A dusty motel in the middle of nowhere doesn’t sound like a typical video game setting, but debut studio Interior Night, composed of industry veterans, uses this peculiar place to create a game unlike anything else you’ll play this year. As Dusk Falls deftly explores themes of inherited hardship through the lens of two families who cross paths on one pivotal night. By way of incredible voice acting, a compelling and expertly written script, and a bounty of pause-worthy choices along the game’s elaborate branching paths, it establishes itself as an instant classic in the narrative adventure genre.
Playing As Dusk Falls reminded me of something I think about a lot: how each of us is just the end result of every moment we’ve experienced before today. We often like to make up reasons for why we do something–drive recklessly, win the spelling bee, get a divorce, give an unhoused person some money–but ultimately, our behavior is more determined by our pasts than what feels like our split-second choices in the moment. Rationalization comes after the act, whatever it may be, as a way to make sense of ourselves. Enough bad experiences, especially at an early age, can create fundamentally flawed people who routinely make poor choices, while a rosier upbringing can birth inspiring role models. To some extent, we’re fated for success or failure before we even know we’re on the playing field. As Dusk Falls swims in these complicated waters.
The game opens in 1998, when two families collide–literally–on a desert road in Arizona. The Walkers are moving cross-country to reset their lives after the patriarch of the family, Vince, was let go from his job as an airplane mechanic due to a controversy that might end in litigation. The Holts, meanwhile, are infamous locals that have been making noise in the otherwise quiet town of Two Rock for decades. Side-swiped by the Holts, who flee the scene, the Walkers seek salvation at the Desert Dream Motel, the closest sign of life on the desolate road. Before long, the Holts end up there themselves following a robbery that goes south, and in their desperation, the Holts take the Walkers and others as hostages.