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Until Dawn is an adventure game with branching routes, specifically utilizing the "butterfly effect." Every decision made has the potential to change the story in some way, whether it is a matter of transforming relationships between characters or a matter of life and death. Thus, it is impossible to get a game over, regardless of bad decisions or failure during action sequences - only different endings.

The game progresses via three styles of gameplay:

  • Exploration segments allow the player to control the player character freely, gathering collectibles such as Totems or Clues while investigating the area or performing tasks that advance the story.
  • Decision-making takes place during story scenes in which the characters interact. Alter character relationships or even the player character's traits (which can be seen in the form of gauges in the Status menu) by deciding between two choices. Choices can also take place during action segments, in which case they may be timed. If time runs out, even slightly leaning toward a choice will trigger it.
  • Action segments take place when a character is in danger. Perform quick-time events successfully in order to ensure the character's safety. Note that all QTEs must be performed successfully in order to obtain what may be considered the game's good end.

For more details on how these segments are controlled, see the controls page. For information on specific characters as well as how to ensure their survival, see the characters page. To begin the story, move on to the prologue.