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survive Until Dawn

August 05, 2017 | 6 Minute Read

O’death, o’death, won’t you spare me over ‘till another year? [1]

Gaming until dawn during a couple of hot summer days was strange but a surprisingly refreshing experience - snow everywhere, freezing winter, eight friends in the abandoned mountain park and a shadow of native American lore.

Dreamcatcher is a simple tool - handmade willow hoop woven net/web and finished with at least one feather at the bottom. However, its role in Indian culture is relatively important - it catches nightmares into that net/web and makes them flow down the feather(s), kept there until they are gone with the dawn. There’s more than one reason why first dreamcatchers appear with the intro song. Jack Fiddler “Flamethrower Guy” (skilled wendigo hunter) wears a dreamcatcher.
Totem concept appears right after, at the very beginning of the game. Historicaly, it serves as an emblem of clan or tribe. In folk beliefs, it symbolizes spiritual relations between a human and an animal or plant related ancestor. In Until Dawn totem gains a functional meaning - random parts are scattered across the whole game, every one shows different future event possibilities, all of them complete six totem poles related to “butterfly prophecy” and finally settle the clip-story about “the events in the past”. Boom! Butterfly effect.[2]

The rest of challenging adventure belongs to Wendigo - human-eating, humanoidal monsters or humans turned into them as well after cannibalizing the other human (because of starvation for example), which in folklore, are associated to winter, coldness and famine. According to legends, the weapon against wendigo is fire, Jack’s attribute in the game.

Jack Fiddler is actually episodical, non-playable character, anyway his ‘origin’ seems to be worth mentioning. He is - most probably - based on an authentic person with the same name and surname, Oji-cree, first nation in Canada, who - like his father before - became a famous shaman with the ability to ‘conjure’ animals and successfully defeat wendigo or exorcise people possessed by wendigo (family request or their own). In Unitl Dawn wendigos were created directly according to the Cree legends and the Cree symbols are placed occasionally everywhere. Moreover, the Jack’s voice actor, Larry Fessenden, is a writer and director of “Wendigo” the movie released in 2001. He is also a narrator (Wolf Dog) for Wolf Dog Tales animation - ancient stories of what animals teach humans about respecting life and the planet earth.

More or less intentionally Until Dawn becomes another publication supporting a positive image of the wolf as an animal, canidae and carnivore. Jack “Flamethrower Guy” lives with two wolves which behave in harmony with their species[3] nature. A player gets a chance to make a wolf a friend. Maybe some like approaching to unknown Canis lupus frontally, petting on the head or disturbing when it’s got a meat-bone should be re-considered once more but that chapter with the wolf interacting with a player as companion is a pleasure in itself.

Food chain references show up while the game-story evolves. The most significant to me is the surrounded-by-deer stage when the Forest Spirit (Shishigami)[4] is alive.
Except the anti-hero Jack and well developed villain wendigos, the - probably hand-reared - wolf is obviously my favorite character (to be exact, it’s my obvious favorite). “Wolfie”[5] - in pair with its team mate Mike - deserve its own sequel/prequel and/or more place for its/their appearance in potential future Until Dawn compilations. In my opinion, their relation-plot was indeed well provided and making it determined by a player completed it emotionally. After making its own life-or-death decisions as a lone wolf it leaves to join a new pack, in harmony with the call of the willife. Wolves are not born to be tame.[6]

The main plot joins together two interleaved with each other story lines - first one talks about lost twin sisters, eight playable characters and consequences of their every single choice, second one plots an independent tale about abandoned sanatorium, detonated mine, mystery man and wendigos.
Everything happens with a specific scenery in the background - Blackwood Pines, Blackwood Mountain in Canada. The name was probably influenced by Algernon Blackwood - short story writer and novelist, among others the author of “The Wendigo”(1910), who was titled by H.P. Lovecraft the one of the four “modern masters” of horror. Interestingly, H.P. Lovecraft said about that mentioned example of weird fiction - Another amazingly potent though less artistically finished tale [than Blackwood’s The Willows] is The Wendigo, where we are confronted by horrible evidences of a vast forest daemon about which North Woods lumber men whisper at evening. The manner in which certain footprints tell certain unbelievable things is really a marked triumph in craftsmanship.[7]

Techically, Until Dawn is an interactive-drama-survival-horror-adventure game spiced by quick-time-events action scenes and “don’t move”a gamepad moments. Previous decisions determine upcoming future final, shaping the epilogue time after time.
Supermassive Games (United Kingdom) are also responsible for “Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock”, “LittleBigPlanet” and “Walking with Dinosaurs”. The Until Dawn script-writer is non other than Larry Fessenden again (together with Graham Reznick, horror producer/director).
Upcoming prequel is titled “Inpatient” (2017) and takes place in the past 60’s Blackwood Pines Sanatorium. The trailer, first-person vision and possible interactions description make me feel “BioShock”. Let’s stay impatient.

Sometimes do nothing is the best option. - Until Dawn, tutorial


[1] Until Dawn intro song
[2] Chris Hartley, UD chapter 1
[3] Timber wolf
[4] Mononoke Hime
[5] I was hopin’ I’d run into you again - Mike Munroe, UD chapter 9
[6] Canine science confirms that theory in practice - you can train the wolf but you can’t tame it.
[7] “The Ithaqua Cycle: The Wind-Walker of the Icy Wastes” Robert M. Price (Editor), R. M. Price (Editor), A. Derleth