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August 2022

As Dusk Falls

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Xbox Games Studios
Release Date: July 19, 2022


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Xbox Series X Review - 'As Dusk Falls'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 21, 2022 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

As Dusk Falls is a multi-generational story set in the American Southwest about resilience, sacrifice and how the mistakes of the older generation transmit to the younger.

It's difficult to replicate the experience of watching a movie or television show with friends. Lately, there have been quite a few games that attempt to mix the casual enjoyment of watching something with the interaction of a game. Games like The Quarry and its ilk have moved from single-player-only experiences to multiplayer party games. As Dusk Falls is the latest in this type of games, moving away from the horror genre toward a gritty crime thriller. The result is pretty neat, but it's not without its flaws.

As Dusk Falls is divided into two parts. The first part revolves around a standoff at a small Arizona hotel. A vacationing family and the owner and her employee are taken hostage by a group of would-be robbers who are in way over their head. This part of the game revolves largely around two characters: Vince Walker, the father of the family, and Jay Holt, the youngest member of the family of robbers. You hop back and forth between the two characters, seeing the situations that led them to the fateful day at the hotel, and the narrative is told through the perspective of flashbacks from Vince's daughter, Zoe, who was six at the time.

This part of the story was tremendously engaging. There's a solid cast of well-defined characters, and a huge chunk of the story depends on the interplay between them. Like many games of the type, there's clearly a limit to how far things can go off course, but As Dusk Falls does a great job of building tension. Pretty much the only person you know is safe is Zoe, and that makes your choices feel like they have more consequences, especially once they build upon one another. With this part of the game, I was engaged from start to finish.

Part 2 loses the story flow. It follows characters after the events of the first chapter, but it feels disjointed and poorly earned. Instead of the coherent narrative in the first segment, Part 2 jumps around and relies on a lot of unsatisfying twists and moments. I made choices to keep the narrative from ending up in a ditch, but the result is that everything felt weird and off. It's possible that there are paths that make this more exciting, but the ones I explored felt unsatisfying. Characters vanished from the narrative, and in some cases, it felt more confusing than justified, such as one of the most major plot drivers basically disappearing until a five-second slide at the very end of the game.

Perhaps the most frustrating part involves the flash-forwards to Zoe in 2012. I can easily imagine a story path where these moments feel earned and natural, but they didn't in the way that I played; the game had to have Zoe flash back to something that didn't actually happen to her in my playthrough. It feels like the game really expects you to keep Zoe in danger as often as possible for the story to make sense, but that goes against how the characters act and behave. The result is that when her story reaches a climax, it felt like it was lacking something to give it some "punch."

This is my core complaint about the narrative. It expects you to have characters make bad and selfish choices. You don't have to, but if you don't, everything beyond Part 1 loses its impact. It's too easy to get Zoe written largely out of the story, which makes the flash-forwards feel less earned because she didn't have as big of an impact. The ending also felt tremendously unsatisfying with a twist in the last five seconds that don't fit into the story that I had played.

It's difficult to say how true this will be for all players, as the game has a lot of variation. After each chapter, you can unlock a flow chart of the various available choices, showing you where paths can branch off. You can go back to major decision points and change your answers, allowing you to see paths that you hadn't seen before, but some require you to have made different decisions earlier in the game. It's clear there is a lot of potential for a story that was more satisfying than mine, but I didn't get there in my attempts.

A big part of this may be connected to the fact that the game is designed to be played in multiplayer, where multiple people can play the game together and vote on choices. Players get a limited number of "overrides" to force their choice. Having multiple people directing the story seems like it would work a lot better for creating interesting outcomes, but when you have only one person guiding the story, it isn't as effective.

As Dusk Falls has an interesting art style, effectively using painted still art that moves sequentially to mimic the feel of a comic book. It's a bit odd at first and occasionally leads to a silly-looking scene, but it lends the game a distinct feeling, helping it feel more like a comic book in motion than a lot of other similar games. The voice acting is largely quite good. There are a couple of duds but not among the major characters. The worst I can say is that some voice actors tend to overact a bit. Overall, it's a nice experience.

As Dusk Falls is a fun little entry into the multiplayer movie-game genre. It's neat to see a crime thriller as opposed to a horror movie and that alone lends it some charm. Unfortunately, the second half of the story meanders and is more disconnected than the first half, but it still is worth experiencing at least once. It doesn't quite stick the landing as hard as you'd hope, but it has a lot of potential as a party game.

Score: 8.0/10

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