Until Dawn, developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony, is a PS4 exclusive title that offers a great horror story which seems simple at first: “Crazy killer on the mountain”. However, the story takes a couple of quick turns and reveals that things are not as simple as you would like them to be. With an outstanding ensemble cast made up of Hayden Panettiere, Brett Dalton, Meaghan Martin and many others create an almost “real” environment where you feel your actions affect these individuals. A special mention is owed to Peter Stormare for an exquisite performance as Dr. Alan Hill where his special kind of earnest/creepiness helps emerge you deeper into the story as he questions your motives and choices throughout the game.
At the game’s core is a movie, or better yet a television series that evolves over 10 Chapters. Until Dawn could probably have worked as a standalone series about kids returning to a mountain where a great tragedy befell them a year ago. A narrative driven game with the use of Native American (the Cree (Oh Canada!) more precisely) mythology used in combination with: butterflies which to some tribes believed they carried dreams or signalled change and balance and; the “Butterfly Effect” (some know it as a small change or small event can result in a larger change/cataclysmic event somewhere else). Also totem pole pieces can be found throughout the game as warnings or guidance which is up to the player to decipher and try to follow.
The teenagers interactions with each other are crucial and are left completely up to you, moments like this are what makes the game shine; choices like “if I let Matt take Jess’s side, will Emily have my back when I need her” at first seem trivial but as the game unravels it becomes hauntingly obvious that EVERY SINGLE CHOICE YOU MAKE will have a direct influence on future events, (e.g) “took a slip while running = you showed up late somewhere”, “didn’t give someone that high five they were waiting for = now they feel awkward around you”, “shoot your gun now = will you have a bullet later”. The best piece of advice is that sometimes it’s best to do nothing.
As expected from a horror game there will be many jump scares and terrifying moments where I admit letting out a scream or two but the true horror for me comes from that thought in the back of your mind when faced with 2 paths in front of you, “Did I make the right choice”; lingering thoughts such as this is what creates the magic and mystery of Until Dawn. I have never felt my actions have more significant affect on any game before and although I might have finished my first run with 2/8 people alive, sorry Matt, Mike, Jess, Josh, Chris and Ashley, but I intend to go back and see if there is a way to keep everyone alive. There is no game saving or save points throughout the game, when you stop a gaming session, that is where you lead off the next sessions, if someone dies…there is no reload, just continue on and keep trying your best. The lack of save/load feature is what creates such an insanely high replay value. Until Dawn is not the longest game, but that works in its favour since now you can go back and try to make “the right choices” and keep as many people alive as possible and see the different paths possible.