“We are soulmates!” As Dusk Falls creative director and CEO of Interior/Night Caroline Marchal says to me, laughing. We’ve just finished playing through a 45-minute section of As Dusk Falls, which ends each section with feedback that tells you about each player’s values. As Dusk Falls is a co-op interactive drama for Xbox Series X and PC, centered around two families whose lives become entangled on one fateful day. It supports both online and couch co-op (as well as a mix of the two) for up to eight players.
As the player and active viewer, you must make decisions, choose responses, and pull off a few quick-time events to propel the story forward. Many of your actions have consequences that thread through the entire game, which is six chapters long. As Dusk Falls is captivating: the visuals evoke a hand-painted, animated graphic novel, and the characters are beautifully complex. Trust me, this is one of those upcoming Xbox Series X games worth keeping an eye on.
As the story unfolds
It’s no surprise that As Dusk Falls is as gripping as any top-tier prestige TV series – Marchal spent a decade at Quantic Dream, working on games like Beyond: Two Souls and Heavy Rain. We start our demo a few minutes late, so I’m being flagged to head to another demo at the Tribeca Games Show as we near the end of Book One, Chapter One. But I ignore the person trying to drag me away, far too engrossed in the story playing out in front of me. “It’s tense,” Marchal says almost apologetically to the person waving me down.
During the 45-minute preview, I meet a family road-tripping across the US for the father’s new job (which he doesn’t seem all that jazzed about) as well as three brothers from a small town in Arizona, whose family appears to have suffered a lengthy bad luck streak. There are hints of an event that forced the father to leave his well-paying career as an airplane mechanic, as well as an outright declaration of resentment between him and his father, the latter of which ran off 30 years prior to the events of As Dusk Falls.
The father of the first family is portrayed as a pushover, and his relationship with his wife is strained. Their daughter is bubbly and observant, clearly affected by their struggling dynamic. The three brothers are comprised of an elderly leader, a frankly quite aggro and dickish middle brother, and a reluctant younger brother, who appears to be the only gentle one in the bunch. These characters and their motivations are established almost immediately, and I grow fond of a few of them very quickly – that’s a testament to the quality of As Dusk Falls’ writing and voice acting.
Early on in the first chapter, the truck carrying the boys narrowly misses running the family’s SUV off the road, but the two groups actually collide several minutes later. I won’t give too much away, but the moment that they meet feels as intense as a Breaking Bad episode, and Marchal and I both yell when we almost miss a crucial QTE. We don’t know each other at all, but in playing through As Dusk Falls with her for less than an hour, we walk away with a surprisingly good understanding of one another.
Marchal and I agree on a lot during our playthrough together. When the protagonist’s wife begins bickering with his father during the road trip, we both decide to stay out of it instead of choosing sides. When the youngest brother is faced with a guard dog during an attempted home break-in, we agree on talking calmly to the dog. “I’m a dog person,” I say as I move my cursor over that option. “Me too,” Marchal says, as she selects the same thing. The dog lets him pass, and we both breathe a sigh of relief. “Wait, that doesn’t always happen?” I ask her. “No, that could have gone very differently,” she says.
If Marchal and I disagreed, however, As Dusk Falls has mechanics in place to rectify that. Between two players, it will randomly select one of our choices. Each player also gets a few override options for every section, so if you feel really strongly about a decision and the team decides otherwise, you can come in with the ultimate trump card. Just imagine how that will play out: you’re faced with the choice of taking a gun from someone during a tense standoff or doing nothing, and your friend (perhaps a notorious wild card) wants to snatch it out of their hands. You, however, want to play it cool, and your choice is selected randomly – but your wild card friend comes in and overrides your choice. As Dusk Falls labels these decisions a “Crossroad” choice, one that will have major consequences on how the rest of the story plays out, and your friend just threw a narrative hand grenade into the mix.
Luckily, neither Marchal nor I feel like being wild cards this time around, and we get through the 45-minute demo in almost complete harmony. In the end, we’re given a summary of our personalities based on our decisions: we both value peace, are inherently kind, and agree on almost every decision – hence the soulmates designation. As Dusk Falls also gives you a neat little interactive story tree that lets you trace through the decisions you made and the subsequent paths that splintered off of it, as well as offering you a chance to play through it again from certain points. Numbers under the pictures of each scene let us know the percentage of players who made the same decision as us, a system not unlike the one used in the Life is Strange games. It’s honestly fascinating, like forcing you to look at a mirror pointed at your very soul.
As Dusk Falls is poised to make you question your values and maybe even reevaluate your relationships, all while telling a beautifully real story in a brilliantly interactive way. As Dusk Falls is set to release on July 19for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Game Pass, and PC.
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