How Could a Terrifying Until Dawn Sequel Work?
Jack Matthams imagines his ideal Until Dawn sequel.
A couple of months ago, a Playstation VR prequel was announced in a rather foreboding trailer for the superb hit horror game Until Dawn. A game of intense horror, wonderful graphics and lovely storytelling that changed depending on the player’s choices. The prequel seems to avoid a problem many suggested might happen should Supermassive Games return for a follow up: it charts the downfall rather than the aftermath of the events.
Now, with Until Dawn’s ending changing depending on your choices and efforts to save the characters, it seems a sequel is a long stretch. Yet, when you enjoyed the fear, beauty and butterfly effect system that the game cherished, it seems such a waste to simply let it go. So, in response to this, how could Until Dawn spawn a proper sequel that enhances the horror to a new level?
Firstly, it seems that a direct sequel is a no-go, and I doubt many would disagree. Trying to produce a direct sequel around the same characters would cause confusion and likely anger at the fact that player choices from the first game would have to be overridden, especially when you consider that designing the game to take these events into account would be almost impossible for Supermassive Games. Sure, they could lead on from a definitive ‘this is how the last game ended for us’ stance, like games such as Dark Souls, but in a design where the narrative is dictated by choices, this seems like a poor path to go down. Thus, the new game would require entirely new characters that we could control.
Setting-wise, whilst the prequel, The Inpatient, is sticking with the Blackwood Pines Sanatorium, it would probably work better if the developers went for something entirely fresh for the future. And this comes down to the core point of how an Until Dawn sequel could work: it would be very indirect story-wise, but a true sequel gameplay wise. Let’s ditch the mountain. Let’s ditch the wendigos. Let’s go for something completely new. Why not?
Granted, the wendigos were pretty terrifying in Until Dawn. The secrets you uncover about the miners and Hannah, as well as the encounters with them and ease with which they could dispatch your characters meant it was impossible to be anything but terrified. Yet, what’s to stop this formula working for another type of classic monster? What about werewolves, or vampires? Dark spirits, or zombies? This may be a big jump in setting, but I think an archaeological investigation into the tomb of an Egyptian Mummy would be a fantastically petrifying narrative! What about aliens in a Nevada town? Or New Orleans voodoo? A whole new host of characters, yet a retention of the butterfly effect system and the atmospheric focus means Until Dawn could go in any direction and still keep a sense that a new game is a spiritual successor.
And, of course, this doesn’t have to keep the horror cliché of American teenagers. The more cultural you get with the monsters and setting, the more varied the cast and plot could become. There’s a distinct lack of quality horror games on the market at the moment, despite Resident Evil’s strong attempt to return to the genre, so a franchise of player-choice-driven narratives that jump around the world to focus on different supernatural tales and rumours could go a very long way.
So what about the horror? One of Until Dawn’s chief chilling techniques was sound, and that should continue to be a major focus. The sound effects and specifically chosen musical moments worked perfectly as a balance with the wonderful graphics of the snowy mountainside and crumbling mines. Until Dawn, whilst not being totally innocent in its use of jump scares, also picked its moments for surprise very well, sometimes providing multiple moments of anticipation that would leave gamers unwilling to continue. A personal favourite of mine involved the use of the rickety wooden boards in the mines – evil eyes or figures could occasionally be seen through them whenever light became a resource, meaning every moment spent in the depths was spent frantically looking around for an exit. And whilst I’m not a fan of gore, having only character deaths as gruesome moments provided an extra incentive to keep everyone alive.
Whilst a sequel for Until Dawn is in no way certain, The Inpatient will still surely prove a powerful experience. With no release date yet, let’s hope it can bring some chills to VR, whilst also kickstarting a push for globetrotting sequels of its fantastically terrifying precursor.
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