Until Dawn: The Butterfly Effect

Until Dawn is an interactive survival horror video game released in 2015 for the PlayStation 4, developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game is set in Western Canada at a cabin on the fictional Blackwood Mountain. Exactly one year after the disappearance of twin sisters, Hannah and Beth, their friends Mike, Sam, Chris, Ashley, Jessica, Matt, Emily and their brother, Josh, decide to go to the cabin for vacation. Upon their arrival, the eight teens are attacked by a mysterious psychopath and must try to survive until dawn. 

Just know that the writers have done a good job here, managing to take what is usually crammed into 90 minutes and stretching it over a good 7+ hours. The benefit of this added time is some excellent character building, with the cast of teens each being fleshed out (some in better ways than others). -Tom Orry (videogamer)

Butterfly Effect Menu

Until Dawn is designed to be played multiple times, each play-through lasting about nine hours. The game makes use of the “butterfly effect“, any choice/action may cause consequences later on, allowing for many different paths and scenarios as well as offering several different endings for each character. Players face ethical and moral dilemmas, such as sacrificing one character to save another, blurring the line between right and wrong. It’s possible to keep all eight characters alive as well as having all eight of them die.

Supermassive implements the best use of quick-time events I’ve seen in a game to create nerve-racking action sequences… Supermassive eschews pointless button mashing for timed presses, precision aiming, and on-the-spot decision making, all of which keep you rooted in the moment. Don’t Move prompts are also an interesting addition, tasking you with holding the controller as still as possible to hide from stalking predators. Like the branching choices, these sequences work because your fear of death is genuine; watching a character that you’ve played as for hours die because you flubbed an escape sequence is brutal. -Jeff Marchiafava (gameinformer)

The game has a strict auto-save system that prevents players from reloading a previous save file if they’ve made an in-game decision they regret. The only way to change previously made decisions is to start a new game.

The aggressive save feature prevents you from undoing anything, forcing you to live with the choices you make. It’s a courageous move locking players into choices in such a far-flung branching narrative, but it’s a move that makes the narrative–and your experience controlling it–more powerful. -Alexa Ray Corriea (gamespot)

Gameplay

The actual gameplay is focused on quick-time events, discovering clues and making decisions. The game keeps track of clues and secrets discovered across all play-throughs. Until Dawn sets up the horror story each player will experience using repeated visits to a mysterious psychiatrist in an office between each chapter of the game. Controlling an unidentified person, the player answers questions that all have to do with what scares them and how they feel about the characters. The program learns what frightens the player and uses this information by placing needles or knives (depending on what the player said scared them more) in the hands of attackers.

Dr. Alan J. Hill (Peter Stormare)

All these specialized features come together to make Until Dawn a truly unique and interactive game experience. 

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