Until Dawn is a game entirely about choices, both big and small. Making a choice brings up a small butterfly icon in the bottom corner of the screen, to indicate that the game is recording what you did. It remembers. When I played the game at EGX last year sometimes the most innocuous actions would cause this butterfly to appear, doing things as simple as reading a newspaper article was a choice that Until Dawn would remember. And the game has the potential to make even the smallest choices matter in the biggest ways possible.
Until Dawn stars eight teenagers who have gone on vacation to secluded cabin. Naturally everything goes wrong, and they’re hunted by…things. In my previous experience with the game the primary antagonist was a psychotic serial killer, however there was also a ghost stalking the basement too. And at the beginning of the above demo two characters, Matt and Emily, are confronted by a herd of angry elk at the edge of a cliff. So really, anything could happen in Until Dawn.
Throughout the course of the story any of the characters have the potential to die. Once a character is dead that’s it; there’s no respawns, no game over and no failure state. A character dies and the rest of the story moves on without them. If everyone dies throughout the course of the night then it’s not game over, it’s just the ending that you’ve unlocked.
How did Matt and Emily end up at the edge of a cliff, surrounded by angry elk? According to Will Byles, creative director at Supermassive Games, several things must have happened in the story previously to lead to that point. When you’re confronted by the elk you have a choice; do you attack the leader with your axe or simply walk slowly through them? One choice will see you continue on with both characters, and one sees Emily forced to carry on alone.
Seemingly helpful totems will assist you in your decision making. Finding these totems, that come inscribed with the Native American symbol for the butterfly, will give you a brief glimpse into the future, and the potential fate of one of the characters. Armed with this information you can take steps to prevent this from taking place. Of course this also presents the classic conundrum; what if the steps you take are what leads to the event in the first place? And what if you’re preventing one tragedy at the cost of something even worse happening?
Until Dawn has looked amazing ever since it was revealed late in 2013 and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. It’s releasing August 28 exclusively on Playstation 4.