Video (games) killed the storyteller: Until Dawn
Horror is a genre that appeals to many people, and gamers are no exception. Horror games tend to learn toward the zombie first person shooter genre, but other games have moved away from zombies and straight into psychological thriller and mythology. One game that succeeds in breaking out of the zombie horde is “Until Dawn” by developer Supermassive Games.
“Until Dawn” is listed as a horror adventure game and was released in 2015, though it should also be noted that it’s a “choose your own adventure” game as well. Upon beginning the game, the player is introduced to a group of teenagers that are having a party in a cabin in the mountains. The group consist of three siblings, Josh, Beth, and Hannah and their friends Sam, Mike, Emily, Jessica, Matt, and Ashley.
The party turns sour when Hannah is pranked by Beth, Josh, and Sam. Hannah runs away and Beth follows after her. The player is then playing as Beth, chasing after Hannah. As the sisters run through the forest, they become lost and fall off the side of a cliff. The player is given the option to either let go of Hannah, or try to climb up to rescue them both. Either option results in the assumed death of both girls, as the game then cuts to Sam on her way back to the cabin a year later.
Josh invites the group to the cabin for the anniversary of the party where his sisters went missing. The player is then prompted to play as several characters as they arrive at the cabin, beginning with Sam. The whole game is set up in this manner, switching from one character to another. However, there’s something sinister about the gathering at the cabin that quickly reveals itself.
Dialogue/voice acting: 5/10
The dialogue within “Until Dawn” is rather campy. By campy, I mean that it’s not great, but on purpose. The characters consistently reminded me of horror movie characters, and that seems to have been done intentionally. However, I do appreciate that the player can choose what the character they are given control of is allowed to say. This varies from other games that have this mechanic of being able to choose dialogue, “Until Dawn” allows the player to change events through the dialogue. I give it a solid five. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever experienced in a game, but it was far from the best.
The plot in “Until Dawn” is a complex one. The first plot twist, which I’m about to spoil, is that Josh has invited his group of friends to the cabin to play a very elaborate prank on them. Josh begins to terrorize his friends in true “Saw” fashion. He sets up several locations where the friends are frightened, tortured mentally, and threatened with death. Josh, however, is not the only threat within the game. Wendigos are the other antagonist within the game, and it becomes clear that Josh’s escapades aren’t the only events that the characters must fear. I knocked off points for the Josh plot feeling a bit loose and unmotivated, but kept the score higher due to the originality in utilizing wendigos from Algonquian folk lore.
Plot accessibility/understanding: 6.9/10
Accessibility for this game is a bit tricky. Without getting into too many more details that would spoil the entire game, “Until Dawn” may become so confusing and complex that it can fall apart for some newer gamers. Even seasoned gamers that are perhaps put off by too many plot twists may feel frustration with “Until Dawn.” The complicated idea of being able to change the plot of the game with dialogue also causes the accessibility to become rather muddled. Because of the possibility for confusion with the plot that may throw some players for a loop, I bumped the score down a bit. However, I do acknowledge that the plot is unique, and that kept the score up from a possible five.
“Until Dawn” is a thrilling adventure horror game that continues to entice gamers. Not only is the game complex, it is also interesting. Gamers can expect excitement, intrigue, and thrills. “Until Dawn” bring forth a supreme campy feeling throughout, it also attempts to allow the player to feel like the “choose your own adventure” game hasn’t died.