Death is not an escape…
Released last year on PC, and more recently brought to consoles, Dead by Daylight was developed by Behaviour Interactive and published by Starbreeze Studios. Offering a unique asymmetrical multiplayer experience deeply lodged in the horror genre, Dead by Daylight sees four survivors working together to repair generators while attempting to outwit, outrun and outlast a tenacious, unstoppable killer.
Dead by Daylight visual palette reeks of dreary bleakness from every facet. The entire game plays through a hazy fog adding to the sense of dread oozing in from all angles, bringing forth the eerie claustrophobic feeling that makes the horror genre so appealing to many. Character models for the survivors and killer are solid; easy enough to tell from a distance and varied enough to appeal to a wide audience.
Each of the eight maps offers a decent flair of damning darkness, covering many of the horror genre classics: Dank swamps, abandoned hospitals and even a recognizable appearance of Haddonfield, made famous by the Halloween films. Many aspects of these maps are randomised, so no learning the layout of the maps for an added advantage.
The graphics are crisp and respectable and while they may pale in comparison to many other games, few games use their bleak visuals to create such a stylish mood-setting appeal.
The music does next to nothing to stand out on its own, adding a little stress to the fearful drama and the tense chase elements but that being the extent of its brilliance. The music on Dead by Daylight is simply unable to challenge other, single player, horror games in matching the pace of the music to the building pace of the tension building on screen, due to its unpredictable nature.
The sound effects, however, are just about perfect. While most horror games and films utilize the aforementioned building of tension and pace with the music, this game uses its sound effects to surpass the sense of dread many horror games can give. When you’re working on the last generator, hoping and praying that you’ll get it fixed before the killer decides to wander in your direction, and then your terror radius beats like a drum to tell you that the killer is on their way… That fear is real, and it is cultivated to great effect.
Every sound has cause and effect… Sometimes a pretty deadly effect. Whether you are the killer or a survivor, sound is your window into knowing what is happening on the map, and where. A failed skill check, a hatch opening, a startled crow, a chainsaw that sounds like it’s coming up very fast from directly behind; being acutely aware of the sound effects can be the difference between life and a very messy death.
Dead by Daylight nails the audio, and if you are able to play with a decent headset, it will work very much in your favour.
As the nature of the gameplay for the Killer and Survivors diverges so heavily, I’ll cover their specific elements separately:
Your task is simple: you and three others must repair five generators to power up the exit gate, open it and leave. If you’re the last man standing and at least two generators have been powered, a hatch will open allowing for an alternate, and usually more desperate, means of escape.
Stealth and teamwork are your assets in repairing the generators and leaving victorious. Survivors play in third person allowing a lot more surveying of the map and a wider angle of view. Knowledge is power and being able to see what is coming in your direction while cowering behind a low wall is invaluable and can lead to many moments of the killer prowling right past you, unaware quite how close his prey truly was.
Most of your actions, such as healing, repairing and sabotaging hooks, are a simple hold of a button while watching an often teeth-pullingly slow progress bar fill up; punctuated by vital skill checks (think, Active Reload from Gears) of which failure will almost certainly alert the killer. But the Survivors have a number of skills to tip the scales too, a nerve-wracking heart beat that kicks in when the Killer is close is your worst nightmare and your best friend in equal measures. Break line of sight and you can quietly get into a cupboard, you may watch as the Killer meanders past you; frustrated movements evincing their irritation in only finding dust on the wind. But don’t revel in the moment, should they expend time to check said cupboard, you won’t last long…
As you progress your overall Survivor’s level, you’ll unlock perks and items (the latter of which can also be found in-game) that offer a major shift in ability. Toolboxes and health kits can speed repairs and recoveries respectively, while a decent torch aimed in the face of the Killer carrying a victim to the hook can stun him just long enough for the potential sacrifice to wiggle their way free, and maps and keys will allow you to see or interact with the areas around you that you would otherwise not be able to. Should you not make it to the end, or if you use all of your item, it will not be there next time, creating a difficult choice of whether taking your shiny rare toolbox is genius or madness.
There are few games that can really offer the player a heart warming experience of togetherness and camaraderie as Dead by Daylight can, but only if your team mates are that way inclined! Despite the sheer horror and dread bleeding from this game, a team coming back to save the last guy off a hook when the exits are powered on and the way home is clear will revive any hope you may have lost recently in humanities ability to help one and other… Or maybe the player will happily hope for your death because it will momentarily benefit them (via a nice item being dropped by your freshly made corpse or a hatch opening for them). Since the dawn of time, teamwork has been reliant on other people for all the hope and all the hell accompanied, it’s your best asset and your worst liability and few games hammer that home as well as Dead by Daylight.
Your task is gruesome: you must track down the four survivors trespassing in your hellish habitat and sacrifice them on hooks dotted around the map to your God: The Entity.
You can’t be stopped as the killer, stalled and stunned briefly, but never truly stopped. Your ability to see all the generators across the map is imperative in quickly moving around patrolling them hoping to catch a survivor. A hit or two to down one of the pesky interlopers and it’s time to carry them to a hook. The sacrificing process that begins once they’re hooked is time consuming and they can be saved by a fellow team mate (if they care to risk their life for their buddy), but a large chunk of the time it takes to sacrifice is gone with subsequent hangings of the same person.
Your Killer level is separate from your Survivor level and as you progress, you’ll acquire a decent amount of perks and offerings, tweaking things in your favour in your job to appease your horrific God.
You receive decent visual and auditory notifications for certain actions, such as generators being completed or skill checks failed, to allow you to hone in on your would-be victims. And once the chase begins and the survivors are running, you can follow their tracks for a thrilling moment of bloodlust as the cat closes in on the mouse. But your clumsier nature can limit you as nimble runners can jump through windows quicker than you and use contextual items on the map to hold you up in their urgent bid to break line of sight and hide.
The role of the Killer is a fantastic way to enjoy this game without other people to either hinder or help you. If you want to pit yourself against a team or enjoyed playing the Monster in 2015’s unique shooter Evolve, then this is the option for you. There are currently eight Killers who all play very differently, each stoking the hair raising fear in different, horrible ways. From sending your victims mad and making them hallucinate to donning a Predator-style invisibility ability and surprising your casualty by manifesting yourself right in front of them, you’re bound to find some joy in your sadistic arsenal.
The online nature of this game, the random generation of the map’s features and the simplicity of its gameplay all beg to be played for a fair while on repeat, especially with the DLC (both free and premium) getting steady releases. You’ll know within a match or two if this game is something worth keeping in your library, and if it hooks you deep, every match is different and offers a new experience each time.
This game has huge Replay Value to the right audience, but its appeal is somewhat niche. Horror fans and purveyors of unique multiplayer games will find a real diamond in Dead by Daylight, but not everyone will be satisfied. While every game may be different and every map may be different in some subtle ways, the limited amount of maps may grate on some quicker than others.
- Genuinely scary and unpredictable horror
- Asymmetrical multiplayer
- Well balanced
- Solid level up & reward system
- Unique experience
- People can be heroes
- Limited overall content
- No in-game voice chat
- Occasional disconnects
- People can be dicks
Dead by Daylight is one of those rare games that can leave a strong impression, and have you thinking about it when you play a different game. The Horror genre has been refinding its feet recently and its merging with a solid multiplayer experience has outputted a gem of an experience that I would recommend any fans of either parent genres to check out. And if you can convince a friend or three to join you on the fields of despair, well, misery loves company!