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Review: Until Dawn.

Until Dawn is a game along the lines of games like Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy. However, those games seem to hit a few snags along the way. Does Until Dawn fall for the same mistakes, or does it have some intelligence? It sets up a great atmosphere and mystery but does the most important part of this game (namely the story) have what it takes to be enjoyable?

Your actions will shape how the story unfolds.

Until Dawn follows seven teenagers as they return to a private mountain area of a friend one year after the death of said friend’s tow sisters. When the eight arrive at their cabin they soon discover they are not alone and someone or something is out to kill them. The plot follows the horror movie tropes and relishes in them. The teenagers all seem to embody a cliché of the movie genre. You got the “nerd”, the “jock”,the bitch, etc. The only problem is that beyond that; they don’t really show much character. Even some of the cliché characters are grossly underplayed as the so-called jock and nerd don’t really seem to show much of that with the exception of a visual hint that the writers and character designer thought was enough to constitute as a token character. The dialogue seems pretty on point with what it’s trying to do. At the start of the game dialogue feels relatively tongue-in-cheek cheesy however when the game picks up it feels like the dialogue becomes more standardized and while this is not a problem, characters lines at the halfway point seem to boil down to crying and whining. In most cases it would be okay but Until Dawn seems to be filled with it to the point that it can get slightly annoying. However where the main problem of Until Dawn lies, is in its plot which seems to begin strong. There is a murderer and a lot of other super-natural events occur; setting up a good mystery. However, when the revelation comes it does an M. Night Shyamalan level plot twist for the sake of having a plot-twist. It completely drags you out, of the until then enjoyable, experience. From that point on the game changes from a Slasher genre to a different genre. This normally wouldn’t be that much of a problem however the first half of the plot set-up an interesting mystery which sadly gets discarded for a slightly less interesting plot. And that’s what the main problem with Until Dawn is. It’s a game with little gameplay which would be completely acceptable if the main and most important part of the game; the plot was actually well-developed.  

Boom. Butterfly Effect.

Until Dawn’s gameplay can easily be compared to games such as Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls. The player walks around in an environment, picks up objects, investigates them, talks and makes choices as to what to do to progress the plot. Action sequences are what could be described as something along the lines of a quick-time event but with more player input and interaction. One of the main things about Until Dawn is the Butterfly Effect. This means any action the player undertakes, how small or insignificant, can have big consequences in the future. However, a lot of buttons can be missed with little to no consequences either the game continues; or it asks the player to redo it. These usually are the smaller choices as most really big consequences seem to decide whether a character lives or dies, but rarely will it decide anything else. In that way Until Dawn, to some degree, delivers on the changes in the story however it seems to only be either one person is dead or he/she’s still alive.

For the rest, the game plays relatively the same with some characters being either alone or with a companion. Totems can be found throughout the game which reveals part of the mystery and shows premonitions of future thing to come. These can be changed however giving you the opportunity to let a character survive for longer. There is nothing wrong with the way Until Dawn does its gameplay. However it seems like most decisions only affects slight changes in dialogue or scenes. The ones that do affect the plot seem to only decide if a character lives or dies. And while it seems to mostly involve the deaths of certain characters that’s what Until Dawn supposedly does best. Just don’t expect big changes like The Witcher or Mass Effect. The ending seems to stay relatively the same just with a different group or number of survivors.

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Sometimes I just forget to stop and just take it all in.

One thing Until Dawn certainly does right is the graphical presentation. The game looks gorgeous. With characters face models looking almost life-like and environments being gorgeous. The locations visited looked amazing and felt as if they could be from a Resident Evil remake DLC chapter. All environments look haunted and creepy and all seem to have some kind of disturbing history. And it seems the developers knew this as well since half of the time it feels Supergiant Games is gloating about the graphical capabilities their engine has. When idle for nothing more like 10 seconds the camera decides to lock on the character’s faces that gives off a tech demo vibe more than an actual game. The psychiatric sections also shows signs of this as the face of the psychiatrist is modeled exactly like actor Peter Stormare. However a lot of the time the Psyche model starts doing weird and out-of-place facial animations or goes and overreact in an obvious way to show off how good their models look. It comes over as a pretentious and gloating kind of way. That being said it’s hard to tell if some cut scenes are CGI or if it’s in engine which shows just how amazing it looks. But it doesn’t need to be shoved in the player’s face. One nice addition to the game is the behind the scenes footage showing people talk about the characters and story of the game. It’s a nice addition and a feature that hasn’t been that common since some Playstation 2, Xbox or GameCube games. Until dawn is a real looker, sadly that’s about everything the game really has to offer.

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Closing note:

Until Dawn is a game that’s for a specific audience. A lot of people don’t seem to like the passive gameplay. And for those, while this game does it ways better than any effort Quantic Dreams has ever put out, it will certainly not change their mind. The game looks amazing, probably one of the best looking games out there if not the best. As a horror game it has a few hits and a few misses. For every good intense or disturbing scene there are two more cheap jump-scares. The shrink sections seem to have a lot in common with Silent Hill Shattered Memories but it doesn’t do the psychological stuff in a subtle way; more than ask you what you think is grosser with the selected object sitting in plain sight to scare or disturb the player. It’s lazy and could have been done way better. All in all Until Dawn, while not as badly, seems to fall into the same hole as a Quantic Dreams games in that it feels pretensions and comes over as being ashamed of its medium; thinking it can do it better without a solid story and real actual consequences. There still is enjoyment in the game however. It homages and references the horror movie genre People who liked a Quantic Dreams-esque game, but done good, will love this.

6/10

 

I'm a fun loving guy who like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and long walks on the beach. I work hard, I play hard. Must like cats. Ugos need not apply. If you want to ask me anything you can contact me at yordi.verhoene@gmail.com