One of the biggest sleeper hits of late summer-early fall this year was the newly released horror game, Until Dawn. With little to no real promotion, this game has been able to sell so well that it surpassed all expectations. I, myself, had a hard time finding it at my local video game store and walked out with the last copy in the entire place. What is it about this game that has so many gamers, new and old, intrigued? I don’t think there is one solid answer to that question, because I believe it’s a number of different reasons.
For starters, I’m relatively new to “gaming”. I’ve recently been re-introduced to modern day gaming (I used to own a Nintendo 64) and I think that as far as games go, this is a pretty good starting point for other beginners like myself.
Until Dawn is designed without the ominous “game over” option. That’s actually a really good thing. The purpose of the game is to make decisions that determine who will survive “until dawn”. The beauty is that depending on how you play determines how many survivors you have left standing at the end of the game.
How is this game for beginners? That’s easy; there aren’t any “levels” of gaming skills with this game. It’s as if everyone starts at the same level (beginner) and as the game progresses, so does your level of skill. In the beginning, you’re given the chance to practice your Quick Time Events (QTEs) while climbing over a wall because of a busted fence and then later your aim while playfully sharp shooting with another character. There is no immediate danger during any of these scenes within the game, which means there is no pressure as you play. The deeper you get into the game, however, the more dangerous situations become. By then, your aim can be damn near perfected and you should be able to hit most, if not all, your QTEs.
The plot of Until Dawn may seem a bit divided for some but, for those of us who are actively playing the game, it makes sense. It begins as a very human story, with eight friends returning to a woodsy mansion owned by one of them. They’re returning to this place as a sort of “homage” to a couple of their friends who disappeared in those same mountains a year earlier. Every character is introduced with their own distinct personality and connection to the other characters within the game. The cast performances within the game are all really solid, adding to the game’s appeal.
For example, Mike is the jock in the group, with two of the female characters happening to be fighting over him, while Sam is the “good girl” that doesn’t like to involve herself in the group’s drama. On the surface, each of these characters is a cliché from every horror film you’ve ever seen. Jessica is the “mean girl” while Chris is the “nice guy”. In any horror film, Jessica would likely die while Chris survives. In this game, that classic trope is turned on its head and your choices could determine that Jessica lives while Chris doesn’t make it out alive.
That’s what I found most fun about Until Dawn though. Anything’s possible and, with so many potential endings written into the game, the possibilities really are endless.
When the game moves on from being a “classic slasher” into the more supernatural side of things, it almost feels like you’re playing a completely different game with these very familiar characters. That’s not a bad thing at all though. I actually enjoyed the supernatural side of the game a lot more and found it be much more terrifying than the slasher storyline at the beginning. But without the slasher story at the start, I would not have found myself caring as much about these characters when things really became more dangerous for them.
This game is one of those quiet hits that you likely haven’t heard about before unless it’s been recommended to you by a friend. However, that doesn’t make it any less good. If you are just starting out and still want to get used to holding a controller in your hand, Until Dawn is the perfect training tool. And you can keep practicing as many times as you want because it doesn’t matter how many times you play the whole game through; every time is designed to end differently from the last.