WARNING: This is going to be another one of my reviews that in reality is much more of a therapy session for me, one in which I tell you all about the inner workings of Arielle and less about the actual game.
But reviews like this are why you love me, or at least that’s what I hope…
Now let’s get this session started, the first thing you should know about me is that when it comes to things that I like there is no grey area, I either absolutely LOVE something or I don’t, and secondly, I really REALLY love horrors. If there is one thing that I love more than just watching a horror, it’s the idea of playing through one, having the chance to be one of those people just fighting to survive until morning, and that is exactly what Until Dawn is.
Ever since I started choosing my own games and movies I’ve been on the search for content that actually makes me feel something. It’s not necessarily that I was looking to be scared, but that feeling you get when you play or watch a horror, where your heart races, your breathing is shallow and you are hyper-aware of every hair on your body? That feeling is addictive!
You know how you get adrenalin junkies?
Well, I’m a terror junkie who hates not being part of the conversation, but that’s because I’m an overly passionate only child who wants her voice heard dammit! When it came to Until Dawn, not only was I left out of the conversation, but I was so left out that I wasn’t even aware there was one.
Someway, somehow, this game just completely passed me by.
So consider this my way of making sure I don’t miss out any longer, I’m restarting the conversation, with you.
What is Until Dawn:
Until Dawn is a narrative driven survival horror game.
You know that moment when you’re cuddled up on the couch watching one of the Scream movies and you’re watching the person walk into the basement to investigate a strange noise? While alone in the house? With the power out, nothing but a candle to guide them? And while you’re watching them blindly stumble to certain death you’re silently shaking your head at their stupid life choices and thinking that maybe, just maybe they actually should just die?
Well with Until Dawn you get to be the stupid person stumbling to your death!
The story follows a typical ‘horror movie’ set up, 8 friends go on their annual winter vacation together in the mountains, as far as possible from the rest of society. They decide to play a very stupid and mean-spirited prank on one of the girls which results in her, and her sister, running out into the snowy night, never to return. Exactly one year later the brother of the two missing sisters invites the whole friend group back to their vacation spot to be together again. Everyone is clearly uncomfortable coming back after the tragedy of the last year’s events, but they all pull through to support their friend on this sad anniversary.
Of course, it is then that everything just starts going horribly, horribly wrong.
The game plays very much like an interactive movie, with you taking turns to control each one of the ‘survivors’. There is one goal, stay alive until dawn. There is also a catch, every choice you make, good or bad, is permanent. Effectively this means that the game has literally countless possibilities, you can either make it until dawn with your full party alive and kicking, or you can have everyone die before the first few hours have passed. YOU are the one controlling everything they do, their fate is in your hands.
The game customizes itself to suit you by having you sit down and talk to a therapist at the end of each ‘chapter’ it’s during these sessions that you will be asked questions about yourself and about your experience in the game, changing small bits of the game based on the answers you give. The real magic, of course, lies in the characters you control, and the amazing actors behind them, all of them falling into the typical stereotypes you would expect:
- Sam (Hayden Panettiere) is a warm and caring individual. She is strong willed and doesn’t scare easily.
- Mike (Brett Dalton) Good looking and silver-tongued, Mike is the resident ladykiller. He is currently dating Jessica.
- Josh (Rami Maelk) was studying psychology at college prior to his sisters disappearances, which caused him to drop out.
- Ashley (Galadriel Stineman) is the smart one. She’s often found in the library, studying away. She’s not a fan of anything scary and she really likes Chris.
- Chris (Noah Fleiss) is a big lover of gadgets and seems to spend half of his life looking at his phone. He’s loyal, analytical, and doesn’t scare too easily. Chris really likes Ashley.
- Matt (Jordan Fisher) is the high school’s star linebacker, but he isn’t necessarily the sharpest tool in the box. He’s dating Emily.
- Emily (Nichole Bloom) has a quick tongue and a sharp wit. Everything is about appearance with her. She’s dating Matt, but only because Mike dumped her a few weeks back.
- Jessica (Meaghan Martin) is a beautiful blonde with a mischievous nature. First on the guest list at any party, if there’s one thing she’s not, it’s shy. She’s dating Mike, who dumped Emily to be with her.
After spending just a few minutes with anyone of these characters you find that they pull you into their lives and into their world, that’s why the game works, you root for them, you care for them, so when they die, it hurts. Until Dawn is truly an experience unlike any other, I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie or playing a game, I was just there, trying to survive. The script is the longest to be written for any game and was written by two Hollywood writers/directors Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick, Until Dawn wasn’t created, it was directed. It has the most scripted jump scares for a game as well.
Now as I said before I love horrors, I love the predictability of it, how you already know, deep down in your heart that when they take that final step into that dark basement they will die, but you also know that it’s done-that there is nothing you can do to stop it. Imagine that feeling, but you were the one who made the choice to go down there in the first place, knowing that every choice you’ve made previously mattered and led you up to this moment, knowing that if they die, it’s all your fault.
That feeling of fear and panic is totally and completely unmatched in anything I’ve ever experienced before. Until Dawn is not everybody’s game, it doesn’t even try to be… but that’s one of the best things about it.
Now if you excuse me, I need to go switch on every single light that I own before I can go sleep.