Whether it’s surviving the zombie apocalypse, leading a robot uprising, or trying to take down a wendigo, the interactive narrative seems to be thriving. With The Quarry being one of the biggest games of 2022, could another one share its spotlight this year?
Released on July 19, As Dusk Falls is the first game Xbox Game Studios published this year. That’s not the only first here – this is the debut game of developer Interior Night. Although this is the first game by the studio, there’s still plenty of experience under the director Caroline Marchal. Having worked on Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, there’s certainly no lack of talent involved with this project.
First off, I just want to say – this game is beautiful. Some may criticize the decision to have the characters be still images, but the unique style was a nice refreshing take. Any fan of the visual novel genre will feel at home with this; in fact, I would say it’s the perfect middle man of visual novels completely standing still along with games like Telltale’s more animated cutscenes.
This beauty is not without its cost though. While the game is only $30 if you buy it, any Game Pass subscriber knows there’s one resource to watch more than cash – storage space. The game comes in at over 50 GB on the Xbox Series X. Now, I know that 4k images take up space, and many still frames actually CAN take up more space than a few 3D models. That being said, it might be hard for some to justify keeping that much space used up for a game that can be beaten in 6 hours. Fortunately, if you’re satisfied with 1080p over 4k, you can get a smaller file download.
If story is your main focus, you’re going to find a good one here. The whole time I was playing, I kept thinking to myself “If this was on Netflix, I would definitely binge-watch this.” Almost every moment made me want to see what would happen next, to the point it felt bad when I put the game down at the half-way point to get some dinner. Interior Night said they wanted to go for a story a la Fargo or Breaking Bad, and the influence is clear.
That’s not to say the writing is perfect. Like Netflix, there was a lot of melodrama thrown in there at the worst of times. I won’t go too far into spoilers, but I will say there were multiple times my choices were to start an argument in the middle of an already tense moment or immediately forgive them. There really should have been a third option for “Hey, let’s talk about this when there ISN’T a gun pointed at us, okay?”
But let’s get down to the most important question for fans of the genre: Do the different endings actually matter? I’m happy to report yes. In fact, the game is so sure its branching paths matter that it shows you how the game branches out at the end of each chapter. The game is upfront about what storylines will happen regardless, and which ones are unique. While the game doesn’t tell you how to get to these alternate branches, it hides nothing about how many it has.
One thing that did bother me though, when comparing it to games like Life is Strange, Detroit: Become Human, or The Wolf Among Us, is that there is almost no actual gameplay here. Other games in the genre typically have puzzles, places where you search for items, or something like that. While the story always came first, they still didn’t let you forget this was a video game. Here, the gameplay is entirely selecting dialogue and quick time events. Maybe this let the developers work more on the story, but I still like a little more interactivity personally.
That’s also not my only complaint with the gameplay. If you play on Xbox, it’s pretty clear they had PC in mind. You have to move a cursor around the screen to select dialogue options, even on console. Sure, this is not the only game to do it, but 1.) It’s not fun when other games do it, and 2.) This is more than just menus you have to go through – it’s the main gameplay feature. Compare this to its contemporaries, where you move the cursor to select objects in the overworld when it’s time for that, but all dialogue options are a controller button. While this might initially seem like it limits you to only four options, I’m sure they could have made adding bumpers and triggers into the fray so that they could keep it open.
If you like visual novels, you’ll love this game. If you wondered what Telltale games would be like if your choices actually mattered, you’ll enjoy this. However, stripping away at the parts that make it a game, poor transition to console, and unnecessary melodrama bog down what would be an otherwise excellent story.