As Dusk Falls really wants to be your next Netflix binge. Never mind that it's technically a video game – a six-episode miniseries about a small-time heist gone bad, and the intertwining trauma of two families caught in the aftermath. It rides a fine line between game and television, but strong characters, great pacing, and choices that feel meaningful in the moment make that line worth walking.
The developers at Interior/Night have their roots at Quantic Dream, the studio behind games like Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human. Those influences are clear in As Dusk Falls, which is as much an interactive film as it is a game. The bulk of your interactions consist of choosing dialog options and completing quick-time events, with no real puzzles to be solved and minimal opportunities for exploration.
A certain point of view
Platform(s): Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Release date: June 19, 2022
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
As Dusk Falls regularly switches perspectives, so you're not really playing a specific protagonist for any real length of time. The story opens with a focus on Jay, the most hapless of three brothers on the run after a robbery gone bad, and Vince, a father whose family is taken hostage by the brothers. You play from the perspective of a few other characters over the course of the game, but the central plot always comes back to the intertwining fates of the two families.
While the core characters are often at odds, they're all sympathetic enough to root for. I want Vince to get his family to safety as much as I want Jay to stay ahead of the corrupt cops hunting him down, and that means I'm never disappointed by having to play the 'villain' during a perspective switch. Instead, I'm eagerly getting into each character's head as the perspective changes, making it all the more intriguing as characters that I like decide whether or not they like each other.
You can often feel as much like a director as a character in As Dusk Falls, looking at your decisions not just as a way to get your current avatar into better circumstances, but as a way to build the most compelling story you can. Does a character's desire to stay safe outweigh how much I, the player, want to give that corrupt cop what's coming to him?
Terrific TV-style pacing also helps elevate As Dusk Falls' storytelling. Each of the six chapters is about an hour long, and structured like an episode of television, with its own subplots and cliffhangers that tie into the larger overall plot, stringing you along with that 'just one more episode' feeling.
Netflix, but make it multiplayer
As Dusk Falls uses painted-over photographs of live-action actors in a sort of motion comic style, but the scenes manage to avoid feeling static with fantastic direction and pacing. A few climactic action sequences, in fact, are downright exhilarating. Performances from the central cast are largely great, too, though a handful of minor characters can often feel a bit cartoonish compared to the main players.
Choice-driven story games, like those made by Quantic Dream or Telltale Games, have always made for great ad hoc multiplayer experiences – where you can debate which decisions to make with some like-minded friends – but As Dusk Falls makes that way of playing an official mode. Up to eight players can pick up controllers (or phones, using a companion app that has not yet been released at the time of writing this review) to vote on decisions and tag-team the QTEs.
While simply giving multiple players a way to vote through a story-driven game seems obvious, playing through As Dusk Falls with my partner really did add a new dimension to the story. Smaller choices typically give you a 15-second timer to make a decision, which is just enough time to have a frantic debate over whether to, say, try to calm an angry guard dog or make a run for it.
Larger "crossroads" decisions, which have more long-term effects on the story, don't have a timer, which means you can put the controller down and talk through where you think the characters are at and where you want the story to go. (Or, if you can't come to a consensus, you can take advantage of the devilishly conceived override system and spend one of your limited points to force the decision to go a certain way.)
Pruning the branches
Those choices all feel big and impactful in the moment you're making them, though replaying As Dusk Falls' six chapters can make clear just how limited some of the paths actually are. There are some major story events that can take very different forms, particularly around the game's ending, but replays quickly reveal that most of As Dusk Falls' scenes broadly play out in similar ways no matter what you do, with certain characters easily slotting in for each other if your choices determine a different way for events to unfold.
To As Dusk Falls' credit, it lets you explore those narrative branches in a very hands-on way. A massive story tree for each chapter shows how key scenes can diverge, and lets you replay those scenes to make different decisions and unlock further permutations. Many of the game's big decisions carry consequences across multiple chapters, and even if it's tough to take individual scenes off the rails, the cumulative effects of those decisions still feels meaningful as the story progresses – at least when it comes to the emotional stakes for the characters. In other words, your decisions can have big effects on the story, if not always the plot.
Even if not every choice has a world-shaking consequence, I still put much more time into exploring that narrative tree than I really needed to while playing As Dusk Falls, all because I liked the characters so much that I wanted to see what they'd reveal under a different set of circumstances. As Dusk Falls successfully bridges the gap between TV and games with an engaging, well-paced story that's full of memorable characters, and it reminds me of why I love this style of narrative-driven game in the first place.
As Dusk Falls was reviewed on Xbox Series X, with code provided by the publisher.