A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Family is at the heart of the story, and players must decide (through different characters' situations) when to stick with or break free from flesh and blood. Mercy, bravery, and trust are a few values that recur with decision-making. But players can choose to take characters down unsavory paths motivated by blind loyalty, self-preservation, and violence.
Positive Role Models
Even the best characters who exhibit kindness and love have significant shortcomings -- e.g., infidelity, chronic lying. But these flaws exist with opportunities for players to encounter moving scenes of forgiveness. The player's actions determine whether or not the main characters are laudable role models. Majority of cast has shady and violent backstories they cover up or run from, but these approaches aren't cast in a good light.
One lead character is shown in an interracial marriage. A few main characters make for a wider array of body types than expected in most games. While only one female character is playable, several occupy integral roles in the story by taking charge of situations and standing up to male characters who are hurting others. Most of the cast is White with a couple African American and Asian side characters.
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Ease of Play
As Dusk Falls is an interactive story, so inputs are limited to scrolling through dialogue options and selecting objects for characters to interact with. Quick-time events are manageable with actions like rotating the analog stick and rapidly pressing one button. Accessibility options include extending or removing time limits for these, perfect for lowering stress or playing with friends. Using the stick is awkward and sluggish for menu navigation and scene exploration, but this is easily circumvented by using the D-pad of a controller or playing through the companion app.
Violence & Scariness
A hostage scene is the focal event of the game, with people held at gunpoint and shot at. Several characters are killed off-screen, others are shown with small bullet hole wounds and stains of blood after death. Two scenes show a character shot in the stomach with a shotgun, another who has a bullet removed from their side, but graphic detail is kept to a minimum. A character attempts to bury someone alive. One scene with suicide by a noose, but players are warned a couple times over and have the option to skip this. A couple fistfights.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Early on, a character rummages through a file cabinet and comes across a foot fetish magazine; nothing sexually explicit is shown on the cover. A man and woman kiss deeply, which leads to muffled moans behind a closed door. This transitions to a view of the wife on top of her husband, both fully clothed. They do nothing more than kiss before abruptly calling off foreplay. Two euphemistic jokes that reference erections and topless women.
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Strong language is common. "F--k" is used a couple dozen times over. "S--t," "ass," "bastard," "damn," and "hell" are commonly used too. "Pr--k" and "bitch" a few times.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several scenes with older and young adults involve beer, wine, or whiskey. One character talks about being sober and is tempted to drink later on. People at a party are depicted as drunk, some shown passing out. Two characters are shown getting high on marijuana and "Ecstasy," with sluggish movement and slurred speech. Others are shown lighting and smoking cigarettes. Nearly every situation is something the player can choose to participate in or not, but embracing these moments often leads to negative story outcomes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that As Dusk Falls is a downloadable solo or co-op interactive story where your choices influence the outcome of the game's events for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PCs. The game follows a robbery gone wrong by the Holt brothers that leads to a hostage crisis at a motel. From the perspective of an innocent father to the conflicted heart of the youngest Holt brother, players will not only wrestle with their family relationships, but also see how the past collides with the present; even the smallest decisions from yesterday or yesteryear carry weight in the twists and turns of this story. There are multiple fistfights and shoot-outs. Some characters are shown with bullet wounds and stains of blood. One person attempts to hang himself, but players are warned of this scene and can skip it. A foot fetish magazine cover, kissing, and erotic grunts are briefly present in some scenes but not sexually explicit. There's a lot of profanity and substance use. Words like "f--k," "s--t," and "ass" are used dozens of times over. Beer, wine, whiskey, marijuana, Ecstasy, and cigarettes are present in (usually) one-off scenes, sometimes with characters who have slurred speech and sluggish movement. Players are often presented with the option to partake in these things, but doing so usually leads to bad outcomes. On the plus side, the game emphasizes positive traits like communication, compassion, and empathy, since characters can choose to do the right thing to atone or adjust for the circumstances they're in. This also highlights the possibility of self-control to prevent characters from getting in worse trouble. Teamwork is also emphasized both in the story and in the cooperative play.
Is It Any Good?
This story starts out as a simple family trip to introduce players to its simple mechanics, but it quickly brings players into a complex tale. What you'll be doing most in As Dusk Falls is selecting between options for dialogue and actions -- choices that influence your relationships with characters and the fates of others. Some decisions are clearly marked as "Crossroads" that deeply impact the narrative, but even little things can influence events in surprising ways. There are also scenes where players investigate rooms by moving a cursor around to find clues, hide evidence, and so on. Other than these, quick-time events (QTEs) occur frequently with button taps and analog stick rotations. By default, they are easy to succeed with in contrast to most games with QTEs, but time limits can be extended or eliminated for players who want less pressure when weighing options. This is suitable for the great co-op feature (absent in most interactive story games), where players vote by majority rule to determine what happens, but each player has a handful of special "overrides" that can bring about exciting upsets. Up to four players can join in locally with controllers, up to eight when playing with an app via smartphones. Online play is an option as well.
The presentation holds the game back a bit. It's animated in a storyboard format with photos of actors drawn over in a loose, painterly style. There are some animated 3D objects implemented into scenes, but they clash with the 2D stills with visual oddities. Unfortunately, the action and cast's solid performances don't land as powerfully as they could have with full animation. As Dusk Falls doesn't make its case through gameplay or graphics, but primarily through story. Characters have rich backstories and emotional complexity that intersect and evolve in ways that will pull you in. The pacing of who you play as and when can feel uneven, and some characters are underutilized or unnecessary. Nevertheless, the overarching story is so impressive in scope and how it comes together that -- when you're shown all the potential paths you could have taken at the end of each chapter -- you'll be tempted to go for another playthrough.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.