Till the Dawn, Waiting is available to purchase now on Steam for £2.89. It is developed by UnderDOGS and released on 12th January 2018.
Till the Dawn, Waiting is an experiential game that heavily relies on your personal empathy and level of bonding with the main character – an abandoned dog called Barney. Barney has been left tied up in the desert with no food or water and we follow his thought process by clicking multiple choice dialogue options as he runs the gamut of thought and emotion about being left behind as the days pass. There are brief sequences where you play as Barney, walking slowly through a blurred world looking for the smell of your owner, but these last only a few minutes. Through the story we do interact with a couple of other animals and experience some of Barney’s memories but it’s largely a static experience.
An emotional experience
It’s a tale that will definitely make you feel emotional as an animal lover, as we unfortunately all know – and would prefer not to think about – that animals are abandoned and treated cruelly every day. I have worked with animals my whole life, including quite a lot of rescue work. Although it’s not dogs that I work with, I’d say on the whole, my animal-empathy levels are pretty high and I did shed a few tears for poor Barney. The heartrending dialogue is accompanied by harmonious yet often melancholy piano music. There are mentions of alternative endings; but it’s unclear to me how many or how different these are, as I played it through twice attempting to pick different options but received the same outcome – it ultimately doesn’t feel as though the choices I make are having a massive impact. I’d be very curious to find out exactly how many alternate endings are available, but the achievements are all gained in a single basic playthrough and not related to the ending, which could just be an effective attempt to avoid spoilers.
Depending on your reading speed I anticipate a playthrough being 30 – 60 minutes (at absolute maximum), making this a fairly short game. It’s a simple experience but certainly one that tugs on the heart strings and offers a unique perspective and experience.
A few flaws
As an avid reader (and writer) my immersion was broken a few times by grammar and syntax errors. Fairly minor ones, but enough that the dialogue didn’t always seem natural (especially coming from a dog). The other issue for me is that the game doesn’t have a save option – even if you are five minutes from the ending, if you leave, you’ll have to play it over again. Whilst I can see this might be a design to encourage you to fully immerse yourself in a start to finish experience, it’s not very practical. I closed the game after my son woke up and needed a bit of attention, as I wanted to keep track of the playtime accurately rather than leave it running. Unfortunately, this meant I had to start again even though I had experienced the majority of the game. When you’ve got a baby having 30-60 minutes without breaks isn’t as simple as it used to be unfortunately! A mention of this when it prompts you to confirm you want to exit the game could avoid a bit of frustration. There are also no options at all; not for resolution, fullscreen or even audio options.
A tentative recommendation
I’m not sure if I would recommend it or not in all honesty. I thought it was a reasonably well made game and I loved the aesthetic and sound, but given the subject matter, not a particularly fun experience. I’m tempted to suggest donating the money you’d spend on this game to your local dog shelter if this is an issue you feel strongly about. If it’s not an issue you feel strongly about, you probably won’t get the full experience from this game anyway. On the whole, after sleeping on it, I decided to give this a thumbs up as I do feel like this is a unique perspective and an interesting narrative-driven story which combined with the attractive low-poly graphics and the haunting music, creates an immersive experience. It definitely has a few flaws, but I’d love to see more games exploring hard-hitting themes like this on Steam and applaud the developers for taking the time to create something this niche, with the important theme of raising awareness of animal abandonment.