Until Dawn | Supermassive Games
Horror Delivered in High Doses
by Felipe Parada
When you think of a horror game, which games come to mind? Resident Evil, Outlast and Silent Hill are usually the go to franchises if you want an intense horror experience. After finally getting my hands on Supermassive Games Until Dawn, I never knew that horror could be delivered in such high doses. I know, I know, it took a while but I managed to make some time for this gem. Until Dawn is a type of game that answers the question of, what would happen if David Cage made a horror game?
This can both be good and bad. Until Dawn is an interactive horror game that relies heavily on Quick Time events and jump scares, but it works. Until Dawn borrows a lot of core aspects from previous horror movies which makes a lot of sense. Cabin in the woods, mysterious force of nature, group of friends take a trip, all the hits are present and unfold before your very eyes. But does it have enough to keep you entangled in its horror themed web?
Before we begin, as in every Criminally Underrated segment, let's look at the releases of August 2015:
August 11 - Everybody’s Gone to Rapture
August 13 - Fallout Shelter
August 18 - Final Fantasy Type 0 HD
August 18 - Resident Evil Revelations 2
August 25 - Dishonored: Definitive Edition
August 25 - Mega Man Legacy Collection
August 25 - Until Dawn
I’ll be honest, when I first saw Until Dawn I thought to myself “Great, another generic horror game.” This might be one of the reasons why this game was overlooked. If you look at the release schedule, there was another survival horror themed game on the list with a much larger reputation, Resident Evil Revelations 2. Resident Evil Revelations 2 is another great game in its own right, so of course you would go with the Resident Evil franchise if you want to scratch that horror itch. I think it would have made more sense to release a horror themed game like Until Dawn around the Halloween season rather than the end of August.
Until Dawn follows the story of 10 friends that go on a yearly retreat to a remote cabin in the mountains of British Columbia. As young adults normally do, they get themselves into a whirlwind of trouble when a harmless prank goes terribly wrong. The victims of the prank, twin sisters Beth and Hannah, go missing in the woods and don’t return. The group then decide to make a pact to return to the cabin every year to celebrate the lives of their missing friends. When they return the following year they realize this time around it won't be sunshine and rainbows. At this point in the story things take a turn for the worse as things aren't what they appear to be.
The group tries everything within their power to get off the mountain but fail at every turn. Realizing that their options are severely limited, they focus on one objective and one objective only, to survive….Until Dawn (see what I did there?). But it’s easier said than done. With very little firepower, and resources running low, the group begin to fall apart and turn on eachother. The branching dialogue paths add to the tension because you always feel like you are making a wrong decision on what to say next. Do you empathize or dismiss? Do you comfort or motivate? I can go on and on about the decisions you can make but it’s best to see the your decisions play out only for you to realize that your previous encounter should have gone differently. This aspect is what I truly like about these interactive games, your decisions do matter.
Not to get to much into the story, but you go through the game having the fate of these 10 friends in the palm of your hand. Each character fits a specific profile from the alpha male to the spoiled little rich girl. It’s not apparent at first but over the course of the story you decide whether all of them live or all of them die. Trust me, there will be at least 2 characters you can’t wait to axe. Depending on the choices you make during the story there will be characters that will die because of the butterfly effect. Each turn you make, person you decide to ignore and quick time event missed, affects the outcome of the narrative. And I’m not talking about minor changes, I’m talking about decisions that will lead to someone's death.
For those of you not familiar with the Butterfly Effect, it is a scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. This is the central focus of Until Dawn and once you make a major decision in the story, a notification will appear saying that “The Butterfly Effect has been Updated”. Supermassive Games even goes one step further and gives you the option of looking at specific events that have happened in the timeline and show you how one decision affected your story, similar to Detroit: Become Humans “Choice Chart”. I personally love this attention to detail when it comes to any narrative, and the chart also looks like a Butterfly.
I had a really fun time deciding the fate of my 10 friends. Well, at least most of them. A majority of them perished because of my inability to hit the Triangle button fast enough, or the fact that I hit R1 instead of R2 out of reaction to what was happening at the moment. I’ll admit, some of those jumpscares we're pretty good. I do want to go back and see the results of a well timed Triangle push and choosing to sympathize with a friend rather than scoff at them.
And that’s the most important thing about Until Dawn, you’re ability to make meaningful choices that affect the narrative in big ways. Look past all the horror clichés and the often predictable narrative. Look past the fact that it's a Walking Dead-like walking sim with a good amount of Quick time events. These are just hurdles to get past to an otherwise great horror experience. Multiple playthroughs are recommended as it helps to get the overall scope of the narrative. It's always interesting to see which characters can survive Until Dawn.