The Story Tree In As Dusk Falls Should Be Mandatory In Every Narrative Adventure Game
As Dusk Falls is an ambitious interactive drama about two families whose lives are intertwined following a random, violent encounter. Switching between members of the Holt family, who are infamous in their small town of Two Rock, Arizona, and the Walkers, who are just passing through, you play a pivotal role in how the story unfolds, and the choices you make can have life-changing consequences. An impressive voice cast, good writing and a unique art style make it an unmissable game for lovers of the genre, but the best part of As Dusk Falls is the story tree you’re shown at the end of each chapter.
Tell Me A Story
There are six chapters in As Dusk Falls, each about an hour long. By the time you finish a chapter, you’ll have made more than one major decision for the Holts and the Walkers. And if you’re playing with friends, the way the developers INTERIOR/NIGHT intended, you’ll have probably made at least one decision you don’t agree with.
After each chapter, you’re shown a story tree with every possible decision, outcome and consequence mapped out in great detail. Here’s what it might look like after chapter 1 (mild spoiler warning for As Dusk Falls chapter 1):
I’ve never played a game like this that gave me so much data. Life is Strange shows you how your choices compare to everyone else’s, but only as a percentage. And while it’s great to know if you’re among the 71% of players who watered Max’s plant or the 29% who forgot, it doesn’t show you which choices led to this or how your choices will impact the future.
Compared to this, As Dusk Falls‘ story tree shows you the ripple effect of your decisions.
In addition to tracing a path through your adventure, the story tree also indicates when a decision has a major impact on the story or results in a death. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys replaying these games to experience every ending, these icons are particularly helpful, as is the option to “Play From Here” that you can trigger from the story tree.
As Dusk Falls Is a Group Affair
The way multiplayer works in As Dusk Falls is very democratic. Everyone gets to vote on decisions, and if there isn’t a clear winner, the game will pick one at random. Each player gets a certain number of overrides that they can use to force their decision through, but these are a limited resource.
If it’s a major decision, which the game calls Crossroads, the vote has to be unanimous, which inevitably leads to heated discussions between players.
The story tree is especially useful if you’re overridden or convinced to vote against your instinct at a Crossroads. You can see exactly how the story would have changed if you’d made your choice. Sometimes it doesn’t change the story much, or at all, but other times it can send the Holt and Walker families careening in a different direction
Admittedly, this level of detail isn’t for everyone. It could be said that seeing the decisions laid bare like this ruins some of the magic of the game. But for fans of the genre, it’s an irresistible well of knowledge.
An Epic Tale
The story tree only works because As Dusk Falls spans decades and lets you play as multiple characters. In this way, it’s more like The Quarry or Until Dawn than Life is Strange. There are multiple endings and multiple possible deaths for almost every character, including the ones you play as, so following the outcome of your choices lets you reflect on how you impacted the story.
As Dusk Falls is a new benchmark for the genre, and the story tree is the new gold standard for measuring players’ choices. Whether it becomes the new standard for narrative adventure games is still to be seen, but there’s definitely something other games can learn from the level of detail it provides. If nothing else, it shows that players want to know these things and proves that games are a legitimate form of storytelling.
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