Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas break and are soon ready to start 2016! Today’s review is on Until Dawn, the PS4 exclusive and interactive survival horror game!
Ever since the Until Dawn was released I heard a lot of positive feedback from other people who had already played the game. My brother actually managed to borrow a copy from a friend and we ended up finishing the game together when he came over for Christmas break. In this review, I’ll tell you my thoughts on the game, and no need to worry about spoilers!
I won’t be talking about the storyline much, if at all because spoilers would be floating around in every paragraph. What I will tell you is that the game revolves around 10 characters (Sam, Mike, Chris, Ashley, Emily, Jessica, Josh, Hannah, Beth and Matt) who spend their annual Winter getaway at Blackwood Pines Lodge, which is owned by Josh and his twin sisters, Hannah and Beth. Things start to get complicated very quickly and these character that you are controlling will face various challenges throughout the game.
As you play the game, you realize that there are a lot of clichés and it’s supposed to resemble a typical slasher/horror B movie, like the Scream franchise. However the brilliant thing about it is that it does it so well and there are moments where you wouldn’t do what the characters do in the game, for example going after the thing that will most likely kill a character.
The characters in the game each have their own personalities, one or two being extremely annoying and very similar to a popular teenage high school girl. I couldn’t help but be annoyed by the behavior of some of the characters in the game, which I praise because it’s supposed to invoke that response, which it certainly has done. Just to add, you may or may not recognize some of the faces and voices of the characters as they are modeled after real actors i.e. Hayden Panettiere. One thing that will probably bug you as it did me is how much Mike resembles Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, am I right?! Maybe Until Dawn takes place in an alternate reality to Uncharted!
The main “mechanic” that this game prides itself on is the Butterfly Effect, where any action you do will have consequences at some point later on in the future. In Until Dawn, if you a find a weapon but don’t pick it up, because why wouldn’t you unless you’re going out of your way by trying to make life for the characters more difficult, then you might be in a situation in the future where that particular weapon would have been useful to you. What I’m saying is, don’t be a fool! Protect yourself!
Throughout the game, any or all of the 10 characters can die. If you so wish you can kill off the character that annoys you most, which I admit I may have done to Emily but then soon deeply regretted it straight after seeing how I managed to kill her off. The point is I developed some sort of attachment or care for each character and even though it would have been somewhat “interesting” for my playthrough to kill off one or more of the characters, I soon realized I wanted them all to survive! Overall three characters died in my playthrough, two of which I didn’t really know or expect wouldn’t die in the circumstances they did in.
During my first playthrough I didn’t really know what the relationship status bars and character traits did so I kind of ignored them, but I did find out that they have a small impact on what some characters say or do around other characters. Just something to be aware of that I missed!
The game is basically an interactive drama similar to Heavy Rain, so most of the action sequences or even pointless acts, such as having to execute a button or two to look at a pen, are quick time events with the rest being cutscenes. I guess these “pointless actions” are there to remind you that you’re playing an actual game and not watching a movie, so if you’re not really a fan of games where you aren’t technically playing 50% of the time, you should stay clear of this game. Also, I’d recommend playing with the “world stats” off because you’ll be influenced when making your decisions during every quicktime event, which ended up happening to me for a part of the game!
Personally I love quick time events if they’re done right (which this game does) because they keep you aware of what’s going on in the game so you don’t lose focus, which is cool! If you miss a button or two you might just find yourself screaming at the screen, paying for the mistake of missing a button sequence! Believe me, I’ve been there! However at times, the game can be a little forgiving since I’ve missed two or three buttons in a sequence yet the character I was controlling still managed to survive! The game needs to be a bit more unforgiving when you miss buttons that are vital to whether the character manages to get away from whatever or whoever they’re running from.
One of the great and not so great things are the surprise elements when I first played the game. Sure as I played through the game I was shocked and fell for some of the jump scares but by the time you’re on your second playthrough, it’s not so “surprising”. It doesn’t feel as good because you know what’s going on, apart from what happens when killing off different characters or trying to get them all to survive. That’s the not-so-good part because I can’t bring myself to do another playthrough simply due to the fact that I already know the story and the only thing that changes is how many people die or survive. The game has replay value, but it’s certainly not the fun kind. A playthrough isn’t very long which is good because if it were double the length of what it is, I would eventually get bored as the storyline wouldn’t be able to provide enough to keep me entertained.
I like the whole totem thing that gives you insights to what may or may not happen later on in the game. There are five different totems that are based on Indigenous Native-America beliefs and they are named Death, Guidance, Loss, Danger and Fortune. Finding a Death totem would give you a brief and obscure vision of someone’s death. A Fortune totem would show a good outcome for a character and so on. These are really helpful if you want to avoid certain dangers.
Voice acting and facial animation was the best I’ve seen in an interactive drama game and at times it felt like I was watching a movie. I do have to say this part was done very well and I can see why Until Dawn has been highly praised.
The writing was actually well written for a game that’s supposed to be based on a B movie. With the combination of the excellent voice acting and writing, I was able to immersive myself into the game and live the story as if I were with the characters. This is something I applaud for the cast and writers for doing!
Atmosphere is very eerie and you can feel that something isn’t right about Blackwood Pines Lodge. With the absence of lights in the Lodge and the ever beating storm, the game takes on a typical horror setting. Something about it felt very much like Resident Evil 1, it may have been the movements of the characters and the unknown factor of when something is going to appear and give you a jump scare.
Overall, Until Dawn is a solid must buy game that will sate your survival horror needs if that’s what your looking for. It’s a game suitable for an audience of all skill levels and even to play with others even just for the horror experience. Everything from the voice acting, level designs, gameplay mechanics and story are well polished and makes for a well made game, well maybe except for a few times where the commands weren’t responding but that’s a minor issue.
Unfortunately it’s not a long game if replaying the game for somewhat different outcomes isn’t for you, in which case I wouldn’t recommend that you buy this game. However in terms of playing it through once solely for the story, it’s worth it because of the storytelling, which is unlike what we’ve seen before. Currently the game is at a good price (£18.99) but I wouldn’t pay higher than £25.00.
Let me know what you think of the game in the comments below! Just make sure you give a warning before writing any spoilers 😀