Your choices have consequences.
When I had a PS3 I didn’t play Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain, but when I heard about Until Dawn, an interactive horror story/movie for the PS4, I finally took the plunge. This was one of the few games I played and finished long before watching Markiplier play it, and I enjoyed watching his play-through just as much as when I played it.
In Until Dawn a group of teenagers meet up at a remote lodge in the mountains (see they’re already screwed) one year after a similar meet-up resulted in the deaths of Josh’s two sisters (that should be another alarm bell going off!), whose family owns and used to live in the lodge (where the parents are now, who knows!). As soon as the teens meet old tensions, memories, and petty rivalries flare up; it’s hard to feel there’s any genuine friendship or romance, which does detract from an otherwise quite solid and engaging story.
The game uses a mix of in-game cutscenes as well as letting the player control the current “star of the scene”. Sometimes the in-game cutscenes come about pretty frequently and interrupt gameplay, which can be annoying. During some of these scenes, the player will need to make a quick decision such as which way to go, or to choose a safer or riskier route. At other times while the character is running or climbing a random button will pop up, and if the player doesn’t press it quick enough something will happen, which can affect the current character’s story as well as further story ramifications. There are also points where the character will need to use a weapon to hit a specific spot in a short amount of time, and whether it hits affects the storyline as well.
One interesting concept shown to the player early on is that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all, to let events transpire without any interference or influence. This does factor in later on as a few characters’ survival actually depends on this. It’s a neat twist, and it can actually be hard to remember at which points to actually do nothing.
In between sections of the game, the player will be in the office of a therapist, who will ask the player to describe their feelings, choose between images, or other methods to judge the player’s (and the unknown-until-the-end character’s) reactions. With each visit the office evolves (or breaks down, depending on the view) and leaves the player wondering just what is going on with this supposed therapist. It adds an interesting layer on top of the game’s story, but it does pull the player out of the action and main story of the game somewhat often, so I’m not sure just how necessary it is. If it’s meant to be a game-within-the-game, or some sort of meta the “real” game is actually the game-within-this-game, well again it doesn’t add a whole lot and the game would flow much smoother without it. At the end of each session, the player is presented with a “Previously on Until Dawn” video montage, which doesn’t make any sense if the game has been going for awhile, and instead of a helpful reminder or catch-up becomes an annoying repeat of recent game scenes.
Ultimately I enjoyed Until Dawn very much, and I really wish there were more games like it; not necessarily horror, but at least with a story of intrigue and second-guessing as time goes on. The graphics and gameplay were exactly what I wanted in a current-gen game, but some more prominent music and sound effects would have really helped. I liked the split-second decisions and aiming moments, mainly because they weren’t over-used. I hope to play Detroit: Become Human in the near future, and I look forward to Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan.