide the evolution of the story.
The other major intervention on your part will consist, in certain action scenes, of quickly playing the joystick or a button to flee, jump, dodge or kick.
At the end of each chapter, a branching map will show you which paths you followed and what percentage of players made the same choices. Junctions you didn’t take are invisible until you decide to restart a particular segment by changing your choices. Obviously, we see that thousands of different progressions are possible but that the variants for the ends are fewer, up to four.
Your choices further help define your personality. It assesses your capacity for empathy, attachment to your family or honesty, your speed in making decisions.
The other important part of the game mechanics is that we have introduced the possibility of inviting up to seven other players, in local mode or with a mobile application, who can also participate in the choices. Whichever prevails is simply the majority choice. As we tried the game before its official release, we were unable to test this multiplayer mode.
The relationship between As Dusk Falls and story-driven games like Beyond: Two Souls and heavy rain, developed by the Quantic Dream studio, is not accidental. We had the intuition, a quick trip to LinkedIn confirmed it: the CEO and creative director of INTERIOR/NIGHT, Caroline Marchal, worked for 11 years at Quantic Dream.
We find with As Dusk Falls this remarkable narrative quality that has made the mark of Quantic Dreams, and of which Mme Marchal is one of the managers. We added a harshness and this disturbing atmosphere of lost corners in the United States, all in a very daring graphic choice.
Candy, as we appreciate good scenarios. And that you agree to leave your controller alone for long periods of time.
As Dusk Falls
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
For Xbox Series X and S, PC
Released July 19, 2022
Tested on an Xbox Series X with a copy provided by Xbox Game Studios