Until Dawn is one of my favourite horror games. The game is mostly exploration, quick-time events and decision-making. Not only does it make me think, it still has the potential to make me jump. So, I thought it was the perfect game to play over Halloween. Especially since it gives me the chance to choose the good ending or the bad ending. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve completed this game more times than I can count. Including collecting all the trophies, to get a PS4 platinum trophy (very proud of that). Another thing I like about this game is that it works on the butterfly effect. I’m sure you all know what that means. The most rational explanation of it is, the flapping of a butterfly wing can cause a tornado somewhere else. It’s safe to say that small events can have a quite big effect.
That is exactly how the game is played. I have to chose certain small event to create the biggest consequence. And, sometimes, these small events have nothing to do with the ending. Take Sam, for example. Early on in the game Sam goes down to the basement with Joshua to turn the boiler/power on. If you take the time to look in the cabinet where Josh is, before following the QTE, you’ll find a baseball bat. This gives Sam the chance to talk to Josh about it, then place it on the other side of the room. Now, this may not be important to the ending, but it is to Sam. You see, later on in the game Sam is chased by the psycho. This is where you really have to be quick with the QTEs. At some point, Sam will run to the basement. If you choose to hide, the baseball bat will be right where Sam put it earlier. Giving her the chance to hit the psycho with it and run away. However, if you didn’t pick up the bat in the beginning and you choose to hide. There’s a good chance the psycho will over power Sam and knock her out. On the other hand, if you’ve played the game as much as I have, you’ll know which buttons to choose to evade the psycho, without even having to use the baseball bat.
Another thing I like are the totems. These are collected throughout the game. There are five sets of totems to find and they all have some influence on the game. They are used as a guide, as long as the player knows which decisions to make, they are great way to steer the player to the desired ending. However, if you’ve played the game in a certain way, the outcome of following the totem may not give the desired effect. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.
The five totems are:-
The Death Totem – Black totems or butterflies, shows the character’s possible death.
The Danger Totem – Red totems or butterflies, shows a dangerous event that a character could experience.
The Loss Totem – Brown totems or butterflies, show the possible death of another character.
The Guidance Totem – Yellow totems or butterflies, show visions that can guide/help the player.
The Fortune Token – White totems or butterflies, Show visions of good fortune/luck.
As I said earlier, the visions shown by the totems will only help if the correct decisions have been made. For example, when Matt and Emily are at the top of the radio tower, a guidance token shows Emily giving Matt the flare gun. If you find the flare gun and give it to Matt there may be a chance he fires the flare gun straightaway. Which means he won’t have it later on in the game where he might need it. This is because the player has decided to play Matt as a pacifist. Every time he agrees with Emily, you don’t get the choice to save it for later. So, when the time comes to choose between saving Emily or jumping to safety. If the player chooses to save Emily both times, Matt will die because he has nothing to defend himself with. Remember what I said about small decisions causing big consequences. But, here’s the kicker, even if Matt had fired the flare gun, Matt would have survived if the player had chosen to jump to safety. Which means the totem is kind of useless. Personally, if I’m playing for the good ending, I’d choose for Emily to keep the flare gun. This means, when Emily is running from the Wendigo, I can shoot it with the flare gun and then hit every QTE. This stops Emily from being bitten and the game skips the ‘Emily has been bitten’ scene.
It’s the same with the collectables. Collecting certain items help to trigger certain scenes or determine future events. Take the twins clueline. The player needs to find Hannah’s tattoo card, the picture of Hannah showing her tattoo and the scrawled journal, to ensure Josh’s survival until dawn. Collecting all the mystery man, twins and 1952 clueline really does help develop the story as the game is completed. A lot of the twins clues show what happened to them after they fell at the beginning of the game. Mystery man clues reveal the stranger on the mountain and how Josh became the psycho. The 1952 clueline reveal what happened in the sanatorium, including where the Wendigos came from.
I can honestly say that I can play this game over and over again. You do have to play the game through at least once to understand how it works. You can then start again to create the desired ending. One thing I will say, do the ‘no-one survived’ ending before the ‘everyone survived until dawn’ ending. Personally, I felt better knowing that everyone survived in the end. Rather than finishing the game with everyone dead. It’s probably just me being a softie, but who cares. There’s nothing better than finishing the game with everyone alive.