E3 2015 – Until Dawn: Choose your own horror

4 min read

Until Dawn seemed like the incredible disappearing, reappearing game. But now it is definitely coming and looking great. While people might be used to the Telltale version of horror storytelling where your choices matter, Until Dawn is different, and better for it.

Until Dawn is a horror storytelling game following a bunch of teens who get attacked by a psycho while staying at a remote cabin in the mountains. The demo playing during E3 took place after some decisions had already been made. At this point, Emily and Matt are trying to make their way to a radio tower to call for help.

Until dawn 1

Most of the decision making is between two choices – will you be nice or sarcastic, helpful or antagonistic. However, during certain points players can also choose between action and inaction, although the choice is more subtle. Instead of coming up with two on screen choices, there is a targeting reticule that appears for the action. If, however, players don’t use it, it can lead to not attacking which sometimes is a better option.

I played through the demo twice, making different decisions. However, both play throughs I ended up accidentally killing off characters. There will definitely be a ton of replay value to the game as depending on all sorts of decisions you can have totally different interactions and experiences. For example, trying to save someone the whole time might result in your own death, and being nice isn’t always best.

I found the horror of the game rather effective. The lighting and sound effects build a tense mood without being overbearing. Plus, with only having limited choices and little transparency of effects, it feels like a real life horror – you just don’t always know what the best choice of action is. Should you fire the flare gun, or save it for later? Should you give it to your companion, or keep it for yourself?

Until dawn emily

The gameplay is much as you’d imagine from an interactive adventure – don’t expect anything other than QTEs and decisions. However, this looks a whole lot better than any interactive adventure game you’re used to. The animations are excellent and the graphics make the dark and terrifying world come to life. Plus, the decisions aren’t as straight forward as some might think – I saw most people follow the same course of action during the demo, however I had totally different experiences both times I played. This is because of the “butterfly effect” concept of the game where every decision matters. When I chatted to a developer on hand, he said that there were ways to keep all eight characters alive during your whole play through; I was not that fortunate with either of my tries with the game.

While most games of this time appear with episodic gameplay, Until Dawn will release as a completed title, and no DLC is planned for it. I think that playing the full game at once will add a lot to the tension and drama of the experience – if just one small slice of the game could set me so much on edge (and even make me jump at one point), I can only imagine the cumulative impact of the suspense is played in one sitting. I would definitely need to replay it, though, just to find out if different choices could actually result in an ideal ending.

Until dawn matt

That said, I’d also be curious if different decisions could result in more likable characters. I wasn’t a big fan of Emily, I found her whiny and annoying and sort of wanted to have her killed off. As I understand it, certain decisions will give the character bravery, or antagonism towards each other. This could result in some more interesting (and likable) characters than what I was stuck with in the demo. Still, it makes for some serious suspense and horror when your seemingly positive choices can result in gruesome and terrifying deaths.

Until Dawn is only a few weeks away from launch, coming out 26 August. I think it will offer up some intriguing gameplay for horror fans. I just wonder if people will judge their game based on the results of a first batch of choices which might not have been best. Can I end up killing off all the characters?

Last Updated: June 22, 2015

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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