So I don't really play horror games. I mean, okay, fine, I try anything at least once, especially when it's remotely interesting and/or roleplaying-related, but horror games kind of freak me out. It's probably why I haven't finished The Last of Us yet, or why it took me ages to get through The Walking Dead. Heck, you couldn't get me to play Slenderman or Amnesia because I just CANNOT.
My sister, however, decided that she'd get me Until Dawn the minute I went ahead and purchased myself the PS4. That game pretty much screams horror to me, and my sister bought it for the sole purpose of watching me play it.
Joke's on her, she was practically just as terrified as I was getting through the game.
But let me start from the beginning.
Until Dawn revolves around a group of friends who return to the Washingtons' mountain lodge a year after a tragic accident involving the Washington twins, Beth and Hannah. As part of showing support to Josh (the twins' older brother) and banding together to commemorate the sad deaths, seven friends agree to come back: Sam, Chris, Mike, Ashley, Jessica, Emily, and Matt. Unfortunately, upon arrival, events begin to unravel beneath these friends' feet, and one by one the characters are thrown into situations that lower their survivability (and bring up the scare factor to an unbelievably scary level). Don't worry, though, there's only ten hours until dawn. Surely if the characters stay put, they can survive until then, right? Right?
The game is very reminiscent of the standard teenage horror movie trope, in which friends make their way to a distant location, only to find that something out there is going to ruin their getaway and pretty much kill them. The characters themselves represent the usual tropes in teenage horror movies, and for the most part, they wind up making the same silly mistakes as their Cabin in the Woods counterparts. Of course, as a game, it gets harder to tell what the mistakes are, considering every single decision and conversation determines what happens in the ensuing chapters.
There are numerous points of view in Until Dawn, and by the end of the first chapter, the player is introduced to the eight main characters in the game. There are ten chapters, and the character points of view are dispersed throughout the game according to the time of the chapter. Similar to games like Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, Until Dawn focuses its gameplay on exploration and quick-time events. Using the different character POVs, players can collect and piece together clues to the mysteries surrounding Blackwood Mountain. There are also several "totem" pieces that show glimpses of what could potentially happen to characters, depending on player choice.
One of the recurring themes of the game is the concept of the "Butterfly Effect," which Chris (Noah Fleiss) highlights in a conversation with Sam (Hayden Panettiere) on their way up to the mountain lodge. This is important, kiddies, because the Butterfly Effect plays throughout the entire game. In fact, every choice triggers a "Butterfly Effect" status update to the top left of the game screen, which tells the player that that particular choice will have repercussions later on. For example, choosing to throw a snowball at a bird during a snowball fight will result in a different scene than if the player abstains from throwing anything at the bird. At first glance, this kind of choice doesn't seem like it's important or necessary to the story, but I assure you, every single character action counts.
Each of the eight characters represents a typical horror movie character. Mike (Brett Dalton) is the glorified hunk with Jessica (Meaghan Martin), his cheerleader-type girlfriend. Matt (Jordan Fisher) is the jock who is dating Emily (Nichole Bloom), the pretentious know-it-all. Chris is the awkward nerd, Ashley (Galadriel Stineman--and can I just say how awesome her first name is?!) is the equally awkward and skittish nerd girl with a crush on her nerdy friend. Josh (Rami Malek) is the mysterious and troubled youth and Sam is the girl-next-door who's pretty much the "sweetest girl ever." The character dynamics continue to develop throughout the game, and it is interesting to see how they interact with each other depending on the dialogue options.
I will warn you right now, there is the possibility of getting every single character killed off. After my first initial encounter with the characters, this kind of macabre ending was what I had intended on doing. I wasn't fond of the characters, to be honest, and only Sam seemed to be interesting enough to keep alive. That said, there is a way to get them all killed before dawn, and there is a way to save them. I managed to kill off three characters, unfortunately, but hopefully my second playthrough will leave off with all of them alive!
As with much horror movies and games, the camera angles and the music are very important in keeping the horror-factor of Until Dawn alive. I do have to say that the music, animation, lighting, and overall camera-work were on point. Every single location screamed horrifying to me. I know, I'm not really a good judge of horror, considering I'm kind of a scaredy-cat, but let's be honest here. Who wouldn't jump or panic when you know there's someone out there watching in the woods besides you and your friends? Plus, there's a lot of walking along basements and asylums, and that really takes the cake on a horror game. I cannot abide asylums and creepy basements.
Overall, it was a pretty good game, which didn't take very long to complete. There was one point where my sister and I both stopped playing altogether because there were too many scary things going on, but other than that, it pretty much took me a good ten hours of playthrough to finish it. It sounds like a pretty short game, but at the same time, one does have to take in effect the amount of times it can be played over and over again, with different choices leading to different endings. Heck, I'm ready to boot up a new game just to play Until Dawn differently.
Game: Until Dawn
Genre: Interactive horror survival
Developer: Supermassive Games
ESRB Rating: M for Mature (for language and horror-filled stuffs, so not good for the kiddies!)