Until Dawn is a hell of a game. If you’ve got the time to sink countless hours into a cinematic showpiece with multiple choices in almost every interaction, it’s a fantastic game to play. It can’t be played just once, though, because of all the choices and the curiosity they create. The Inpatient promises to bring that same level of choice and multitude of possible endings to VR with a standalone story decades prior to the events of Until Dawn.
Set in the 1950’s in Blackwood Sanatorium, The Inpatient places players in the body of a patient recently admitted to the facility. Players will have the opportunity to explore the area and interact with anyone around them. Those interactions and the choices made in both actions and dialogue will affect how the game progresses. A simple change in how you respond to a question can remove options down the road, or make new paths available. Part of the joy of Until Dawn was this same system, which made it a completely different game from play to play and player to player.
Like Until Dawn, the entire game seems to be motion-capture with perfect likenesses of actors’ faces and bodies, though the star quality of Hayden Panettiere is missing in this one. Also borrowed from the first game are two writers, Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick. Their return should signal a good probability that the script for The Inpatient is what players would expect from an Until Dawn prequel, with similar depth and good relationship to the material of the first game. The basis for The Inpatient exists in one level of Until Dawn, with a ton of supporting documents to be found scattered around Blackwood Sanatorium. I suppose now may be the time for a disclaimer.
To talk about the setting of The Inpatient, I’m going to have to delve into some of the story of Until Dawn. It doesn’t ruin the entire thing, because of the sheer amount of different stories tangled together in the game. That said, players who haven’t made it through the asylum level of the game may want to break away here. Same goes for anyone who is planning to play after seeing the trailer for The Inpatient. Come back after you’ve finished, and join in the fun.
With that out of the way, let’s do a quick recap of what we know about Blackwood Sanatorium from Until Dawn. Opened by mining boss Jefferson Bragg in 1922 as a hot spring health resort for wealthy clients, Blackwood was shuttered by the Great Depression and reopened as an inpatient asylum for the mentally ill in 1950. In 1952, miners rescued from a collapsed tunnel nearby were transferred to the facility under odd terms. The patients were nearly starved, but not dead despite their extended time underground. They behaved oddly, showing signs of extreme aggression, a complete lack of interest in social interaction, and increased strength. As their behavior became more erratic and questions about their survival arose, media were banned from the facility and all staff were advised to cut contact with media professionals asking for comment.
The crux of the media issue was an old myth that a Native American spirit had cursed the mountain to protect it from intruding miners. Anyone who resorted to cannibalism in the area would become a nearly immortal creature with superhuman strength, and an unavoidable need to devour human flesh. Many of the miners who came to Blackwood were already transforming when they arrived, but as media were shut out, experiments began to test the theory that these were really the fabled wendigo. The eventual result of the miners’ arrival and subsequent experiment status were so disastrous that Blackwood shut down after multiple staff deaths in 1955. During that year, the wendigo escaped and killed the remaining staff, with Jefferson killing himself in his office rather than face the creatures or the public.
This sets the stage for several possibilities for The Inpatient. Depending on the time frame, the main character could be a miner or might see the arrival of the miners firsthand. We do know that the trailer opens with Jefferson Bragg interrogating the patient, claiming he only wants to help. His help seems more than a bit unhinged, so it is possible that he knows much more than he ever let on about what happened under those mountains. Playing through this new storyline is the only way to find out, but I am willing to bet that this story is much more about Mr. Bragg than it is about his patient.
Supermassive Games promises that players will not need to have finished- or even started- Until Dawn to understand and enjoy The Inpatient. What they will need, though, is the Playstation VR setup. While it is always possible for a game to come to regular players after VR release, The Inpatient is coming out as a PSVR exclusive. At a steep $499 for the bundle, I suppose interested players should start saving now.