Going into As Dusk Falls we were a little apprehensive. Xbox's marketing push has been somewhat light with this one considering it's an Xbox Games Studios effort, and we've only just seen Road 96's similar tale of loss and hope through to its fantastic conclusion. As it turns out, we needn't have worried at all; As Dusk Falls is a thoroughly gripping story from start to finish and a fine addition to Xbox Game Pass.
The basic premise is this: two families' fates become intertwined when a robbery goes horribly wrong and ends up a bit of a motel massacre (we won't spoil it beyond that). From there, you'll go on one hell of a journey with a broad cast of characters, each of whom seem to have their own plan of how to get out of the mess that's just unfolded.
As a premise it's not entirely unique; we've watched and played through plenty of crime dramas before. However, the cast — and each of their performances — elevates As Dusk Falls to one of the best video game stories we've played through in recent years, and one that felt engaging right to the end. Although the game's stop motion, visual novel-esque presentation may put some off, it doesn't hurt the game or its story delivery one bit.
As for how you'll interact with that story, there are three main gameplay elements. One is a simple Telltale-like dialogue choice tree, which is often presented in scenes where making a decision will dramatically alter the narrative. Another is where certain scenes are displayed like an adventure game, and you'll have to find key items to progress - sometimes with a time limit. Finally, quick-time events play a major role as well, although never so much that they become irritating for those who don't particularly enjoy QTEs.
All three are evenly utilised throughout the game, and they all kept us engaged and eager to carry on discovering the story. In fact, this reviewer joked with the PX crew that they often accidentally fail QTE prompts in games like this due to a dwindling attention span - but not with As Dusk Falls. We were glued to the screen through pretty much every scene thanks to fantastic writing, dialogue delivery and cutscene presentation.
It's worth noting as well that the game can be played in local or online co-op, using a voting system for dialogue choices and story decisions. In fact, there's an As Dusk Falls companion app too (Android, iOS), so if you've got a bunch of mates around for co-op, you can all vote on key decisions and perform QTE sections on your phones. We didn't get a chance to test this out during the preview period, but it's something we'll definitely look at for a second story playthrough.
We will add one warning though - at times the story in Ask Dusk Falls is quite heavy, with a particular focus on trauma, violence and suicide. To us it never became too dark or overbearing in any way, but be warned; the story isn't very light hearted if that's more your pace.
That's not to say As Dusk Falls doesn't hit you in the feels from time to time though. It works character relationships into its story really well, and you do feel a tangible rapport building between ordinary people in what is a pretty shocking moment in all their lives. It's just a really well constructed story overall, and its twists and turns born from your choices make it feel like quite a personal story in the end.
And that's why As Dusk Falls is quite a hard game to write a review on. It really is all about the game's storyline — don't come here expecting much gameplay at all — and we don't want to spoil any more details of our playthrough if we can avoid it. Admittedly though, your playthrough could be very different to ours. Some choices have a massive impact in As Dusk Falls, and the game presents all the decisions you make as a giant choice map as chapters come to a close. There's certainly replayability here, put it that way, if you want to experience where the story can go when different decisions are made.
As Dusk Falls is a cracking crime thriller and feels like the exact thing we should be seeing on a regular basis from Xbox Game Studios on Game Pass. Its 6-8 hour length feels just right for a game of this nature, and that also makes it feel right at home on Xbox's subscription service. Oh, and the fantastic storyline that never let us wriggle free of its grip? Yeah, that's not a bad reason to play it on Game Pass either.