Until Then Demo Preview: A Breathtaking Narrative Adventure
I’ve been excited for Until Then for quite some time, occasionally checking out the game’s X account and indulging myself in umpteen rewatches of its striking trailer. So, when I discovered that it would be getting a demo, and a sizeable one at that, during this year’s Steam Next Fest, I was beyond excited. Fortunately, not only does Until Then absolutely live up to the hype, but its compelling narrative, gorgeous art style, and breathtaking world have me so completely engrossed that I cannot wait for the game’s full release.
“Through conversations, text messages, and news articles, we learn a lot about the varied personalities of Until Then’s charming cast of main and side characters.”
Until Then is billed as a cinematic narrative mystery, and on this front, it does not disappoint. The relatability and childlike wonder of its protagonists, coupled with the magic realism of its more fantastical, otherworldly, strange occurrings, is immediately gripping. The portion of the game accessible in the demo, about the first 80 minutes, sets up a greater mystery, one that had me hooked and longing to see it to the end.
More important, however, is the incredible world-building and character development. Through conversations, text messages, and news articles, we learn a lot about not just the mysterious goings on of the world but also the insecurities, likes, dislikes, and varied personalities of Until Then’s charming cast of main and side characters.
The intro flitters between the different dynamics of Mark, the protagonist, and his friends. Initially, we learn about his bromance with Ryan through a hilarious and engaging sequence about forgetting to do their homework. This seamlessly introduces Mark’s crush on Louise, a forlorn love that is deftly handled in a refreshingly mature way. Finally, Mark and Cathy’s relationship caps off the adventure, bringing the story full circle and reminding you of the importance of very close friends.
“The writers have gone to commendable lengths to ensure that not only does each character have their own unique voice, but they also feel like people you’d want to hang out with.”
All of this, amazingly, is done within the first 80 minutes. You get a genuine sense of the world and characters almost immediately, the clever dialogue and expert pacing gripping you and never letting go. However, it is perhaps the in media res nature of the story, which sees you plunged into a friendship group full of in-jokes, crushes, and history, all of which is delivered to you as if it’s gospel, that makes Until Then so engaging.
Every character feels believable, not least because of the well-crafted dialogue, because they don’t feel as if they started living the second you booted up the game. Until Then’s world feels alive, each text message, group chat, online post, and news article all furthering your immersion. The writers have gone to commendable lengths to ensure that not only does each character have their own unique voice, but they also feel like people you’d want to hang out with. I cannot wait to spend more time with them and this mysterious world when the full game is released.
“It is a testament to the game’s environmental and art design that even the most mundane of places feel utterly astonishing.”
Of course, there’s also the “cinematic” part of Until Then’s tagline. Fortunately, the game’s undeniably gorgeous visuals absolutely give the game a cinematic quality, complimenting the engrossing narrative while helping to further immerse you into its compelling world. Until Then is a strikingly colorful game, a stunning blend of detailed, intricate pixel art and 3D backdrops that coalesce to create breathtaking environments. Furthermore, the phenomenal lighting effects help to not only afford each location a dreamlike quality, casting a hazy summer glow across the reflective classroom floor, but also heighten sequences with cleverly cast shadows. It is a testament to the game’s environmental and art design that even the most mundane of places feel utterly astonishing.
When it comes to Until Then’s gameplay, it is predominantly dedicated to conversing with characters or doomscrolling through a surprisingly in-depth Facebook clone. You can like posts and even comment on them; articles will have links to other articles, allowing you to fall down a rabbit hole of a fictionalized news site. The level of detail and commitment put into this aspect of the game is mesmerizing, with even the specific posts you like having ramifications on dialogue during later sequences.
There is some minor exploration to do, although this is entirely linear, forcing you to follow confined paths through the game’s lifelike locations. This is far from a criticism, as the game’s dogmatic appreciation of its compelling narrative, coupled with the occasional mini-game, gives it an enviable focus that ensures you never get bored. Until Then is deserving of being a video game, utilizing the interactive elements of the medium to enhance its worldbuilding and storytelling. However, it never strays too far from its cinematic roots, ensuring that those engrossed in its narrative hooks remain so throughout its entire duration.
“Until Then’s Steam Next Fest demo left a remarkable impression on me that few games rarely do.”
Until Then’s Steam Next Fest demo left a remarkable impression on me that few games rarely do. Its story, characters, and world were simultaneously immediately intriguing and immersive, owing largely to their relatability and lifelike nature. Similarly, the game’s stunning visuals and interactive elements helped to further engross and ingratiate me within this Phillipine-inspired world. From a cursory glance at the game’s Steam page, it’s evident that there is so much more in store for the full release, and I simply cannot wait to experience it all.
Until Then is coming to PC and PlayStation in 2024. Make sure to check out its Steam page and wishlist it so you’re notified of any future updates.