As Dusk Falls is an interactive point-and-click game developed by INTERIOR/NIGHT where your choices truly matter. The game was first unveiled during the 2022 Xbox and Bethesda showcase. Set around a robbery gone wrong during the 1990s in a small Arizona town, the story was a thrill ride from start to finish. The world was populated with wonderfully realized. characters. However, the game was let down by probably one of the most frustrating endings in recent times.
As Dusk Falls Story – A Robbery Gone Wrong
As Dusk Falls’ story was engaging and tense through and through and its characters were well-written for the most part. The game takes place in 1998 and jumps between the past and the future. The past events sometimes occur months or weeks before the events of the game.
In As Dusk Falls, you take control of multiple characters throughout the story. Vince Walker is a family man and airplane mechanic. After a workplace accident, his company terminated his contract, and a lawsuit followed where a settlement was reached. Vince hasn’t decided whether to sign yet, but if he does, it’s professional suicide. Despite this ordeal, Vince and his family already decided to move on and start a new chapter in their lives. His wife, Michelle, took on the opportunity to relocate their family to her hometown of Missouri as a fresh start. During their road trip to Missouri, Vince, Micelle, and their 6-year-old daughter, Zoe, end up in Arizona and that is where the plot of the game unfolds.
Meanwhile, the other character players will control is Jay Holt. His family has not left Arizona in 150 years. The family fell on some hard times due to a debt their father, Bear, accumulated with loan sharks. Jay and his two older brothers, decide to rob the town’s Sheriff Dante Romero’s home. Unexpectedly, the Sheriff returns home and finds the Holt boys. A brief altercation occurs and the brother run off to the Desert Dream Motel to evade police. That also happens to be the same location where Vince and his family are, and an unnerving hostage situation transpires.
A majority of the game’s plot occurs in the Motel and your decisions have a profound impact on the game’s narrative and characters. I felt engrossed in As Dusk Falls’ narrative, to the point where key decisions were gut-wrenching moments because I knew they would have an impact on different characters.
Solid Characters… For the Most Part
The game did an excellent job in its plot and character writing. In particular, the main controllable characters were relatable and I sympathized with their situations. I was always determined to choose the very best option given their situations. However, some of the supporting cast did not cut it for me, and I could not find it in me to care about them. Especially Vince’s dad, Jim, who was absent for the majority of Vince’s life, tries to make amends, but his demeanor is literally a stereotypical grumpy old man. Though I must admit Jim’s relationship with Zoe is quite touching.
There were lighter moments sprinkled throughout the story, which I appreciated because the game’s plot is quite heavy. One particular moment stood out to me when Vince was playing I spy with Zoe. It was a candid and lovely moment of father-daughter bonding. However, there were certain decisions that I felt could be impactful, but in the end, they just fizzled out. For instance, Jay was helping his dad with an important, yet illegal, task (which I will not spoil) and Bear tests his son to complete the task in order to prove his character. But in the end, it did not impact their relationship in the way I thought it would. This occurred a few times, but it was not too detrimental to the game. I did not feel there were any loose threads left and the narrative cleanly tied up any loose threads, until the ending that is.
A Frustrating Ending (No Spoilers)
Despite an enthralling narrative, As Dusk Falls’ ending was a major letdown. The game ended quite abruptly, and that dampened my feelings regarding my time with the game. The game goes through a lot of storylines and character arcs, but the ending seems to just add another thread out of nowhere. It was frustrating because I had become emotionally invested in the narrative and storyline and the ending just circled back.
I understand why the developers decided to come up with this sort of ending, but it felt cheap and uninspired in my opinion. I have not been this disappointed with a game’s ending since the original Mass Effect 3 ending all those years ago.
The game offers choices of how players want to engage the game, though there is a bit of wonkiness to it. There are your standard controller, mouse, or mobile companion app options available to players. Though, the latter is where issues begin to sink in. After downloading the app, you are prompted to input a passcode to link your device to the game. However, the app stipulates that both the phones and console/PC must be connected to the same internet connection.
If you are hardwired in, this is where problems occur. I could not for the life of me, connect using my phone when my Xbox Series X was plugged in via ethernet cable. Although connecting it to WiFi, alleviated the issue, it was inconvenient and worth noting.
Once all the players were settled in, the game controls like any other point-and-click title. You can hover your cursor over areas in a location to search for items and clues. You can adjust the speed of the pointer to your liking. I felt the default speed was quite slow for my taste.
Quick Time Events (QTEs) are plentiful and have short response times which require constant vigilance. However, some of the QTE sequences felt inconsequential. For instance, early on in the game, Jay Holt is sneaking into Sherrif Dante’s backyard. There to greet him is a hungry-looking Doberman named Cleetus. A QTE sequence kicks in and you have to choose how to deal with the hound (either throwing a stick, sneaking past it, or gently talking to the dog). In the end, it did not matter which one you chose, because the same thing happened every time. Illusion of choice is almost always a requirement in these kinds of games, but typically the illusion is not so poorly disguised.
As Dusk Falls Sports Unique Graphics and Art Direction
As Dusk Falls boasts a unique art style that is unlike anything I have seen in gaming. Characters are hyperdetailed 2D stills that look like oil paintings on a storyboard. Each character has a tremendous amount of detail including minor details from moles to wrinkles and scars. Characters such as Zoe, and Vince look like real people that you would see off the streets. Unsurprisingly, the characters were modeled after their respected voice actors. It added a level of groundedness to the game’s art direction.
Characters are void lip-sync obviously, but the stills are regularly changed up to add emotion and presentation to scenes. After an hour in, my mind was already playing tricks on me, and I was envisaging the characters moving and talking in real-time.
Environments are 3D rendered but look reminiscent of PS1-era graphics, where vehicles and terrain have a boxy look to them. At first, I felt the graphics were off-putting because of the storybook look. Eventually, I grew accustomed to it and even appreciated the art direction As Dusk Falls is going for because it was so different and memorable at the same time.
Audio and Soundtrack
When it comes to the game’s audio and soundtrack, both are on point. The vocal performances were great. Some standouts include Elias Toufexis, who voiced Vince, Jack Bandeira, portraying Dale Holt, and Francisco Labbe who voiced Sheriff Dante Romero. The high quality voice actors were imperative because of the work they had to do to bring still characters to life. Luckily, they went above and beyond this demand and delivered great performances.
Though, maybe my finely tuned ears can clearly tell the voice acting was recorded in a studio. In that I mean, you can tell it is a sterile recording environment, and perhaps the audio mixing levels could have done a better job to blend the voice acting with ambient noises and the soundtrack.
The soundtrack is another home run for As Dusk Falls. Because the game takes place in the late 1990s, expect a lot of classic radio tunes that will definitely hit nostalgic vibes.
As Dusk Fall performed well without game-breaking issues. There were occasional graphical glitches where the outlines of characters would glimmer awkwardly. Even if you paused the game, you could still see the shimmering outlines.
Other times, characters looked pixelated and really stood out when these issues occurred. It felt like buffering on a video stream. But again, they were not determinantal to my time with the game and occurred few and far apart.
The tagline of As Dusk Falls is that it will hold a mirror to your soul, and they mean it. At the conclusion of every chapter, the game will rate how you played and how quick you were to pull off the QTEs. In addition, the game will let you know how many other players followed the same decisions as you. This is standard in interactive story games that Telltale popularized since 2012.
However, you will learn quickly that consequences do not follow a linear path. Sometimes they are immediate, other times they take a while to manifest. Because of this, you will constantly second guess your choices, especially during key crossroad choices. The game will let you know when these choices are important, but it is still nerve-wracking to settle on a decision.
As a family man myself, I was biased towards family and loyalty-oriented decision-making. It told the story in a way that reflects my real-world traits. So, yes both the mirror and the soul are definitely there when you play As Dusk Falls. Even, though you might want to experiment with some unorthodox choices, I guarantee you that the severity of the plot and its potential consequences means you will likely play it with your heart on your sleeve. Your second play-through will probably be an experimentation phase in order to see other branches of the narrative.
There are some note-worthy quality of life features that the game offers. Players can choose specific checkpoints to reload to see a different narrative branch. This will definitely help save time in a second playthrough if you want to experience how different choices impact the plot.
In total, As Dusk Falls took me around 8 hours to complete and it was a wild rollercoaster ride from start to finish. Luckily, the game did not overstay its welcome, like other games tend to do these days.
The game’s multiplayer adds a whole new dimension to its gameplay. I played for a couple of hours with my wife. Like me, she was immediately taken by the characters, situations, and stories. In the game’s multiplayer, players can override each other choices. Each player is allocated three overrides. At one point, I wanted to conduct a social experiment, so I overrode one of her choices. She was frustrated, but then I kindly explained to her she can do the same to me. With that knowledge in hand, the narrative became a push-and-pull emotional rollercoaster, in-game of course.
That was such a unique experience that I am sure both my wife and I will remember. It brought out As Dusk Falls tension-filled narrative and pitted it between us. The game also offers broadcaster mode where you can stream it over Twitch and your viewers can select decisions. But don’t worry, if you are feeling brave, you can override your audience’s choices to see how they react.
Final Thoughts on As Dusk Falls
As Dusk Falls delivered an enthralling narrative with solid characters to follow. The game’s original graphics and art direction were off-putting at first but grew on me over time. The soundtrack and voice acting were both excellent. Multiplayer was well realized and added a whole new dimension to the gameplay. Though the game’s ending was a huge letdown and felt cheap overall. Despite this, As Dusk Falls is a solid experience and is worthy of your time.