As Dusk Falls | game review
Getting knocked down and getting back up again.
Game summary: Can you break free from your family’s toxic influence? What will you sacrifice for the ones you love? Can you overcome your past? (Xbox.com)
It's difficult to really convey how I feel about As Dusk Falls because the contrast in quality from its high points to the low points are so big that I feel that I could really recommend playing it with regard to some aspects, yet would have to warn you that its lows could turn you off before you start. Fortunately, the good does outweigh the bad, so I think it should be given a go regardless, as it's not too long either.
Divided into two 'Books', this is a choice-heavy game that feels halfway between a visual novel and something like Detroit: Become Human. There's no real exploration of locations other than clicking on specific areas the game lets you check, but there are so many choices that it feels somewhat open anyway - there's even a Detroit-like flowchart to keep track of your decisions at the end of each section too.
The art style matches this blend of gameplay, using sets of stills and key frames to convey movement and action, with very little animation other than vehicles and the occasional environmental flare. This particular art direction means that As Dusk Falls can look pretty great in stills, especially when concentrated on the various characters, but the lack of animation means that the action underwhelms entirely.
As for the characters, they're something of a mixed bag too, with some terrific performances from pretty much the entire cast being let down by most of the people you get to control feeling pretty similar in terms of temperament - there's no real standouts among the characters, and neither are any of them particularly memorable. I do get the feeling that playing them to extremes may make for a more entertaining experience than making them act like they're performed.
To be fair, As Dusk Falls does allow you to make events feel pretty different based on your choices and ultimately makes it a game worth playing through more than once. I did a 'normal' run first time and enjoyed it enough, but then did a play-through where I made everyone as defiant and antagonistic as I could - which was difficult at times with how bland some of them can be - which felt far more fun to play.
The story is a strange beast too, with the first Book proving to be the most dramatic of the lot, with most of the characters grouped together in a single location. There's a lot of great interactions and the best performances are in this part, even if you'll wish the Holt family (the antagonists of the piece) would all buzz off - although you can help make that happen in some pretty final ways with the right choices.
The second Book is the weaker section of the game, losing a load of characters right away and feeling almost entirely different in tone. To be fair, this may be due to complications caused by the choices you can make in the first Book and simply avoiding having the characters being involved in the second was the most elegant way out of that dead end - although that doesn't make the second Book feel any better.
All of this is why it's so hard to give a verdict on As Dusk Falls and another example of why scores aren't really any good at getting across what a game can feel like to play. I enjoyed the game well enough, so would definitely recommend it and would also say to be bold with your choices so the game is as enjoyable as possible for you, especially in the weaker second Book.
As Dusk Falls excels in some areas - such as the difference your choices can feel like they're having - while failing in others - most of the characters feeling very similar - and therefore falling short of potential greatness as a result. The art style reflects this contrast in quality, looking great in stills, but suffering whenever there's any action, although the voice acting is pretty great, and the story's not bad either.