As Dusk Falls, a new narrative adventure from Interior/Night and Xbox Game Studios, will take you on a tension-filled rollercoaster of a ride that spans 30 years. Here's what we thought of the new 'interactive drama.' As Dusk Falls nails the 'interactive drama' genre more so than any other title that's slipped between the crack in the couch cushions and into that strange void where a game isn’t quite a game, but also not quite a TV show either. It has everything the top shows have: well-written characters, tension-filled dramatic moments, cliffhangers... oh and like so many great shows over the years, a rather unsatisfying ending, or at least it was for me. As Dusk Falls tells the stories of two families across thirty years. The first includes Vince, who has his wife, daughter, and father in tow as they travel across America to a new home. The other is the Holts — three brothers that are down on their luck and forced into a desperate situation. Vince is a loveable and relatable chap, but he comes across as weak and unable to stand up for himself. What’s more, the relationship with his wife is strained, and you soon find out that his father has only recently re-entered his life after being estranged for 30 years. The daughter is plucky and bright, but she knows of the tension between Vince and her mother. As for the Holts, you have the eldest who is a strong and determined leader, the slightly unhinged middle brother from whom most of the early chaos stems from, and milquetoast Jay, the youngest. After being run off the road by the three brothers, the two families eventually crash into one another at a small motel in desolate Two Rocks, Arizona (I won’t say how this comes to be for fear of spoilers). What follows next is a tense and dramatic hostage situation that entwines the fates of each character. [img=https://www.trueachievements.com/customimages/130421.jpg noresize=true][/img] The game is split into two “Books” that consist of three chapters each (think of it as two seasons made up of three episodes a piece) with the story largely focusing on Vince, Zoe, and Jay and giving you the power to decide their fates. Gameplay is incredibly simple and far less involved when compared to other narrative adventure games such as Life is Strange, Heavy Rain, or The Quarry. Here, the only interaction with the game is picking a dialogue option and completing the odd quick time event — that’s it. And while it is simple, there is a lot more going on underneath the hood. The sheer amount of paths each chapter can splinter into is commendable. As with all games like this, each decision you make will incur some sort of consequence — be it good or bad — and these decisions you are forced into are tough and will make you think… hard, and they definitely do matter unlike in many games in the genre. There were several instances throughout where it came to a critical decision point, and my body would deflate, my arms slump to the side of me with my controller loosely gripped in one hand, and I’d have to take a second or two to gather my thoughts before deciding what’s next for these characters. This is exactly what you want from a narrative adventure like this, and As Dusk Falls really delivers in that sense. What’s also nice here is that As Dusk Falls records the choices you’ve made, and as well as showing what other players picked, it gives you insights into your decisions, telling you that you’re an honourable player who values integrity for not lying and that you have quick reflexes for smashing those QTEs (thank you). It’s an extra that gives your decisions a little bit more meaning. [img=https://www.trueachievements.com/customimages/130420.jpg noresize=true][/img] The reason for my apprehension was because I’d really grown attached to the likes of Jay and Vince — especially Vince, I immediately developed a soft spot for the kind but weak-willed father (does that say something about me? Probably.) Vince is instantly relatable, in fact, the majority of the cast is, and the writing team really must be commended for the excellent job they’ve done here. Vince, Zoe, and Jay all feel like ordinary people who have been caught up in a horrible situation, which doesn’t always come across as genuine in games. These characters are not only well written, but they are brought to life by their exceptional voice actors and As Dusk Fall’s interesting art style and animation. As Dusk Falls mixes 3D backgrounds with 2D characters, and it does so with great effect. Using an animation technique known as rotoscoping, where an illustrator painstakingly traces over live-action footage performed by the actors, frame-by-frame, has allowed the team carefully select which part of an actor’s expression to use in those tense and dramatic moments. There is no mo-cap in As Dusk Falls and no 3D models for a nuanced sad smile to creep across a character’s face. Instead, the characters are animated in such a way that their movements crossfade into one another. This allows the character’s expression to linger on the screen for longer, which felt more evocative and realistic — far more evocative than any 3D character from a similar narrative adventure. At first, I found it a bit jarring, but after a while, I soon forgot about the animation style, and my mind was filling in the blanks left between each frame. One thing that I did notice and really detracts from the experience is that the flashback cutscenes would weirdly play out in an extremely low resolution. I’m sure this is just a bug and will be fixed, pending an update, but it really broke my immersion at the time. [img=https://www.trueachievements.com/customimages/130418.jpg noresize=true][/img] As Dusk Falls starts off strong. The first book, Collision, where you play three chapters as Vince and Jay, is by far the more compelling and exciting of the two. I won’t go too much into what happens because the game really should be experienced first-hand, but the hostage situation is intense, and you can never quite predict what might happen next or where a decision might take you, and yes your decisions absolutely do matter here and will affect the overall narrative. These early chapters were probably my favourite part of the game. As the game moves on and into the second book, Expansions, it adds a couple more playable characters in the mix and really jumps around in the timeline, which leads to things feeling a little messy and a bit superfluous. There are still some fantastic and exciting moments in Expansions, but overall it’s definitely the weaker of the two. One character who you play as for a very short time is there only there to serve the plot, and you don’t really learn anything about them, so when they give up some information (or not, depending on your choice) that can drastically change the story one or another, it feels a little cheap, and a bit random. I also wasn’t satisfied with my ending, despite it largely being positive. The endings for each of the characters, while all tied up, felt short and could really have done with more explanation. In fact, the entire final chapter felt a little rushed, and I never had that feeling of catharsis with As Dusk Falls as I have done with other similar games, which is a shame. Thankfully, you can play through the game’s various chapters again (rejoice, achievement hunters), which adds further context to characters’ stories. You can either opt to play through the whole game again or start from specific points in certain chapters and choose to just explore the different outcomes or overwrite your save file. A slight annoyance here is that you can’t skip any of the dialogue, so you’re going to need to sit through every conversation before you reach that critical decision point again. [img=https://www.trueachievements.com/customimages/130419.jpg noresize=true][/img] As Dusk Falls also features a multiplayer component where, using an app, up to eight players who own the game can play together and vote on the outcome of a decision, and even override the group’s choice if they feel strongly that the team shouldn’t pursue that path. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my girlfriend’s app to connect the game, no matter how many times I tried, so I can’t comment on this feature. What I will say is that after playing the game solo, I believe this is a story better suited to solo play anyway, especially for your first run-through. As for the As Dusk Falls achievements, they only went live when I was halfway through this review, but it appears that you will unlock achievements by seeing different outcomes in each chapter as well as in the story as a whole. While there is a chapter select, it’s possible that early events in the game might lock you out of a certain ending, so you may have to play through the game again to pop a multiple ending achievement (assuming there are multiple, that is).