While As Dusk Falls’ unique animation style stands out, it’s very much in the Detroit: Become Human and The Walking Dead sub-genre of adult choose your own adventure games due to the branching timeline structure.
With a sprawling storyline, complex family dynamics, and a lot of violence, it’s not quite a romp to chuckle along with like The Quarry was a couple of months ago.
That does put more pressure on the narrative to be strong, though, as it’ll be hard to stick with if the characters and choices aren’t engaging.
A Fast-Paced Story
Thankfully, As Dusk Falls spins a good tale. It starts quickly and never really slows down. After quickly being introduced to Vince, who you play as for a good chunk of the game, and the antagonist Holt brothers, the drama kicks off and a hostage situation escalates.
There’s a corrupt cop, strained family dynamics, bad dads, and a teenager who feels pressured to impress his older brothers, so the story is filled with thriller tropes and it’s not afraid to be predictable.
However, the characters are interesting enough to keep the story flowing. Vince in particular, who is played excellently by Elias Toufexis, develops a strong dynamic with most of the other characters as a Dad simply trying to do the best for his family.
Elsewhere, there’s enough in the peripheral characters to make you want to know not only where their story goes, but what their background is. The second half of the story is a little more scattershot, though, exploring different themes and switching between timelines a lot more regularly.
The acting is good across the board too, with some credit going to the quality of the dialogue.
As expected from a story that’s pretty predictable, there are some cheesy lines you’ll roll your eyes at, but conversations and confrontations mostly feel natural.
Choices That Matter
The choice-based dialogue is also well designed. The shortened choice options always match up with the sentiment of the actual dialogue well, unlike in many of Quantic Dream's games, and there was only one instance when I didn’t think either option fit the situation properly in a pivotal decision.
The choice element is probably As Dusk Falls' strongest aspect too. Seemingly significant decisions were thrown at me frequently, and I often found myself stumped by which option to pick.
I found the push and pull between wanting to finish the story and going back to see what the other options led to really engaging.
As Dusk Falls’ timeline feature is excellent. At a glance, you can quickly see how many other possible branches there are, the community choice percentages, and how certain crossroads choices affect the rest of the game.
You can also jump back into the timeline at almost any point to try the other options and see where they lead.
From our own time spent jumping back into what we didn’t see the first time, it’s clear that the choices in As Dusk Falls can be really impactful, changing massive parts of the story in game-changing ways.
The ease of jumping in and out of different parts of the story will also make multiplayer more seamless.
INTERIOR/NIGHT suggests playing the game with friends, via online or local co-op, or via the Companion App, and I think having the ability to see what choices lead to what without wasting time replaying long sections will make the party play side of As Dusk Falls a lot more enjoyable.
The story isn’t the kind you laugh along to, like Supermassive’s schlocky horror games, so As Dusk Falls needed to make multiplayer fun in different ways. The accessible timeline should do that.
However, a lot of your interaction is quick time event-based rather than dialogue-focused. They’re extremely simple - requiring no more than the movement of the right stick and the tapping of A - so they’ll never be challenging, but they’re also not very engaging.
You do them, you move on. Not once was I stressed about getting one done, only missing one or two inputs because I relaxed too much and took my hands off the controller.
You will notice some input delay on the stick movements, though, which can be unsettling at first. However, you’re never under enough time pressure for it to really be an issue.
The problem is more annoying on the main menu screen. I even checked I had the correct picture setting active on my TV due to the severity of the movement delay.
An Animation Style That Won’t Be for Everyone
There is an elephant in the room, though. The comic book watercolour painting animation style won’t be for everyone. In fact, I can see it being a complete turn-off for a lot of players.
For me, it worked for the most part, but it does diminish how dramatic As Dusk Falls can be in certain scenes.
The picture changes every second or two, with the background usually staying the same and the characters’ body language and facial expressions changing to match what they’re saying.
In the slower, more conversational moments, I think it works well. It’s undeniably gorgeous art, and the cinematography keeps the presentation cinematic.
The characters are all that stay still. The camera is always moving and leaves will sway in the wind in the background. It’s not just a sequence of still images, it’s shot in a cinematic way, just with the characters only moving every couple of seconds. It does put more pressure on the acting, though, with emotion through dialogue being absolutely vital to counter the lack of physical expression possible.
The comic book style even allows you to fill in the gaps between shots, letting you imagine how the character would be moving and what’s happening around them. If anything, I found myself more invested in some moments than I may have been if As Dusk Falls was presented in a more traditional way.
It’s not perfect, though. In more action-packed scenes, such as chases and shootouts, it’s really easy to lose track of what’s going on. The shot changes become more frequent, but they’re coupled with the setting changing more regularly, to the point it’s off-putting.
If you don’t find the animation style in As Dusk Falls distracting, there’s an interesting story to follow that you can impact in a variety of ways. It’s a thriller full of cliches, but the freedom you have to play with the timeline makes for a decent amount of fun.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X with code provided by the publisher.