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Bringing Scares With Until Dawn

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How does a getaway on a remote snowy mountain with eight of your friends sound? I believe the answer you’re looking for is “No thank you, I didn’t sign up to be in some cliché horror flick.” Until Dawn, a survival horror game released by Supermassive Games centers around a group of eight friends that become trapped during their vacation getaway on a mountain where things quickly turn immensely ominous. Despite being somewhat predictable at times, this game really knows how to nail the scare or ‘jump’ factor along with the players in-game choices that have a major impact on the stories development and create a more tailored experience for the individual. Those who enjoy molding the story to their liking will definitely revel in what Until Dawn has to offer.

It’s all about the Butterfly Effect

Veteran gamers, or anybody that is familiar with companies like Telltale Games or Quantic Dreams (to name a couple) will know how much more immersed into the story you’re able to get when all the choices are at your fingertips. What we are talking about here is a scientific theory known as the butterfly effect. In laments terms this theory states that a single occurrence no matter how small can change the course of the universe forever. In the very beginning of Until Dawn a butterfly is displayed with this message and it definitely is something that is very important to keep in mind while playing the game. Your choices during the whole experience dictates which of the eight friends stay alive, and who will end up meeting their untimely demise at the hand of a really creepy psychopath or an unfortunate disaster. It’s all very riveting actually.

Creating Bonds with the Characters

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One thing I really enjoyed while playing Until Dawn was the cast of characters. All of them have certain attributes and traits that set them apart from one another and they are mo-capped by some pretty high tier actors/actresses.

It’s so easy in games like this to quickly become attached to characters, and personally in playing Until Dawn after making certain decisions the characters that I thought I disliked actually started to grow on me. Which didn’t matter anyways because some of them met a very gruesome end due to me not being able to figure out how to keep them alive (sorry Jessica, I really was starting to like you). I found in playing the game that while some of the characters portrayed stereotypes that are typically found in this genre, (i.e: the whiney girl, the jock/popular guy, the comic relief, the character that clearly was created for sex appeal) Until Dawn really tries to develop the characters as you progress making the loss of one (or all of them) difficult to deal with. I can tell you right now that I almost hurled my controller at the screen when I thought my favorite character was done for.

The Gameplay of Until Dawn

Originally Until Dawn was going to be released for the Playstation 3 and was set to be played in the first person perspective using the move controller as the flashlight. However, after the games first appearance at Gamescom 2012 many were anticipating a release in 2013. The footage portrayed two characters, Mike and Jessica on a trek to a secluded cabin to get cozy with one another and to escape from their friends. It never ended up happening and rather than pulling the title all together, Supermassive Games just gave it a later release date. Then in 2014, Until Dawn reappeared at Gamescom using the Playstation 4’s dualshock motion sensor to replace the move controller as the characters flashlight in an attempt to make for a more traditional approach along with now being played in the third person perspective. This time more gameplay was released featuring more characters and following in 2015 a demo was released featuring a more action-packed view of the game in which players took on the role of Sam. In this demo the choice was either to be knocked out by the killer or have Sam escape by the end. This showed just a hint of how the decisions that you make can alter the storyline greatly.

I am tremendously happy that the game was switched to third person, because it really does make all the difference. It has that Fatal Frame feel, where when the character reaches out for a glimmering item there is that lingering feeling of fear that something is going to pop up and scare the pants right off of you. Let me tell you they succeed in doing that almost every time. Exploration is very similar to that of a side-scrolling adventure so while some areas will be off limits the environment around you along with the sound effects and eerie music really helps set the tone. It takes away from not being able to explore those areas because quite frankly that would just make things worse. Why would I want to wander aimlessly around a snowy, secluded mountain? I wouldn’t.

Some complaints that I do have though is that when it comes to controlling the flashlight, (you do so with the right analog stick) sometimes it can be a little hard to maneuver. In certain situations I found myself tilting the stick forward or to the right, and having actions be slightly delayed or had the character move it in the opposite direction. This proved to be quite annoying however I don’t believe it’s necessary to catch the clues laying around since they glimmer as you get closer to them. Another small aspect of the game that got on my nerves was the fact that you can’t run. There’s an option to make the characters walk a little faster, but in situations where you’re being chased or a comrade has been taken by the creepy psychopath running after them (or away from them in many cases) would be really helpful. I’m sorry but if one of my friends was being held hostage by a killer and I was feeling brave enough to save them, I’d be running. I did really enjoy the quick time events featured in the game, and I like that you have the choice to take risks or be safe.

The Verdict

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I feel like I can’t recommend Until Dawn enough to those of you with a Playstation 4. The experience is one that will stick with you long after finishing, and there are so many different outcomes. My mind is blown that there is a way to keep all eight of your friends alive throughout the whole thing (because I have yet to accomplish this) OR have them all die just to see what happens. As you move through the chapters and progress with the story you really will find yourself bonding with this great cast of characters and perhaps even questioning at times whether you’re playing a game or just watching a horror flick. I’m not only recommending this for the characters or story though, it’s all in the fear factor. If you’re up for a good scare then this game is for you. At times I found myself covering my eyes and having to pause for awhile before continuing or just sitting in awe at some of the choices that you are required to make in order to progress. I will warn you now though that many of these choices will make you want to throw and or smash your controller in frustration. Don’t do it, just play it again. So, what are you waiting for? Sam, Chris, Ashley, Josh, Mike, Emily, Jessica and Matt are all waiting for you. So let me ask again, you up for a trip into some secluded mountains?

Christa is an eclectic gamer. She's been button mashing in all sorts of games since she could hold a controller. Her favorite console is the Playstation and favorite genre is RPG. She is also a gigantic fan of first person shooters and survival horror (even though she's a Chuckie Finster grade scaredy cat).