Preview As Dusk Falls: between series and video game, a narrative experience capable of renewing the genre?
Announced at the 2020 Xbox Games Showcase, As Dusk Falls is the first work from INTERIOR/NIGHT. Founded by Caroline Marchal, a former developer of Quantic Dream who also worked for Sony London, the studio aims to put her passion and her experience of Interactive Drama at the service of an adventure where choices – sometimes – involve serious consequences. Fasten your seatbelt, it’s time to hit the road with the Walker family.
The story of a family in the wrong place at the wrong time
On paper, As Dusk Falls promises an interactive story that narrates the intertwined lives of two families over thirty years. Our demo, it only included the first two chapters of the adventure and was only interested in the events taking place in 1998. The story begins in a small town in Arizona. Vincent, Michelle, their daughter Zoé and grandfather Jim stop in a lost motel because of a car accident immobilizing them on the spot. Unfortunately for them, this picturesque parenthesis in their lives takes on the appearance of an end when three brothers on the run take over the place. Inexperienced, nervous and above all armed, they seek to flee the police following a robbery that has gone wrong. This is when As Dusk Falls takes the form of a camera. Trapped with thugs with unpredictable reactions, Vincent will have to make the right choices so that his family comes out alive.. In the skin of an ordinary man without superpowers or concrete abs, the player can only count on his composure, his judgment, as well as his reflexes to get out of inextricable situations.
The weight of words as a weapon
At first glance, nothing differentiates the INTERIOR/NIGHT software from another 100% narrative game with choices. Deprived of direct control over his hero, the player is content to click on elements of the decor, choose answers and perform QTEs to progress. This very restrictive gameplay will not reconcile those allergic to Interactive Drama with the genre, but it will make life easier for neophytes for whom the joystick is a real enemy.
Gameplay-wise, As Dusk Falls borrows elements from many Interactive Dramas that have come before it.. Like Detroit: Become Human, once a chapter is over, it is possible to see all the branches taken, but also to reload a save to try other choices. If it does not revolutionize the genre it serves, the INTERIOR/NIGHT software provides, for the moment, what is most important in a 100% narrative game: a gripping story, interesting characters, difficult choices and tense situations.
To the point. Or almost
As Dusk Falls has the good sides of a first game made by a team that was specially created to develop it in good conditions. Unlike many Interactive Dramas that don’t have much left to tell but pull the strings because their name sells, the INTERIOR/NIGHT app smells like a thoughtful, long-standing project, designed to put the player in perilous situations while being quite subtle in what it tells. It’s good to see the work of a studio that doesn’t pull out the violins to tear us to tears, and that allows itself from time to time a lighter tone (if the player decides to go in this direction with his character ). Our two hours of play revealed a scenario that was certainly simple but fascinating, served by an excellent cast. One more time, there is intelligence in As Dusk Falls with its protagonists in multiple shades of gray, whether they are on the side of the “bad guys” or the cops.
What a pity that the breathless rhythm is interspersed with flashbacks. Admittedly, the latter, playable, have the merit of teaching us a little more about the past of the main characters. Unfortunately, the intrigue that is exposed in chapter 2 is not the most enthralling: to know whether or not Vincent’s wife cheated on him with an office colleague seems quite derisory when, in the present time, the whole small family risks death. TV series have abused this narrative trick for years. For now, we feel the narrative would have fared better without this forced flashback to such a mundane subplot. However, we recall that we only played two chapters. We hope that the following will use the side stories in a more engaging way.
A confusing visual near Route 66
The artistic direction, singular, is surely the greatest originality of the title of INTERIOR/NIGHT. We could describe to you once again the technique used, namely a mixture of “real” 3D for the decorations, and drawings of characters in 2D that one would swear came from a graphic novel. The most important question is above all whether the rendering works, and what it brings to the story. It is clear that after a few minutes of play, we almost forget that the characters on the screen are (almost) not animated. It’s as if our brain managed to reconstitute the missing images between two drawings. INTERIOR/NIGHT being a young independent studio, it was surely the best solution to both stand out visually while ensuring that a hazardous technique would not destroy the intentions. Yes, you will feel things for these characters, even if they are just illustrations placed in 3D settings. In addition, we wanted to point out that the title has excellent quality French voices. The feeling of immersion is only better.
As Dusk Falls seems set to deliver players an exciting Interactive Drama, if not to revolutionize the genre. We are reassured about the writing of the characters, the already numerous twists, and its artistic direction which works. We just hope the parallel subplots don’t slow the pace of the adventure down too much. There are still many things to check, such as the consequences of certain choices over time, but the lights are green for the title of INTERIOR/NIGHT. As Dusk Falls will arrive on July 19, 2022 on Xbox Series, Xbox One and PC. It will be included in the Game Pass from the day of its release.