Last night, July 15th, I had the pleasure of attending an early access in-person launch event for As Dusk Falls, the debut project of Interior/Night, an indie developer headed by Caroline Marchal, former lead game designer for Quantic Dream. Having worked on some heavy-hitters like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, Marchal is no stranger to the narrative avenues provided by games of this format, placing an extreme emphasis on choice and the way those specific choices impact the story moving forward. As Dusk Falls is no different, presenting a decades-long story about two families where each decision can create a domino effect that will stick with the player for chapters (and years) to come. Speaking of chapters, the story is told across “two intense books,” though it is unclear right now how long these sections are going to be; however, given the opportunity to play through the (assumedly entire) first chapter last night, the game’s premier section lasted about 90 minutes.
Presented by Xbox in association with KindaFunnyGames, the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles hosted the event, with every available space inside covered by posters for As Dusk Falls. At the internal bar, patrons could order the Desert Dream (and its alcoholic counterpart, the Desert Dream After Dark), lovingly named after the in-game motel where much of the game’s early action takes place. As a result, much of the game’s (and event’s) aesthetic tastes were focused on the Desert Dream.
How freaking cool is this?
— Parris (@vicious696) July 16, 2022
Starting at 7 pm, Kinda Funny’s SnowBikeMike and Parris Lilly took to the stage to introduce the event and interview the lead developer and CEO of Int./Night, the aforementioned Caroline Marchal. After a brief sidetrack by Mike and Marchal’s shared love for the Metal Gear Solid series (and the impact of that infamous Psychomantis fight), the interviewers were able to delve further into the minds and processes behind As Dusk Falls. As Marchal mentioned several times throughout the interview, the primary goal of As Dusk Falls was to bring gamers and non-gamers together in a shared interest for an intriguing and ever-deepening narrative. Because of this, Marchal sought to create a game where the controls were not the focal point; rather than creating a barrier to entry for those not accustomed to a typical controller, much of the game capitalizes more on choices than on action and successful quick time events (QTEs). Additionally, the game is playable through a mobile companion app accessed on smart devices, enabling the game to be played by up to 8 players at once! In an industry where the max standard is usually 4, this is an impressive feature.
Since the announcement trailer’s release back in July 2020, a primary selling point for As Dusk Falls has always been its art style – boasting a mostly static, painterly animation style, Marchal spoke briefly about the 2D artist responsible for hand-painting each of the game’s frames. Yep, you read that right: every frame is painstakingly painted by hand by (the way Marchal made it sound) a single artist, giving new meaning to the phrase “every frame a painting.” This results in an almost graphic-novel-like feel as one plays the game, where the philosophy of “less is more” allows the audience to substitute their own emotions for the characters’; this, in turn, informs the players’ decisions even further, intensifying the every-20-second-decision-making enforced throughout the game. As SnowBikeMike comments, “a picture says a thousand words” – and this game is chock full of pictures.
While reticent to spoil any of the game’s opening chapter, the set-up is a quick process that drops us first in the shoes of Vince Walker, an everyman driving cross-country with his wife, daughter, and a crotchety old father that walked out on him when Vince was young. Though some of the game’s early choices seem pretty arbitrary, any decision can ultimately come back to haunt the player depending on specific dialogue choices. For example, an early decision to peek at your daughter Zoe’s backpack during a playful game of memory can result in her calling you out for untrustworthiness later on – just in some more… sensitive company. After an encounter with the Holt boys, a small-town family with a host of similarly-father-based issues, we follow Jay Holt, the best-intentioned youngest brother of three as he and his siblings attempt a robbery (potentially gone wrong). From here, the two families cross paths and collide in unexpected (and incredibly varying) ways, culminating in a first chapter cliffhanger that I simply can’t detail.
As an attendee of the event, every person with access to the Twitch app was able to vote for choices in the KindaFunny Twitch account’s chat. This added to the fun, as the peanut gallery (guilty as charged) typically selected the dumbest or worst option possible, placing the characters in as much danger or hijinks as we could. While this feature may not be accessible in the same manner once the game launches on Tuesday, July 19, the game carries with it a variety of cooperative opportunities provided by smart device access. Finally, in order to reach a wider audience than an indie narrative game might typically pull on release, Int./Night has partnered with Xbox to make As Dusk Falls an Xbox Game Pass offering, as well as being accessible on Steam for PC. Additionally, KindaFunnyGames will be picking up where we left off on their Twitch channel the same day, July 19th, and chat will similarly be able to vote for options, so check that out if this feature intrigues you! All in all, As Dusk Falls promises a stylistic, impactful journey through the fallout of two families’ sins, giving the player a front-row seat to the drama and heartbreak resulting from a few crucial life-changing decisions.