Back to the Dawn - PC(Steam) Review

Back to the Dawn by developer Metal Head Games and publisher Spiral Up GamesPC(Steam) review written by Natasha with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes


[Gets cuffed and shoved into a cop car]


[Cop gets in the car and starts to drive]


Hey, Bud, hear me out! I'm just a reviewer. I'm doing a piece about an anthropomorphic world where these animals live as regular humans--- DON'T YOU ROLL YOUR EYES AT ME--- anyways, these individuals are framed (wiggles my hand and gestures towards myself) and sent to jail by "accident". They have so many days to prove themselves innocent or get their hands dirty and try to escape before a certain deadline.

[Cop turns his head towards his rear-view mirror and raises an eyebrow at me]

Ah! Now I've peaked your interest. Shall I continue?


Jail Time

You can probably guess, but Back to the Dawn is a pixel graphic, daily life simulator with a big emphasis on detective role playing. Our story centers around individuals who have been wronged and are thrown into prison. You're forced to live among these law breakers and try to survive 30 days before your deadline. It's up to you, as the player, to be a good inmate or get dragged into the life of a gang member within the iron walls of your confinement.

This game is chock full of things to do, which was quite impressive. On the surface I believed I'd be playing through a story where I talked to a couple of people and would use my sleuthing skills to gain me brownie points in order to solve a couple of mysteries. Mysteries that seem to be crawling around within the pipe work of this concrete base camp. Boy, was I off. There are a handful of extra skeletons in everyone's closet. Allow me to explain...

The Inmates

In order to survive this dreary misunderstanding, you're going to have to make some friends. You'll find that there are all types of characters (and animals) that are living as your cellmates. Some individuals are there for minor offences and have a pretty good attitude to hang around. Others will range between crazy and outright bad. But maybe it's a good idea to have a couple of tough friends just in case things become a little dicey.

Not everyone will be so willing to be your pal. Others need certain requirements before they even acknowledge your existence. Your reputation is everything and without enough rep you'll find yourself nothing more than an annoying insect for those to shoo away or squash.

Once you have a few buddies you'll be able to build trust. With enough trust you'll be open to making certain trades or asking for a few favors. Keeping up on the gossip and giving them gifts will increase their bond with you. Who knows, maybe they'll even protect you when the time is right.

Maybe it's not such a bad idea to befriend your enemies, either!?

Vital Vitality

You are still a living, breathing creature and that means you'll also have to look after yourself. Prison life can impact your body and soul and it's up to you to make sure you don't become too weak and sick, otherwise you'll have a permanent bed in the infirmary.

You'll have your physical and mental health to keep up. Having proper meals and keeping up on your hygiene are big factors to keep in play. On the other hand you'll have to enrich your mind with things like praying, crafting and/or watching movies to boost your sanity. There are other things that can re-charge your essential needs, but if you let it get too low, you'll have a harder time moving about the compound. Run out of strength and you might be jumped. Loose your mind and you might be plagued with nightmares.

Another thing to look out for is your Focus Points and Energy Points. Without enough focus you may not have enough nerve to talk to certain people. Lose all your energy and you'll be too lazy to perform your daily tasks. Everything plays into making your daily life in prison go smoothly. You'll have to sacrifice certain points in order to gain other aspects at a time, so you'll have to tactically figure out what your end goal is.

Things are ever changing behind those concrete and boarded walls and it's up to you to come up with a good strategy to live among the other criminals.

Follow Your Schedules

Prison life isn't all about sleep, eat and repeat. The guards and warden make sure to keep everyone active by giving them chores, jobs, and free-time. Everything is timed exactly the same every day, but it's up to you what you'd like to do during each period.

Taking on jobs is one of a few ways to gain money in jail. You'll start off with basic chores. Once you've progressed through the story, other jobs will become available. You'll have to gain Good Behavior points in order to unlock extra jobs. Depending on the day of the week you may also get bonus pay, so it's best to keep an eye out for the day.

After lunch time you'll be able to enjoy some time to yourself out in the the yard. This area has a multitude of activities to keep oneself busy or work on your prison credits. You can choose to work on your physique, give prayer to the lord, work on quests or work up on reading those dusty books in the library. What you do with your time is up to you, but remember that it's limited each day.

No Time to Waste

Even though you have free reign of how you wish to live your life in prison, you do have to remember your main objective. Waste too much time surviving and you may be stuck in prison for the rest of your life, doing time that isn't yours in the first place.

Time is key and you'll have to balance when certain things need to be done. From main story quests to side quests, each event will give you a time limit. Can't hold on to that promise forever and taking on a quest and failing to finish it on time will lose you respect and decrease your reputation in prison.

Surviving the Prison Life

There are a lot of tough dudes waiting to prey on you and are just itching to push you around. This will happen from time to time and it's your job on how to go about it. Will you choose fight or flight? Choose to be a suck-up and you might be taken advantage of, but you'll be safe from getting jumped. Or choose to fight back and show off your dominance. However, the latter isn't that easy.

If you're choosing to chase off your attackers you'll have to fight them in combat. Fighting in game is turn base style and will have a couple of options available to toggle from. I'd recommend walking around with some type of weapon to aid you or you can boost your skill by working out. Pumping iron during free time is a great way to beef yourself up, at the cost of a small fee, but if you win a couple of battles you might gain the respect of the gang that has control over the gym area.

You can also have abilities to increase your chances in tough situations. Whether it be a fight or some type of event, you can gain points in certain aspects of your character. Things like Agility, Charm, Strength and Mind can be upgraded by spending points in the menu to unlock further feats. These additional power ups may just save your life.

Gaining a Reputation

You won't get anywhere if you don't make a name for yourself. Your rep means everything if you wanna move forward in this thunder dome. Doing odd quests around your cell block will earn you some street cred... or would it be prison cred, either way you gotta do favors in order to get your name out there. Sometimes those favors are spying on other gang meetings or selling someone out. There is no reward without consequences, your actions could get you into hot water with the wrong group of people if you're not careful. But hey, at least you won't be “That Person who got Beat up in Prison After Being Wrongly Convicted---” oh wait...

Concluding on Curfew

Oh, man, who would have thought that living a life behind bars was going to be challenging. Back to the Dawn did an amazing job at keeping me engaged and on my toes. The fact that I need to concentrate on keeping my mind and body in good health, while juggling my main quests is difficult, yet rewarding. I've always been a fan of pixel graphic worlds and this game shows its charm by revealing what one can do with a classic-to-modern twist. If you're looking for something with a good pace to fantasy simulation, strategy and puzzle solving then this animal kingdom prison sentence might be right up your alley. I'm pleased to give this game a 8.5 out of 10.


[Gets thrown into a cell]

“HEY! Haven't you seen me? I'm not even furry!” 

[Pulls back sleeve to reveal skin]

“Ma'am, we have you listed as a naked mole rat...” Slams his ball pointed pen on his clipboard to show that he's done with my bullshit.

[I turn to look at my cellmate and point to my very obvious hair on my head]

Score: 8.5 / 10


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