PAX West 2017: At Sundown is the Potential King of an Odd Genre

When you’ve covered as many games as I have — especially on the indie circuit — you begin to notice some weird subgenres that seem to pop up. Most of these are just the result of coincidence, but you can’t shake that odd feeling when you see a batch of them together. In this case, that subgenre is “Multiplayer Action Games Where None of the Characters Are Visible.” We’ve had Screencheat, then we had Chambara, this year gave us Invisigun Heroes and now here comes the latest contender for this oddly specific throne, At Sundown. This may be a case where the game in question stands an incredibly good chance of grabbing that crown.

Described as a top-down multiplayer stealth game, At Sundown plunks you into an area with three other players and tasks you with killing each other (or at least the rival teammates, if you choose to go for two-versus-two like we experienced in the demo) as many times as you can. But as the previously-mentioned name of this subgenre suggests, the map is cloaked in darkness. So while all players have the same view of things, the only way to actually see any players is through various environmental bits such as lasers on the floor that trigger alarms and lightning flashes outside mansion windows, or whenever a weapon is fired, revealing the shooter’s location.

So the trickiness is in trying to track both your opponents and yourself throughout the darkened arena as best as you can, using the twin-stick controls to strike when you think you might have a clear shot, with one strike bringing your target down. Thankfully, things are made easier by your controller being able to vibrate when near a wall, allowing for some assistance in navigation. Of course, what helps even further is watching as you and your fellow players go nuts, spraying each area with bursts of color as you fire off. At Sundown is pretty much intended to be a party game and things will get chaotically enjoyable quite quickly as you try to blow away your friends.

Of course, success in At Sundown isn’t entirely tied to pure chaos. Before each match, you have to select your player avatar and your weapon as well, and the tools you choose help craft the play style you go with. A shotgun with a wide spread seems like a logical choice for covering ground you may be unsure of, but maybe you might find it better to go with the umbrella gun and allow it to double as a shield against anyone attacking you from the front, and you may have to consider the alternate special attacks for each one as well. The different weapons are fun to try out and maneuvering your way around each level may seem difficult at first, but becomes easier to figure out as you play, becoming able to judge just where your character may move. You can credit some excellent level design for making a good first impression as well, with each battleground providing its own unique twist and perfect amount of cover and hiding places to work with.

With its colorful characters, addictive multiplayer gameplay and perfect implementation of low visibility as a feature in a top-down action game, At Sundown is an absolute hoot to check out with some friends and may end up being the true king of the oddball unseen deathmatch genre. We’ll know if that is indeed the case when Mild Beast Games and Versus Evil release the game for PC later this year, so stay tuned.