Until Dawn

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Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Quick-time events are an oft-maligned part of gaming from a console generation or two ago. This is when a cutscene is playing and then something happens that requires the player to quickly press or mash a button on the controller. Every game had them from Resident Evil 4 to God of War, and people loved them! It’s hard to imagine now. Still, for narrative-focused games, some companies seem to still be able to make them work. Today’s game is one of those success stories that uses quick-time events to their fullest. Today’s game is Until Dawn, developed by Supermassive Games and released on the Playstation 4 in 2015.

Until Dawn is a horror game that both plays on tropes of teen slasher films and creates something new at the same time. Players jump between several teens heading back up to a ski lodge for a weekend. This trip is a bit more somber than their annual trips of the past because last year, two of their friends went missing on the mountain and were never found. Still, the brother of the two missing girls, Josh, convinced everyone to come back this year because his sisters would want them to all be together again. It quickly becomes clear though that they are not as alone on this mountain as they first believed.

Characters fall into the common tropes of teen horror movies, the nerd, the jock, the last girl, they’re all here. Until Dawn doesn’t sit on its laurels with these tropes though, letting things play out like any other horror movie. Instead, they focus on developing each of these characters with interesting backstories and pathos and then, rather than letting them off on their path, they put any meaningful choices into the hands of the players. Fans of horror movies will immediately pick out the last girl archetype but if they don’t play their cards right, she could be the first to die, or even the only one to die. See Until Dawn doesn’t automatically have any of the main characters die. They can all be saved and likewise, they can all die based on the choices and reactions of the players.

Until Dawn received critical acclaim upon release and had a significant presence on streaming platforms like Twitch or YouTube. Until Dawn is a relatively short game, easily completable within 8-10 hours, but the choices alter the plot in fairly meaningful ways so replayability is fairly high. Plus, collectable totems give glimpses into the future as well as the past, fleshing out the story of the mountain and warning of possible dangers that lie ahead. Until Dawn has received two follow-ups, the Playstation VR exclusive Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, and the prequel game, The Inpatient. Neither were well received at all however, and Supermassive Games has since moved on to its ambitious Dark Pictures Anthology, an eight-part horror series starting with 2019’s Man of Medan. Until Dawn captured lightning in a bottle though and so far, nobody, not even Supermassive, seem to be able to recapture the same magic a second time.

Thank you so much for listening and a big thank you to Geoff for requesting today’s episode. If you would like to request a game to be talked about on the show, send me a tweet @vg_oftheday. Archives and transcripts for every episode are available on videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.