Until Dawn: OOooo Death.....
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
I can only image how Supermassive games pitched the idea of Until Dawn. I can’t help but feel that it went along the lines of the devs talking to the Sony Executives about creating a interactive movie paying homage to slashers like Friday the 13th, Scream and films like Saw then giving details on how gameplay is going to look like and what type of budget they would want before turning to a large page that has two words in block capitals on it “CHOICES MATTER!!” The Sony Executives then eye the page for a little bit with their beady eyes before proclaiming “Genius! No other game has ever done that before!” Then Supermassive get their funding and Until Dawn is created.
The game starts with a group of Teenagers pulling a prank on one of their friends which goes terribly wrong, as they always do. Then one year later and two missing friends later the same group of eight go back to the same snowed in lodge to remember the lost friends, little do they know that someone is lurking out in the snow planning to do horrible things to them. Until Dawn is one hell of a thrill ride, it pays great homage to the films that inspired it and builds upon it. All the characters start off as the generic slasher movie tropes but gain depth as the game progresses making the player actually give a damn if they survive the night. The motion capture and acting are all fantastic, they make this game and I would be surprised if all these young actors do not go onto more projects as they deserve it. The writing is knowingly cheesy but is able to pull off the more serious moment’s very well, the homage and love for slashers and gore fests of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s is worn proudly on the game’s sleeve and has fun with the common tropes. I sadly cannot give examples due to the spoiler heavy nature of the game. You will have to take my word for it.
In regards of conventional gameplay there is not much, when you are not being chased in scripted quick time events you will spend most of the time making the teenager wonder through an exploring environment and reading documents, it is a few steps above a walking simulator but it is engaging none the less as at a moment’s notice you could suddenly be thrown into a life or death situation where the wrong button press could bring someone to a very bad end. The QTEs themselves are not really annoying as they carry the weight of possible death and they juxtapose the walking and exploring part nicely Sometimes you will have to use to controller in a way that might be too gimmicky in a lesser game such as moving the controller from side to side to open a door or shut one or even not move the controller at all while a foe tries to find you, however the gimmicky nature somewhat works in adding tension, staying still while a monster looks for you is surprisingly clever, keeping still can be unexpectedly hard if you are holding it or placing it on a surface and accidentally nudged to ruinous consequences . There are some minor puzzles involved that boil down to having to get X to give to Y in the hopes of X helping you out at a later point in the game. They are not entirely important to continue but they can help getting everyone to the end of the game alive due to that Butterfly effect mechanic.
Speaking of that...
To say that Until Dawn is proud of the Butterfly effect mechanic would be an understatement, it is so in love with the idea that actions have consequences that it boasts about it on the back cover of the box and at the start of the game and twice in the game. It is all so blunt and self congratulating yet endearing as it has a distinct lack of pretentiousness to the mechanic. There is also truth to what the game tells you as sometimes the smallest mistake can get one of the eight protagonists killed further down the line. The Butterfly effect, while not the most original thing to exist in a game (Undertale and early Bioware games have choices that affect the game, Bioware games to a lesser extent then Undertale.) It still provides a good amount of tension and replayability. It also does alter the game in interesting ways, I have played it twice so far (I intend to do more) and the story noticeably changed based on my decisions, for all the jokes I make at Supermassive and the marketing the Butterfly effect is a damn fine mechanic and is executed really well.
Now, about that framerate....
For a Console exclusive, a game that wants to persuade consumers to buy a PS4 as well as show off the hardware’s capabilities it does do a very poor job of it. Every time there are more than two people in the same room at any given time the framerate tanks badly to what I could estimate to be 20 FPS or lower at certain parts of the game. At its best it is at a stable 30 FPS, that is not to say the game is not beautiful, it is but the inconsistent framerate really hurt the game as a system seller and it’s chances of being placed in my Hall of Fame because it is really distracting.
Until Dawn is a Quantic Dream game that is well written and well acted. It is a short tense fun ride though hell where you are always hoping that you did the right thing and cringe when one of the Teenagers dies a needlessly grisly death.
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