‘As Dusk Falls’ review: A sluggish small-town soap opera

As Dusk Falls is an ambitious narrative adventure game that fails to live up to its greatest ideas and tears through tensions in the process. It attempts to tell a mature, action-packed story about family and loss, but repeated missteps in logic and emotion sap the story’s power. From the mechanics to the branching narrative itself, As Dusk Falls sets clear goals and then misses them, resulting in a choppy southwestern soap opera peppered with sluggish quick-time events.

It feels like this game was made specifically for me to review. I am a native of Arizona and the high desert regions where most As Dusk Falls take place are home for me; I grew up hiking the mountain trails outside of Flagstaff, camping among creosote bushes and pines, and partying at the edges of the valley surrounded by saguaros and dust. I know how the landscape changes along I-17 from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, the mountains swallowing flat, arid land and spewing out smooth red rocks and craggy black cliffs.

I love my hometown and was thrilled to see it portrayed in a video game, particularly at a new UK studio led by Caroline Marchal, lead designer of heavy rain and Beyond two souls. As for the setting As Dusk Falls mostly does it right. I won’t go into too much detail here – the landscape shifts unrealistically from the northern to the southern desert, and all the exit signs are European – because the setting does its job of grounding the characters in an isolated city.

As Dusk Falls


What really irritates is the dialect As Dusk Falls, which borrows heavily from stereotypical rural words like “ma” for mom, “pa” for papa and “pappy” for grandpa. Those terms aren’t the norm in Arizona, even in small desert towns, and they come off as a cheap attempt to instill generic “hillbilly” traits in characters.

I could forget the cliche twists if they weren’t symptomatic of the game as a whole. As Dusk Falls attempts to tell a realistic story that deals with adult themes like death, suicide, and generational trauma, but it lays a Hollywood filter over all of its scenes, complete with small-town caricatures, bubbling deathbed monologues, and sociopathic reactions to murder. As Dusk Falls doesn’t let its dramatic moments breathe and stifles the tension from the game as a whole.

As Dusk Falls begins in 1998 and features a variety of characters, although the main story focuses on two families – one from small town Arizona and the other on a drive from Sacramento to St. Louis. The local family consists of three brothers who are about to grow up, plus mom and dad. The traveling family consists of a father and mother in their early 30s, their daughter who is around 10 years old and her grandfather. You play most of the game as the youngest local and father of the traveling family.

As Dusk Falls


These families cross paths at a motel in the middle of the desert, where the brothers get into an altercation with the sheriff’s department and hold everyone in the lobby hostage at gunpoint. As the confrontation unfolds, players control the father of the traveling family, deciding what to say and do in response to the brothers’ commands. Switching between past and present for both families, the game shows how they ended up in such a desperate situation, and the choices players make determine how the story unfolds.

Although the narrative extends beyond the motel, there are numerous examples of lost suspense in the hostage scenes alone. Details vary based on the choices each player makes, but in my time with the game, two significant characters were shot and killed at the motel in front of all the hostages. These characters had strong, loving bonds with the remaining group members, yet their deaths were rarely acknowledged. Instead, characters who should have been consumed with grief — or what any Emotion – were soon having conversations about their travel plans and career moves, with hardly a word for the dear departed.

As Dusk Falls


in the As Dusk Falls, it feels like a character has served their purpose the second they die; The moment someone steps off the screen, they’re forgotten. This is a trap of interactive storytelling – even hits like Until dawn Have awkward pauses or nonsensical dialogue when the writers didn’t properly consider all of the player’s choices. Still, in a game based on narrative progression, these anomalies should have been addressed. This is also worth mentioning As Dusk Falls can be played with friends online and locally, although I’ve only tried single player.

The motel is a chaos of dramatic but illogical events: the father exits the hostage situation several times and always ends up running back to his captors, throwing out a line like “but my family is in there” as an explanation. Characters disappear and suddenly reappear when it’s time for a big story beat – and that includes the entire sheriff’s squad. In the midst of an active, already deadly standoff, a woman is allowed into the motel. And don’t get me started on Dad’s two-way pager, which doesn’t have a keyboard but still kind of works like a modern text app.

As Dusk Falls expands beyond ’90s Arizona, travels across the country and 14 years into the future. Most of the drama in the game feels forced and undeserved, and what’s left plays like a soap opera, thriving on superficial emotions and oddly timed monologues.

https://www.engadget.com/as-dusk-falls-review-xbox-indie-161733419.html?src=rss ‘As Dusk Falls’ review: A sluggish small-town soap opera

Russell Falcon

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