Until Dawn Review
Until Dawn Review
Over the course of the history of gaming, game designers have allowed players minimal to no choices regarding how the storyline of their game ends. Perhaps they might give the player a chance to decide to spare or kill an enemy NPC or let them pick their party members – but never decisions big enough to feel important. With the emergence of games like the Telltale Series, players are getting more and more power allotted to them to influence their final ending. Games like Silent Hill and Bioshock started to allow players to have one of three to five different endings based on large decisions made somewhere along the way. However no game has ever taken this idea, the Butterfly Effect, to the extreme that the new horror story-driven release Until Dawn has. The first game where decisions feel not only purposeful, but intimidating, Until Dawn will have players on the edges of their seats and has replay-ability like no game of this like has had before.
A Leap Forward in Gaming
Making it nearly impossible to obtain all collectibles or achievements in one play-through, Until Dawn’s creators, Supermassive Games, have fashioned a gaming experience that urges players to re-do their choices and moves over and over to achieve all accomplishments and possible storylines. Guided by the over-arching idea of the Butterfly Effect, the developers aimed to create a game where every small decision and action has the potential to have huge consequences later down the line. Currently a PlayStation 4 exclusive, it seems certain that demand for this game to go multi-platform will be addressed, though as of yet no plans for porting have been announced.
The story of Until Dawn reads at first like a classic teen slasher movie. A prank gone wrong causes two twin sisters to go missing while on their annual getaway with friends at their parent’s snow-top lodge. A year later the twins’ brother invites the friends back for one last hurrah together. What could possibly go wrong? The eight friends, made up of classic teen-film cliches (ie. The jock, the bitchy ex-girlfriend, the nerd, and the pretty and promiscuous cheerleader type) make their way to the luxurious lodge and within a few minutes are confronted with strange happenings and what appears to be a psycho murderer stalking them in the shadows.
The teens slowly split off and encounter very strange creatures and people. As they find items scattered about, they one by one start to uncover the mysteries surrounding the lodge and the twin sisters’ disappearance. Through newspaper scraps, old photos, signage, and lost items stories start to unravel about the past and present events that took place on the mountain top, and sections of totems scattered around give the player a glimpse of a possible event to happen later in the game which their actions have the power to prevent or enable. Until Dawn is littered with collectibles, and they are not easily laid out for the player, making multiple play-throughs almost a necessity.
The Butterfly Effect
Due to the game developers’ desire to make the Butterfly Effect the leading concept in Until Dawn, players are actually given a menu in-game where they can see each big/small decision they have made, and when the consequence for said decision arises, they are able to see what caused it. The game nearly slaps you in the face with your good and bad decisions, making each decision moving forward feel like it has so much more weight to it. An entirely unique way to display this effect, the Butterfly Effect menu helps the player figure out how to do things differently in their next play-through to try to reverse their mistakes. Depending on the player’s actions and choices, different (or no) characters will survive the night and make it until dawn. At the end of the game, there is a handy death recap that reviews when each character died and how, then interviews at the police station with the survivors that conclude the story beautifully.
With a rich story, highly developed characters, and one of the most cleverly designed choice-driven gameplay methods seen so far, Until Dawn manages to be the total package. Using motion capture on real actors, each character looks stunning and feels incredibly alive. There are moments while playing where it appears like you are watching a scene in a TV show, instead of playing a game, because everything looks so rich and real. The PlayStation 4 exclusivity can make Until Dawn a tough sell, but if you own the console and are a lover of story-driven games and/or horror games than this game is impossible to pass up. A huge step forward in gaming, Until Dawn is a smart and scary new style of horror gaming and an experience that can’t be missed.