By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on August 31, 2015
I don't know about you guys, but I just had the most excellent yet scary weekend ever! I can almost hear some of you wondering what the hell I'm talking about, so please let me explain. Last Friday, a package was delivered to my house, containing an object of rectangular shape. This object filed me with anticipation, as well as the knowledge that I would be scared out of my skull for a good amount of time. Because you see, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the object I held in my hands was nothing less than my own copy of the latest addition to the ever-expanding Horror Survival catalogue: Until Dawn.
I did actually play a small portion of this game once before at Firstlook 2014, and from that moment on I knew I just HAD to play the entire game. Until Dawn's story is one about a group of 8 teenagers who, a year ago, decided to meet each other in a cabin up in the mountains for a fun winter vacation. But alas, things quickly go from bad to worse and a terrible tragedy befalls the group of friends. Now, a year later, the group plans a reunion up in the same cabin to get back together and see how everybody's doing after last yearís traumatic event. But itís really not to be the cozy and relaxing trip they hoped for. Instead of bonding, they suddenly find themselves at the mercy of the twisted mind games of a psychopath. The eight friends will have to do everything in their power to survive until dawn. And that is easier said than done, because from that moment on everybody is in danger and can all be the psychopath's next victim. So that just leaves the eternal question, present in almost every horror game or movie ever: Who, why and what?! Who is this psycho, why is he or she doing this and what does he or she want?
Until Dawn is a game that revolves around decision-making, and almost every choice you make will have an impact on the story and the game's outcome. Although this is not the first time this promise has been made by a game developer, this is the first time (that I know of) that anyone makes good on this promise to this extent. Sure, there have been games that incorporated some choices into the final outcome, but Until Dawn uses every choice you make to determine the individual relations between the characters and how they react to one another. Some choices might seem trivial at the time, but if you're not careful, they will bite you in your butt afterwards. So you can imagine my conundrum: I'd like nothing more than to tell you how much I liked different parts of Until Dawn and just how awesome some (if not all) scenes are, but at the same time I do not want to spoil the fun for you by letting the cat out of the bag prematurely. I mean, Until dawn is a game that you really have to experience for yourself, without any knowledge beyond what I just told you. So forgive me if my descriptions are a bit on the fuzzy side from now on, Iím just doing the best I can to make sure I don't spoil any of the nail-biting, gut-wrenching, screaming in terror horror masterpiece that is Until Dawn!
Unlike most other games, Until Dawn doesn't let you choose which character you would like to play as, you'll simply control all of them! I must say, I personally think this is really cool! This way, you'll get to know every character as you control their actions and accompany them on their trip through hell. The group of friends consists of the usual suspects; characters often seen in any given teen horror movie. There's the jock, the nerd, the beauty queen, the nagging bitch, and so on. Everyone has his or her own personality and no two are interchangeable. This makes for tensions within the group, as well as bonding. Another awesome feature is the fact that the group dynamic changes with the choices you make, represented by a simple graph on the character information screen. When playing as a particular character, just press the R1 button to access this screen and see the standing of that character within the group. So in short: everything you do will most likely have an effect on most of the others in the group. This really makes you think carefully before making a choice, because any decision that might be good for one of them, may effects the others in a negative way. And you will not know if you've made the right choice until the effects of that choice present themselves. To make things that more realistic, Until Dawn does not feature save slots. It does however, break up the story into episodes. So when you feel you've done something wrong during your play-through, you could choose to go back and replay a particular episode in order to change the story. But only when you've finished the game, so be careful what you decide!
To help you during your adventure they've introduced a Totem system. These totems are collectibles that can be found around the world. When you pick them up you'll see a short vision of something that might happen, warning you about possible dangers or deaths, or helping you by giving you hints on what to do in particular situations. These helpful totems can be found in five different colors:
Black (Death) - Foretells of a possible death of the character youíre playing at that moment.
Red (Danger) - Foretells of a dangerous, but not fatal event of the character youíre playing that moment.
Brown (Loss) - Foretells of a possible death of one of your group.
Yellow (Guidance) - Foretells how to make the most of a given situation.
White (Fortune) - Shows the best possible outcome of a given event.
The funny thing about these Totems is, that they warn or inform you about upcoming events, but you might not always be in the position to change that specific event because of other choices you made in the past, or clues you did not discover.
The developers wanted to create a game that really has teenage horror movie written all over it, and believe me when I say: they've succeeded in doing so! All the environments are dark or poorly lit; from the cabin where you are all staying to every other location you visit. The characters are real actors you may know from movies or series. Sam for instance, is brought to life by the grade A acting of none other than Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, Scream 4). Another character, Doctor Hill, is perfectly portrayed by Peter Stormare (Hansel & Gretel: Witch hunter, Fargo, The Big Lebowski). All of the scenes are really well done and feature great acting and interaction. The script is awesome, well-written and guaranteed to keep your nerves on edge until the very end of the game.
This is about all I can tell you about the game itself without spoiling the fun, so instead of prattling on about how awesome it is, I will give you three tips that might be a big help while playing. They may even help you keep every character alive, because yes: that is a possibility!
When you start playing Until dawn, the game will inform you that sometimes, not making a choice at all is the best approach. Keep that in mind while playing through the game! Also, always be prepared to perform a Quick Time Event. There are many QTEís in this game, which can mean the difference between life or death for certain characters. Something else I have never encountered in a game was the need to keep your controller absolutely still. Especially in some of the more scary scenes, this added even more tension and stretched my already ragged nerves to their breaking point. But if it says 'don't move', then please... DON'T MOVE! And lastly, don't forget to search everywhere for clues and totems. These can really help you along your way and might even save a life!
Until Dawn is an intense, story-driven rollercoaster ride through a world of fear and distrust and easily one of the best survival games out there. I would just like to add that this game is so good, you can and prbably will want to replay it at least twice. The first time to experience and discover the great story, the second time (and maybe more times) to try if you can save all the characters and/or collect all the collectibles. And if youíre a bit of a psycho yourself (like me), you might even want to try if you can kill off each of the characters. You can play this game and make the choices you yourself would make, or choose the exact opposite of what you would do in that kind of situation; the choice is yours and the possibilities are endless! As we reach the end of this review, I would just like to wish you all a safe trip! I can only hope youíll make it... until dawn.