I’ve been dipping here and there into random video games recently on my Xbox and found myself downloading As Dusk Falls on Xbox’s Game Pass with the idea of eventually playing/watching it when I had some down time. Turns out, I had plenty of downtime while playing this. I wanted so badly to like this, as I have other narrative games like Life is Strange, but this one falls flat in the end with almost all of the climax being saved for a later unannounced sequel. I’ll be brief as I can and bare story spoilers will be revealed!
The narrative in this game is relatively easy to follow and not at all ground breaking: You play as multiple characters in a narrative that seemingly intertwines with each other as a very intense story unfolds. You start off as Vince, a father and husband who’s traveling east from the west coast to St. Louis with his wife, daughter, and estranged father. Along the way, you bump into the Holt brothers which the game then switches the narrative to the younger brother, Jay. As you progress in the story, a lot of retelling of pass events paint the present tense picture of either what’s happened or what’s to come. The story is set between two years: 1998 and 2012, with multiple narratives told within weeks and days of the present events.
As you progress, you unlock multiple pathways in the storyboard that can be accessed with each playthrough in the game and offers different dialogues or situations. It’s more or like Telltale’s Walking Dead games, but there are a TON of branching stories that the game cleverly advertises with empty boxes on your chapter progression screen after each chapter.
I honestly liked some of the choices in game and was eager to make progress, the the issues here were in line with my gripes with the first iteration of Rockstar’s L.A Noire where some of my choices didn’t turn out like I wanted. One example here is that Vince’s dad, Jim, asks if I could instead let him move in with Vince’s family once they settled in. I chose the option of “Let me talk to my wife” about it, but I personally didn’t think of it as a “Yes” answer. If it were more clear, I’d have much more control over what was said. I think more control should’ve been advised when making the choices.
Another issue is that the story heavily relies on flashback episodes and that’s where you spend the majority of the game at. I don’t mind them in spurts here and there, but it’s disorienting when I’m in a present cutscene, dive into a long flashback that takes up a whole episode, start a new episode and enter into ANOTHER flashback before returning to the present for JUST 10 minutes before going back. I understand that the story building needs to happen and it does well in some parts, but I’m hardly in the present making the choices I need in the first place. Some of the flashbacks are longer than need be and just set up a rushed outcome you can see coming. It’s almost like this game is a development build of itself and they instead released that.
Now I know you can’t tell from the pictures, but there game isn’t fully animated. The character models move and respond similar to the Adult Swim TV show, Tim and Eric, where you get individual frames for movement. The world around them moves at the normal pace, but it does create a jarring visual after a while. I actually don’t mind it, but I know a lot of people will have gripes and it’s reasonable.
All in all the game isn’t that bad, but doesn’t have the weight of its choices to match the same ones from other narrative games. It feels like it’s almost there with where it wants to be, but falls flat and doesn’t want to reveal anything other than a possible sequel. I liked the characters here, although Zoe sort’ve didn’t get the correct screen time as others and that’s where you needed her to so you felt more about her. There are some plot holes here that I won’t reveal, but it’s a decent narrative. I just wish it wasn’t “just” decent as this title was revealed strongly to the Xbox base as a strong console game in the new quarter. If this company does do another sequel, push the envelope a little and don’t be afraid to fully flesh this story out.