Until Dawn EP15: Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?

By Shamus
on Jan 13, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

This episode was really frustrating for me. We got to the part of the game where it’s begun to reveal stuff, but because I’m not playing I can’t tell what’s going on, and every time I asked the other hosts they were cryptic.

I thought we agreed that Chris wouldn’t shoot anyone and he would simply wait for the sawblade scenario to play out. But then right at the end he pointed the gun at himself and there was a gunshot sound. I couldn’t tell if the game forced that to happen, or if Josh Viel did that. Then later we get a tape recording of the killer rehearsing, but because we were talking over it I couldn’t hear the voice. (Watching the episode now, it sounds like Josh to me, which the “cut in half” gag sort of already gave away.)

So yeah. This is a really sub-optimal way to experience the game. There’s a week (or even a month!) between chapters, I can’t quite hear everything, and I can’t always tell player action from events mandated by the developer.

Despite all of this, I’m still pretty into it. I’m seriously doubting all of this will make sense in the end, but I’m genuinely invested in these characters and I want to see what happens to them. Also, I haven’t completely rejected the world. I haven’t gone through story collapse. Maybe the big reveals will work and maybe they won’t, but after such an interesting journey I’m still invested enough that I want to see them for myself.

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From the Archives:

  1. MichaelGC says:

    Aye. I don’t feel good about having to admit this, but I … I’ve been watching other Let’s Plays. Best you hear it from me. They didn’t mean anything, though! I just had my head turned by all the pretty little details, and you weren’t around, so one thing led to another, and before I knew it I’d watched a six-hour silent playthrough and was starting on Spoony’s recorded Live Wire.

    It just wasn’t the same, though. No, I promise I’ve never done it for another game, even all those other ones I haven’t played. This game is a bit of a one-off, though. It won’t happen again.

    Or will it …?

  2. Ivellius says:

    Random theorizing from someone who hasn’t seen any further in the game:

    Is Chris in on this scheme? Something about his delivery and choices make him seem less panicked and more like he’s trying to lay guilt on Ashley.

    I think y’all could’ve been a little more explicit with Shamus during this part of the session as well–you were going to do the reveal, and he was putting the pieces together. (Like the voice recording, for example.) Maybe I’m just sympathetic to old people as I approach my 30th birthday.

    Apparently hypothesizing about a better version of Chris caused him to disappear.

    • Shamus says:

      I’ve had the same suspicions about that guy. On the other hand, if he’s in on it then why did the player get to choose between Ash and Josh? Surely that choice should be part of the plan! Unless that choice was to throw off the AUDIENCE, which is just cheating.

      • Ivellius says:

        My explanatory theory:

        The choice is sort of to throw off the audience and to make Ashley suffer / feel guilty even more. Based on what the crew was hinting (not sure how informed it was), if you choose Josh then he as the psycho takes it as you choose Josh for death (where choosing Ashley means you choose her to save). Sort of a “heads he dies, tails she lives” choice.

        Edit follow-up:

        This seems to be confirmed further down the page.

  3. Turtlebear says:

    Hold on a second. If Josh was the killer all along, who was the guy that chased his sisters away from the house and off the cliff in the first place? Do they explain that later on?

    Although Josh being the psycho sort of explains some of the “telporting” that he does. He was probably able to rig up some spring loaded devices that could cut the tower support wires and make the doors slam at the right moments in the year that the house was empty, since he is clearly pretty good with machinery.

  4. MichaelGC says:

    How do blanks work?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      They dont have the actual bullet in them,but they still are gunpowder.At close range(putting a gun to your head),they can still hurt,burn,or even kill a person.It depends on where the gun is aimed at.

      • Shamus says:

        Related:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum

        I loved that guy because he was the star of Voyagers!, a show I loved as a kid. He was screwing around on set and killed himself by firing a blank at his head.

        No bullet comes out, but it’s still an EXPLOSION being directed at your soft fleshy bits.

      • MichaelGC says:

        I see – so they actually do work how they were working when Rutskarn said, “That’s not how blanks work,” because what that actually was was a postponed comment from earlier when they were shown working how they don’t work. (No, I don’t know why I’m typing like someone’s twisting my scrotum.)

        This commitment to avoid spoilers certainly makes things confusing at times! Still, we were warned.

      • Gunther says:

        For scenes where an actor has a gun fired at them at very close range, they use a particular type of blank-firing gun that has a plugged barrel.

        Presumably Josh was thinking “safety first!” when he set up his absurdly elaborate revenge traps.

        • Richard says:

          Indeed, though “stage” firearms are still dangerous.

          The main change is that the explosive gases leave by vent(s) on the side, so you have to be very careful to ensure the side of the weapon is pointed away from everyone.

          The cartridges also have much less explosive in them, arranged to make a loud bang rather than make any attempt at propelling a bullet.

          Most productions use a bomb tank instead.
          It’s much safer to have a totally non-working prop onstage and have a stagehand fire an appropriate pyrotechnic in the wing, where it doesn’t matter what it looks like.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But why was the dummy dressed like sam?

  6. Tizzy says:

    I think that more than anything, what Shamus is missing are the clues. You can inspect them at leisure in the pause menu, some of them get updated commentary as they interact with other clues. Plus there is the backstory video you get from the totems. All of this really helps in piecing the story together.

  7. Josef says:

    “But then right at the end he pointed the gun at himself and there was a gunshot sound. I couldn’t tell if the game forced that to happen, or if Josh Viel did that.”
    To shoot before the timer runs out, you have to point at someone and press a button. To not shoot anyone, don’t aim at anyone and wait. But if you are pointing at someone when the timer runs out, you will shoot that person.

    • Henson says:

      Except that, despite the cursor pointing at Chris when the timer expired, Chris didn’t shoot himself because a) when we see him later he says “no, I can’t decide” and we don’t hear any gunshot, indicating that he couldn’t pull the trigger, and b) shooting yourself in the neck with a blank at point-blank range is most definitely fatal.

      • Shamus says:

        Yeah. I couldn’t make sense of that scene when I watched it. It didn’t make any more sense when I re-watched it. It made even less sense after the reveal later. Something is 100% wrong here, but I can’t tell what it is because I don’t know what was being done with the controller.

      • Josef says:

        The scene when Mike and Sam find them plays out exactly the same when Chris shoots himself on purpose. I think that is the game cheating with the sound of the gunshot – Chris did not really shoot himself (therefore he did not injure himself with a blank). It is the same cheat as the jump scare in the binoculars way back in the beginning.

        • Henson says:

          That doesn’t really solve the confusion. If Chris didn’t really shoot himself, then why did you say that Chris shoots whoever the cursor is on if the time runs out? The cursor was on Chris when Josh (Viel) let time run out (or when he clicked the button to pull the trigger), so he should have shot Chris, except he didn’t.

          This really makes it seem like a false choice: shoot Chris, aim the gun at Chris, don’t aim the gun at Chris, it all ends with Chris doing nothing.

          • Josef says:

            Not when you choose to shoot Ashley. ;)
            But yes, it is a false choice in that you cannot shoot Chris. You can either shoot Ashley (with a blank, the game does not cheat that much), but you don’t have the option to shoot Chris in the head like we all wanted from the first episode.

            This game cheats a lot with fake choices and scares (sometimes directed at the characters, sometimes at the player), it becomes really apparent on second playthrough. If you play smart though (and the smart choice here is not to shoot anybody), it works (at least it did for me) – the game does not have to contrive reasons why the blank did not blow a hole in Chris’s head, why the saw saws Josh even if you choose Ash etc.

            • ZekeCool says:

              The game isn’t cheating and saying you don’t shoot yourself. It’s using Hollywood Rules for how blanks work, which is blatantly against how the real world actually works.
              I’m not certain how much of that is “the developers didn’t know how blanks worked” and how much is “this game is stylized like a movie” but Chris pulls the trigger and makes the gun go off against his own head when you choose to do that, it simply doesn’t hurt him.

              • Henson says:

                Then why does he say “no, I can’t decide”? And if he did shoot himself and not get injured, why does he think shooting the clown killer is going to do anything?

                Edit: Something tells me the developers originally wrote this scene so that shooting Chris was a viable option, and then late in development someone pointed out that this would actually kill Chris, and they had to fudge the situation in crunch.

              • Tizzy says:

                I’m really not that bothered by the blanks thing. Replace the blanks with “realistic enough gun replica” that fires even less lethal stuff, and you’re in business again. The kids are terrified sitting under saw blades, they don’t take time to realize the gun is fake.

                And the realistic gun prop makes sense in the home of a filmmaker.

                I mean, they did much worse in terms of being fooled back in the first test.

                • Henson says:

                  I don’t see how you’d be able to get the amount of noise Chris got from firing that gun without using either blanks or real ammo. Both cap guns and airsoft guns are pitiful in comparison.

                  Edit: In looking things up, it seems possible that Chris could be using a top-venting blank gun instead of a front-venting one. This would mean that pointing the barrel at his neck would put the explosive force at a 90 degree angle from his neck. Thus, he could conceivably shoot a blank at his neck and not die. I still wouldn’t recommend it.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Chris says “I can’t decide!” even if you very definitely made a decision. It’s strange. The decision tree is VERY important though, so it’s not a false choice or anything. Or at least… not false from a game perspective.

        And the game handwaves whether a blank could be dangerous at all, going with the usual movie answer of “it’s perfectly safe, even if you discharge it inside your own mouth.”

    • King Marth says:

      It seemed pretty clear to me that Josh Viel decided to go against the initial suggestion to not shoot anyone, on hearing Rutskarn suggest shooting Chris. The game itself didn’t help by ignoring that choice in the next scene there. Why no-one seemed capable of answering this question (or possibly asking it, given the lack of understanding all around) is the sort of communication failure I might poke fun at in fiction. Reality is stranger.

      Being cagey and irritating about the tape recorder was just unnecessary, though. Rutskarn was far more mature with the “I’ll hold this comment for later as the game will give us some more information soon” line than Josh Viel was about the recording. Perhaps a code word is needed for answering questions that would spoil the enjoyment of the story… Some kind of warning.

  8. Lalaland says:

    If I recall correctly the first mechanism will always kill Josh and it plays off the ambiguity in the lever as you’re never explicitly told if pushing it to side A spares or condemns that person to ensure the required outcome.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yup,it will always go there,no matter how you try to push the lever.The only difference is how ash will treat you afterwards.

      • ZekeCool says:

        It actually doesn’t play off the ambiguity. The lever is ambiguous, but the killer says explicitly “move the lever toward who you would save” when Chris has to make the choice. It’s a little tough to make out because of the voice modulation, but the subtitles show it. If you choose to save Josh Chris mentions later that the machine must have messed up.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wow,Mike is really the best of them all.”Once everyone is safe,Ill hunt him down”.Well done hero,well done.

    • MrGuy says:

      I think this is the only sensible idea I’ve heard a character in this game express. Certainly more sensible than anything I see teenagers in a typical horror movie express.

      Rather than focus on setting off by himself “to find the guy,” without a clear plan, backup, or any way to communicate, Mike seems to approach the predicament sensibly.

      “OK, we’re stranded up here with a killer who appears to be stalking us. He knows the terrain better, and has some amount of surveillance on us. But time is on our side – once the sun comes up he loses a lot of his advantage, and potentially the authorities can reach us. Acting emotionally on our own and splitting up plays into his hands. So, before we do anything else, we need to get everyone together, in a place of relative safety. Somewhere defensible, secure, and lockable. Once that’s accomplished, we can think about finding this guy.”

      Advocating sensible action to save your friends’ lives over a macho but foolish effort to “pay him back” is a kind of heroism rarely seen in the genre.

  10. Henson says:

    Shamus: “At least I know what kind of story we’re in now.”

    Rutskarn: “Oh boy.”

    Don’t think I didn’t catch that, Ruts.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok,question:If you were in such a death trap with your significant other,and having just a single bullet,who would you shoot?Before you answer though,consider that you only have the killers word that the saws will stop once you fire,so it may very well be that whomever you dont shoot is doomed to a more painful death.

    And what if the saws were coming from below rather than above,with the prospect of an even more painful death?

    • Merlin says:

      The obvious answer seems to be to shoot the rickety wooden chair that your significant other is strapped to.

    • Shamus says:

      Nobody. No killer is going to just let someone go. You’re both as good as dead. Alternatively, it might be a mind game like we see here, in which case the only winning move is not to play.

      I doubt it would save anyone, but the least I can do is deny the killer what they’re looking for, which is my participation.

      • Cyndane says:

        This logic is exactly why I never chose who to kill in the two decisions Chris has to make. I figured that I wasn’t going to give the psycho the satisfaction and that the blood would be on his hands.

      • MrGuy says:

        This is why I hate all those ridiculously contrived hypothetical “OMG, moral choice!” problems that seemed profound when you were a teenager.

        “Would you kill a baby to save 10 innocent people?”
        Wait – why is this a thing? Why are the 10 innocent people in danger, and how on earth would killing a baby help?
        “Just pick one!”
        How do I know that killing a baby will save those people? And how do I know they’ll definitely die if I don’t kill the baby?
        “You just do!”
        Will the 10 people die right away or something? Or, like, eventually?
        “OK, fine. You have a super villain like The Joker or something, and he tells you he’s holding 10 people hostage, and he’ll kill them if you don’t kill the baby.”
        Wait – so I’m supposed to take a deranged psychopath who appears to enjoy pointless killings at his word that he’ll let the 10 innocent people go? How do I even know he has the 10 innocent hostages?
        “You just do. He’s right there with you, along with the innocent people, and he’s got them in some kind of death trap he’ll set off if you don’t shoot the baby.”
        Shoot? I have to shoot the baby? Like, in the head?
        “Yeah. Look, do you shoot the baby or not?”
        Umm….I shoot the psychopath.
        “You can’t do that.”
        Why the hell not? Have I got a gun or not?
        “Look, you just can’t. You can either shoot the baby or watch the 10 people die.”
        I shoot you.
        “…”
        In the FACE.

        • Christopher says:

          What do you talk about at cabin trips if you can’t debate whether you want teeth in place of nails or nails in place of teeth? Dilemmas are everyone’s favorite pasttime! I’m not saying Hunter x Hunter is bad, but I don’t see why you can’t take a dilemma at face value rather than try to subvert the game.

          In this case, I’d aim the gun at myself. But maybe not press it against my temple, considering the guy who committed suicide by accident with blanks.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          You find yourself near a railway switch that can switch the train from one track to the other.You see a train is coming and is about to smash into a bus where you see 10 people are stuck.On the other track,you see a baby sitting at the tracks.The train is really close to the bus,but you are rather far from it.Will you pull the switch?

          There,an easy out of that solution.In fact,a rather famous problem thats been used in a bunch of serious experiments.But thats not the situation presented by the game,hence why I went with the sillier problem instead.

    • ehlijen says:

      The correct answer is to grab the gun and shoot all the bullets wildly into a wall in the hopes of attracting rescue before the killer even explains the rules.

      What’s he gonna do then? Walk in and reload the gun for you?
      Point is, you’re dead either way, might as well ruin the game for the sicko.

    • Syal says:

      I agree with Chris’ s first target, the saw contraption itself. Otherwise, drop the gun on the floor and save your ears. Maybe make something up about “I have a muscle condition, I physically can’t hold stuff in that hand”.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Interesting.All of you chose to spite someone over sparing a loved one(or yourself)some significant pain,or an actual possible survival for one of you.I did not expect such a uniform answer.

      • Syal says:

        or an actual possible survival for one of you

        If they’re giving a victim a gun, there’s a decent chance they don’t have the guts to do it themselves; I’m as likely to decrease the number of survivors as increase them. Combine that with the chance to miss and the hassle of trying to explain to the cops that you shot a tied up person out of self defense and it’s just not great.

        (Although frankly, in the moment my decision is mostly going to be based on how much panicking the other person’s doing. I’ll shoot the hell out of someone who’s panicking while I’m trying to think.)

  12. silver Harloe says:

    “why do they have a giant meat locker in their house?”
    it’s a hotel (in this case, “another whole hotel” is something Chris said when they crossed some threshold in the basement 1 or 2 episodes ago, so possibly 2 hotels?). So the meat locker is justified.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Aye right – plus they’re on top of a mountain which is apparently only accessible via helicopter or cable-car, so ain’t nobody just popping to the shops if they get peckish.

  13. Chancellor says:

    This really is a sub-optimal way to experience the game. Surprised to read Shamus is still pretty into it, as I was getting quite the opposite impression. Glad though, since I enjoyed it.

  14. Christopher says:

    I normally have to play Senran Kagura to get this kind of towel action. The backpack addition is really funny to me.

  15. Rayen says:

    I’m with Shamus on this one. Not having the controller in my hands makes it a lot harder to tell what’s going on.
    I think I’ve pretty much sussed out what’s going to happen reading spoilers in the comments. It’s a decent twist which is super telegraphed. I haven’t (nor am I going to) played Until Dawn, but I think even I would’ve figured it out, and I’m really bad at figuring stuff out.

  16. Jokerman says:

    I think experiencing it with the super nit picky analysis mindset is also sub-optimal, because most of the things that are nitpicked… are explained later.

    You can also skip the entire scene with Sam finding the clue if she is caught by the killer (which is easy to do, just by picking the wrong place to hide)

    I think the game is better for it, you already have a lot of clues you can go back and look at involving Josh, to just spell it out so clearly seconds before the reveal was an odd choice.

  17. djshire says:

    So now we learn that Josh is evil…in game Josh, player Josh we knew was evil a long time ago (but if you need proof, go look up my favorite episode “Fission Mailed” )

    • Christopher says:

      I appreciate when Josh can’t play Reginald Cuftbert in the story and the characters do it on his behalf instead.

      On a related note, I look forward to the live action spoiler warning special in which Chris is tied to a char with his significant other and a gun, with Josh rocking a dumb clown mask.

  18. SpammyV says:

    At first I was going to ask a bunch of “But wait what about” questions with regards to why there’s more explicitly ghost stuff going on when it’s a serial killer story. Then I was a little disappointed that we hadn’t seen the ghost stuff messing with the killer’s plans, because that seemed interesting. Then I remembered that I had seen that movie, the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill. And I thought it was a pretty clever horror movie and now want to see it again.

  19. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    I really appreciate how Chris immediately tries to disable the mechanism rather than shoot anybody as his first choice. A lot of games would just say “you can’t” for some reason, rather than forcefully demonstrating that it won’t work.

    It’s also completely logical that it doesn’t work and can tip the player off what to do, depending on how you’re thinking about it.

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