A better horror movie than any contemporary horror movie!
What a great surprise; it’s rare for me to get genuinely scared at a game and rarer for me to jump at one but Until Dawn has the perfect mix of suspense, eeriness, crescendo, gore and immersion.
I’m new to the telltale style games – I was always hesitant to play them because I thought it was just decision after decision with no proper game play. I was so wrong.
A group of friends meet up at a secluded mountain lodge owned by one of them every year. The game starts with one of them being pranked; she continues to run out in to the blistering cold mountain and…you’ll have to find out.
A year after this, the friends all meet up again in the same lodge, with an uncomfortable tension in the air.
The game surrounds these friends stuck in the dark mountain lodge. They are about to deal with everything from maniac’s to supernatural, to vicious mythological beasts… and pranking each other in the meantime.
Now, I can’t really reveal any spoilers to the game because there is so many ways it can be played. Saying that, I have found the main narrative is usually pretty much the same – but the characters that travel through it can change depending on your decisions, your reaction time, or your presence of mind… It’s brutal.
The camera angles of the game are quite strange; it’s like the older Resident Evil angles but with a lot smoother. This, I think helps the creepy aspect. It works well because it just means it’s a lot clearer when it comes to shadows in the background, or a distant glimpse of something you’re not sure was actually there or not. I hated the camera in the older Resident Evil games, but playing this game, being older and with everything being a lot smoother, it’s not a bad thing – it adds to the tension you feel.
The music is perfect; it has really powerful and, I guess ethereal songs to open the present narrative which is actually really nice music. Within the game, though, it has atmospheric music that really does add to the game. It’s not so much a case that you hear the music build and know something’s going to happen, at least, not all the time – so it’s not a case of the music gives away the fright. It actually uses music in a way slasher flicks and horror movies of today don’t yet seem to understand.
The game play itself is great- the speed of the character goes from walking to fast walking, and though this sounds tedious, it isn’t – it just makes everything a lot more realistic. That’s a major boon to any narrative, when all aspects add together to create a believable end product. I think that’s why I jumped (and often felt terrible for my decisions) a lot in this game, because you get drawn in to the world. The decisions you make really do matter later on; the butterfly effect isn’t really a gimmick. As I said, it’s not a case of it changing the narrative of the show, but for example, if you take someone’s side in the argument and don’t quickly make amends, characters will be very different toward each other… The frustrating thing is this could have a positive of negative outcome so you can never be too sure.
The decisions at the start seem moot and as if they’re a mere tutorial, but later on you could really kick yourself for choosing something so small as it has a serious effect later on – not always. I don’t want to give any major examples of outright decisions as I don’t want to ruin the game for those who have not yet played. As you get deeper in to the story, though, the decisions became painfully difficult, and to add to it… timed! Sometimes, not making a decision is the right decision and it’s all very stressful, but in a great way. You can keep track of your relationship with other characters via R1, which shows how friendly you are with the other characters and how your character is morally gauged. This, again, can lead to certain outcomes, so be careful how you treat people! They really know how to play the Butterfly Effect.
The controls, in honesty, can be a bit awkward. I think this may be due to my rarely playing these types of games, but as the camera angle changes sometimes what was right, directionally, becomes forward or left or whatever. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I don’t think it really takes away from the game – it just makes whichever character you’re controlling look slightly drunk at times. However, a lot of the more action-packed scenes are button sequences anyway, which doesn’t sound exciting, but it really is and I think it works better this way because it avoids any frustration of awkward controls being the reason you die. That being said, the missing of that timed triangle could leave you falling to your death. Enjoy!
Now the story itself is strange. It’s kind of an American Horror Story: Asylum, but not as clusterf*cked! Again, no spoilers, but it’s basically a case of not being able to assess what’s actually happening for a while. The threat sometimes seems like its Zombies, then rabid wolves, then ghosts then whatever else – but it all does make sense once you come to an end. It is clever, though; there are some really clever moments in it that make it more than just a good game. I think one of the things that should be mentioned is that you can sort of control the theme of the game; you can make it slightly more supernatural, more gory, so on so forth through the choices you make – I really like the fact that it tailors (not bespoke, per se) the experience to your fears. That’s a cool feature.
Graphically, the game is beautiful. Sometimes it looks sharp and realistic, at other times it looks arty and stylised. I’m not sure if this is an intentional design, but it works really well. The only thing I will say about the game as an outright negative, is that every so often the voice acting comes across as forced; that’s mostly at the start and mostly with certain characters, but once you get past the start, everything is fine, though it sometimes feels that even when someone watches their friend being ripped apart by something or other, they’re comfortable enough for a few one-liners down the line – slightly insensitive but I guess we all deal with loss of limbs in our own way.
Overall, the experience is pretty much worth playing. The longevity of the game will be impressive, but I imagine it’s always best to play it when friends are round. I’ve watched it twice now and my favourite part was seeing the reactions of friends, so, though you won’t get hours of solo enjoyment out of it, you can enjoy the story of it being different every play (more or less) and let your friends make their own mistakes as they go along.
Definitely worth a buy, especially if you see it discounted anywhere!
Also, an easy Platinum if you can stomach some the stress!
GAMER PANTHEON SCORE: 85%