We were told from the beginning that Until Dawn would be playing on the cliché and stereotypical norms in horror movies. This doesn't particularly sound like a great idea for a game, but when you add in the fact that it's you - the player - making all of the tough, split-second calls, it makes it all the more interesting.
Missed the trailer? Watch it here!
No longer are we yelling at the TV screen because a character ran the wrong way - no, we'll be yelling at ourselves. So how does Until Dawn hold up to its hype? I'd say pretty well! Here's why...
A Perfectly Clichéd Story
The story includes everything you'd want to see in a B-movie horror. Seances and supernatural events, creepy strangers, the group of college kids with their stereotypical personalities, a historical mystery about the mountain you're staying on, and much more! But even if you're not a fan of this type of horror, don't knock it yet! Remember this: you're in charge!
Despite all of the stereotypes, the characters were written well, and they're memorable! In fact, one character in particular stuck out in my mind, whom you are introduced to at the end of the very first chapter. I don't want to reveal anything further, only because I feel like it's a character that is best approached with fresh eyes and ears.
It's hard to say much more without ruining some of the interesting and unexpected turns, though I will say that there's much more to the story than what meets the eye!
Quick Time Events That Aren't Cringe-Worthy
As you would expect in this kind of game, there are Quick Time Events (or QTEs for short), which is what happens when you are abruptly prompted to push a specific button in a short time frame (often less than 1-3 seconds). Failing to do so in the allotted time will trigger an event. This event could be as simple as your character losing their grip while climbing over a locked fence, leaving you to try again, OR as severe as not being able to stop whatever or whoever may be chasing your character, leading them to their demise.
Despite the fact that QTEs are commonly hated, I quite liked them in Until Dawn. They were complicated enough that you couldn't always predict what to do, while still being simple enough that it didn't feel impossible and discouraging. And not only that, but they introduced something I hadn't experienced before.
A Welcomed Addition to Quick Time Events
Early on in the tutorial, you come across a squirrel. The character you're playing at the time, Sam, wanted to get closer. In order to do this, you had to stay still. You could not move your controller much at all, or else you would have scared the squirrel away. Believe me when I say that it is hard to remain perfectly still, and because of that, it builds tension like you wouldn't believe.
There was one point in the game where I had to hide and remain still while something was after me, for what seemed like 10 seconds. Before I knew it, I was actually holding my breath because it was so hard not to move. It was rather cruel of the developers to add this feature into the game, but I love them for it!
Bonus Collectibles That Actually Matter
It's pretty easy to think of games that have collectibles scattered throughout, but it's hard to think of one that has made said collectibles alter the events in-game. Until Dawn is one of those few.
- There are three different mysteries in Until Dawn. During the game, you will find clues to unravel one of the three mysteries, such as the previously mentioned historical events that happened on the mountain. These clues will contain some amount of backstory to the events that transpired. But what sets the game apart is that your characters will know that you've picked up a clue piece and will react to it. Finding something as seemingly insignificant as an old diary page could very well be enough to save a character down the road!
- Somewhat similar to the clues, you may stumble upon some Native American totems, which can help save you as well. However, this works a bit differently. Each totem will show you a prophecy; 1-2 seconds of a potential future. This doesn't sound like much, but at times, it is enough of a hint to help you make the "better" decision down the road.
These things don't really seem like a whole lot on their own, but when put together, it just made the whole experience that much better, as they were nice little things to look forward to while playing.
As you may have noticed so far, this review has been extremely positive! And rightfully so, as Until Dawn is deserving of praise. That said, no game is flawless. There are two things in particular that I felt worth noting.
- Although the game heavily relies on its "butterfly effect", do keep in mind that there's only so much that can change. Even if you chose options that were completely opposite of your first playthrough, you will not get a 100% different game. Sometimes it's the subtle things that change, such Person X finding an item, instead of Person Y.
- There seems to be a bit of an unfair "punishment", if you will, for players who did not pre-order the game in order to obtain the DLC. If you fall into that category, you are essentially missing a very small slice of the game. I've covered this in more depth here.
The few negatives that existed in this game were minor, and could easily be pushed aside without affecting my experience with the game. It was well worth the money and time spent playing, and I think that most horror fans will agree.
This genre still has a few things to learn before it'll be perfected, but Supermassive Games have definitely taken a step in the right direction with Until Dawn.