Dead by Daylight is possibly the richest and most dynamic game I’ve played this year.
The team behind 2010’s Naughty Bear, Behaviour Interactive, have moved on from maiming stuffed animals and are now helping us maim humans. And I’m so glad they have.
Dead by Daylight is an online, multiplayer arena experience that combines elements of horror into the mix for a truly inspired result.
Dead by Daylight
Initial release date: June 14, 2016
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: Starbreeze Studios
Mode: Multiplayer video game
Designer: Dave Richard
Price: $19.99 USD (Steam) or $22.34 AUD(Kinguin.net)
Dead by Daylight pits five players against one another in a large arena. Four players take on the role of would-be survivors while the fifth plays as a serial killer who has to hunt them down.
Survivors need to activate five of the many generators dotted around the arena and make it to the exit. They are free to cooperate as much or as little as they wish.
Tasks are often completed faster when done together, but hiding until the end and letting everyone else do the work is another viable strategy.
The killer, on the other hand, needs to use his wiles and special abilities to track down survivors, bludgeon them, and hoist them up onto meat hooks. As survivors can rescue one another from these hooks, the killer can opt to use them as bait or be more proactive in hunting the others.
Dead by Daylight weaves traditional horror elements into the arenas with surprisingly effective results. Different arenas provide different obstacles; one has piles of crushed cars, another has rows of crops, and another has an abandoned house.
These environmental factors will be pleasantly familiar for horror fans, and they do well creating an atmosphere that is creepy enough. Enough to strike the right tone but not so good as it steals the show.
When inside a match, Dead by Daylight is a resounding triumph. When outside the matches, however, the game is needlessly confusing.
Lets examine some of the less successful aspects of the game first. Players are dropped into their first match with little explanation beyond what I’ve already given you. Essentially, “Do this. Don’t die” or “Kill them quickly.’
There is something to be said about keeping the mystery around some of the mechanical nuances but, in practice, this only creates a bigger discrepancy between new and veteran players. Afterwards, players are given points based on their performance.
These points can be spend in the Blood Web for Perks, Add-Ons, Items, and Offerings. Dead by Daylight doesn’t provide any explanation as to how these differ. For a game that uses these items to build player investment, this is almost a cardinal sin.
Players also have a rank, and each character has a level, related to the Blood Web. The game provides little description regarding these items also. After people become comfortable with these numbers, this point is diminished.
Their impact on games is minimal. Except that I’m very often seeing Rank 1 players be matched in games with Rank 20 players.
These are, of course, minor annoyances. Inside the matches, the game is legitimately brilliant. Having five players and total freedom of choice, Dead by Daylight opens up games of psychology. As such, I haven’t seen two games pan out the same way.
I’ve had a game of the survivors all working together and having one another’s backs, and I’ve played a game where I watched someone get dragged away from the exit and left him to die.
Mechanically, the game is well balanced. Survivors have the ability to climb through windows faster or knock planks over to block the killer, but the killer moves faster and can track them.
In one game I played, I avoided the killer by jumping through windows and hiding behind a hay bale. He got a swipe off and injured my character. When I knew I wasn’t being followed, I limped into a wardrobe in the house. The killer ran past but I heard him coming back.
Then I realised he was following the trail of blood my injuries left behind. Sure enough, he realised where I was and I was rumbled.
Survivors will learn to crouch and use the many obstacles to give the killers the ring-around-the-rosie even if they are very close. And you’ll forge your own strategy balancing helping others and serving yourself. For this reason, I would like to see persistent lobbies so selfish players could be punished by their more altruistic teammates in subsequent matches.
There are three different killers to choose from: the Trapper, the Hillbilly, and the Wraith. Each has his own special ability and will change how everyone plays. The Wraith, who can camouflage himself, for example, is great for baiting survivors into helping their friend.
Dead by Daylight is plagued by some mechanical glitches – something that also befell Behaviour Interactive’s Naughty Bear – which can give off a somewhat unpolished feel. You might clip through something or collide with an overly-large hotbox.
These may be ironed out in time but aren’t too prevalent to make the game less fun to play.
Between the conceptual strength and the freedom of choice, Dead by Daylight is an amazing effort. Repairing a generator, listening for the killer, and being peppered by quick time events drives tension and can get the adrenaline pumping more than most traditional horror games lately.
And being able to do whatever we want means Dead by Daylight is the closest we’ve been to actually being dropped into one of these films.