Gripping Drama Propels As Dusk Falls

As Dusk Falls Preview

Actions have consequences. Sometimes, the choices you make ripple down the road in unexpected ways. As Dusk Falls is an interactive narrative from developer Interior/Night releasing in July. With a unique art style, pitch-perfect voice acting and painfully difficult choices, As Dusk Falls keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Choice-driven narrative games are nothing new. As Dusk Falls elevates the genre with clearly drawn characters, excellent writing, and decisions that feel consequential. When I play games like this, I often feel like they don’t need to be games at all. My choices are illusionary, and the narrative beats will eventually play out no matter what I do. I never had the sense that As Dusk Falls had this problem. I played the first couple of chapters several times, and the narrative sequence changed dramatically. Sure, the overarching story will be the same, but moment-to-moment things can play out very differently.

Welcome to Arizona

As Dusk Falls begins with a family driving cross-country. A father is somewhat reluctantly heading to a new job with his wife and vivacious young daughter in tow. Other passengers include the dad’s father and his dog. Thanks to sharp dialogue and acting, it’s clear there’s also a lot of tension in the SUV as well. No one gets along all that well.

As they make their way across the Arizona desert, they are run off the road by a speeding truck driven by three brothers with an attitude problem. They speed away, leaving the family stranded at the side of the road with an engine leaking fluid. They set off on foot in search of help.

Cut to the brothers and their parallel storyline. They’re about to commit a crime, and it’s apparent that it isn’t the first time. The brothers are clearly different. The older brother is a leader, the middle brother is a wild card and the youngest brother is hesitant and thoughtful. They’re breaking into the sheriff’s home to steal some cash they know is there. There’s an implication of something underhanded going on. Meanwhile, the family has settled into a forlorn desert motel.

Not long after, the two stories converge. To say more would spoil the fun.

Graphic Novel Come to Life

As Dusk Falls has a unique art style that features hand-painted, animated still images that look very much like a stylish graphic novel. While this aesthetic can sometimes feel a little static, each of the images captures the characters at an expressive moment. To be honest, I wasn’t immediately drawn in to the visuals of Ask Dusk Falls, but they grew on me the more I played and got to know the characters. The images are artistic and expressive.

Player input comes in the form of QuickTime events and dialogue choices, most of which are on a timer, creating a fair amount of tension. As a note, using a controller is a slightly awkward input method. There is also an app, so that you can control the game via a touchpad. You never know until after the fact if a specific choice really changes a narrative. At the end of each chapter, you get a summary of your choices and how it shaped the characters, and you have a chance to revisit your decisions. This is not an entirely new idea — after all, the developer spent time with Quantic Dream — but the readout is clean and clear. There’s also a multiplayer option in which conflicting player choices are resolved by AI randomly choosing the outcome.

Voice acting, music and sound design are all well done. As Dusk Falls is another example of a game where professional vocal talent really elevates the experience. I also appreciated that in general, the dialogue was relatively spare and not too exposition-heavy. Depending on choices, it often left some tantalizing ambiguity.

Noire in the Desert Sun

At least in the chapters I played, As Dusk Falls is entirely free of the supernatural, focusing instead on being a drama-heavy crime story with a lot of psychological tension and character depth. I’ve seen it compared to a slice of Breaking Bad, and that’s not too far off the mark. It also reminded me of a compact, character-driven Stephen King short story. I was hooked nearly from the start, and I’m incredibly excited to see where the narrative and characters go when the game releases in July.

***PC code provided for preview***