After going over the first two Dead Space games, we talked about The Evil Within and its sequel. We’re going to shift again and talk about a game that is very different in style from the other horror games covered so far. It’s none other than Until Dawn, a game that released in 2015 and quickly found an appreciative audience. Developed by Supermassive Games, Until Dawn is a PlayStation 4 exclusive title that was originally designed for the PlayStation 3, based around the Move controller. After a couple of years in development, it was reworked for the PlayStation 4. Until Dawn is best described as a love letter to classic slasher horror, with more than a few twists up its sleeves.
Until Dawn is set in Western Canada, where a large group of friends are having their annual get-together at cozy lodge. When a prank goes horribly wrong, two sisters run out into the cold…and are never seen again. The very next year, the remaining friends gather again to try and have fun while also healing from the terrible loss. They’ll soon learn that struggling with each other is only the beginning of their problems. It’s going to be a very long night…
Until Dawn has you controlling the various members of the cast, examining objects for information. At different points, you’ll choose dialogue options that will improve or worsen your standings with the other people on the mountain with you. Any time there’s hectic action, you’ll use a series of quick-time game mechanics. These are not to be taken lightly and the consequences for failing can range from tripping into the snow to losing your life. All in all, it controls along the lines of a Telltale title, or a Quantic Dream game like Heavy Rain.
Speaking of the cast, they’re already incredibly well-written, with awesome talent such as Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek and Brett Dalton providing the voices. The nature of the game means that any of the eight friends can live or die based on your decisions, so you’ll need to think carefully and quickly under stress. Have you ever wanted to yell at the main characters in a horror film or show for doing something stupid? Now you can make sure those decisions aren’t made. The ripple effect of your choices, referred to in-game as the Butterfly Effect, is extremely unpredictable.
It’s absolutely impossible to talk about the threats posed without spoiling the game, so let it suffice to say that things are not what they seem. You’ll need to carefully gather evidence, pay attention and have nerves of steel to have even a hope of getting everybody out alive.
There’s a lot of other nifty things Until Dawn does. In certain situations, you’ll find yourself hiding, trying to stay still. By using the lightbar on the DualShock 4 controller, you’ll actually have to stay still in real life – move even a tiny bit and you could be noticed. There’s also the Totems, different relics you can find on the mountain. They give fuzzy glimpses at things that happened in the past, helping to unravel the mysteries of the mountain. They also give you a glimpse at something that COULD happen in the future – be it tragedy or fortune.
If you haven’t yet been spoiled on the various plot twists then I insist: do your absolute best to go in blind. When you do finish playing it though, that’s not the end. This is an incredibly replayable game, with dozens (if not hundreds) of different combinations and possibilities.
It’s also an excellent game to play with a friend, taking turns or choosing decisions together. Since it’s only a few hours long, replaying it won’t feel like a chore. After all, much like the title implies, the game takes place over the course of a single night (bar the prologue anyways).
I’d also be remiss to not mention the incredible environment. I love snowy settings in games and something about the imminent threat bearing down on the cast in a winter lodge simply feels good.
Until Dawn might not be survival-horror in the sense of the previous games we’ve covered for The Witching Hour however, you shouldn’t let that dissuade you. Pull up a blanket, some hot cocoa and maybe even a friend – it’s time to see if your guidance will let the cast survive Until Dawn.