Tuesday, May 28, 2024

As Dusk Falls Review – a compelling American tale from start to finish

If As Dusk Falls could be summed up in a single quote, “wrong place, wrong time” would probably be the most appropriate.

Set in the late 1990s in Arizona, As Dusk Falls follows two families: the Walker family of Vince, Michelle, Jim and Zoe, a unit wracked by legal trouble, and the family of the Holts, consisting of three brothers Tyler, Dale and Jay, as well as their mother, Sharon, and their father, Bear.

After a robbery goes wrong, these two families are brought together in the most hostile of ways, leaving players no other choice but to try and balance devastation that doesn’t look to just threaten those trying to stop it, but cause irreversible emotional damage to those left in its wake.

As someone who loves interactive drama and visual novels with a compelling narrative and art-style, I found myself thoroughly hooked into the storyline and the thread between the two families from the moment I was first introduced to these characters. Vince, a jokey, kind guy who wants nothing more but the best for his daughter Zoe, and Jay, the shy and introverted Holt that wants nothing but to escape their crime-fuelled influence were both hard not to like. The same can be said for the majority of the cast in all honesty, especially when you’ve got incredible performances from Sam Douglas (Heavy Rain) and Jane Perry (Cyberpunk 2077, Returnal), whose sharp tongues and wicked snark brings the poison with each and every interaction between the marital couple – a sharp contrast to the sweet, but uncommunicative relationship between Vince and his wife, Michelle.

As Dusk Falls
The Holts and Walkers clash after a robbery takes a turn for the worst

In fact, family drama and relationships is arguably what carries the majority of As Dusk Falls narrative beats. When Vince and his family are threatened by the danger the Holts pose, it’s Vince’s desire to see his family safe and sound that forces him to do things that he’s never done before; whether that be holding a gun, lying with ease, or making life-changing decisions – all of which affect the narrative threads that keep the story going. Then there’s Jay, Vince’s foil, who only feels burdened and stifled by his family unit, helpless to their whims and frustrated that his love for them has left him branded as ‘trailer trash’.

With two very different families come two very unique pathways, and it’s up to players how to handle these paths, and with so many options to pick from? It’s not hyperbole to say that to get the full experience you’ll need to play this game more than once or twice. Thankfully, the developers at INTERIOR/NIGHT have kept this in mind, and as such, has implemented a system that allows you to replay sections in small parts instead of forcing you to replay the game again and again. That option is still there of course, but it’s great for those of us who just want to try something different without having to sacrifice 6-8 hours each and every time.

There is also local and global multiplayer, with the option for streamers to allow whoever is in their comments to play their own role in As Dusk Falls by picking their own selection of choices. I played a few hours with a friend and found that the multiplayer aspect, while cool, didn’t truly differ in any real way outside of giving you the option to enjoy the game together and occasionally come into conflict. It feels very much like sitting down to watch a show together. Fun, but certainly not mandatory for you to get the full enjoyment of this interactive adventure.

As Dusk Falls
As Dusk Falls feels like an American tale from the get-go

Much like interactive drama games like Heavy Rain and Telltale’s Batman works to convey very real emotions and situations, As Dusk Falls isn’t afraid to showcase the corrupt systems that push humans to the very brink. While both the Holts and the Walkers are conveyed as two very different families, both are plagued by outside forces, whether that be how the Vietnam War pushes Bear into alcohol addiction and gambling, among other things or Vince’s money-grabbing company that gets him into serious trouble in order to hide up their own inadequacies.

All of these struggles that the characters face certainly aren’t limited to just America, but are undeniably exacerbated due to where the game is set. The family unit of both the Holts and Walkers are put through their paces due to the aftershocks of a war and recession that has left American society spread thin, where jobs and workers are few, and the emotional toll of returning to every-day-life is unbearable. Couple that with easy access to guns, and the robbery that leads to the Holts clashing with the Walkers and other civilians surely could not have taken place anywhere else.

The only downside is that, much like its characters, INTERIOR/NIGHT looks to have overextended itself with some of its characters. Despite being about two families, often there would be chapters where we’d move to a character that had very little to do with the plot outside of correcting a plot point or two, which is fine for the most part, but feels out of place overall. In fact, some of these characters are so ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ that you may be as surprised as I was when the game acts as though you’re supposed to know who they are, or their relevence to the tale.

Even so, As Dusk Falls is a compelling tale overall, and one that I’d be more than happy to return to again and again. Especially if INTERIOR/NIGHT ever wants to make a sequel.

As Dusk Falls is available to play on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC when it releases on July 19.

Score: 4/5

As Dusk Falls for PC was provided to Gayming Magazine by Microsoft.

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