Daylight PC Review
Fans of horror games are in a good place right now, thanks to the growth in digital downloads and the independent development scene. If it wasn’t for this progression, fans would still be sitting in their chairs, wiggling their thumbs waiting for the next game to come from one of the publishers – most likely a sequel to a game they liked, but butchered to be more action-oriented. Well that’s no longer the case now, and as a fan of horror games, I find this time bloody fantastic and exciting to see what these teams can come up with to make me scared.
The most recent game to fall into this category is Daylight from Zombie Studios, the same team that brought you the free-to-play Blacklight: Retribution and the two Konami published Saw games. Daylight is about the protagonist, a woman named Sarah, who has just woken up from unconsciousness in what appears to be an abandoned hospital. Sarah can’t remember why she was here and isn’t given time to collect her thoughts, as she is alerted by a doctor speaking over her cell phone telling her to discover the secrets of the hospital and piece together what happened in the past that causes such a horrific disturbance in the present.
Following in the footsteps of games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast, Daylight plays from a first-person perspective, with a protagonist that cannot do much to defend herself from the supernatural assailants. Sarah is equipped with a mobile phone, using the device’s light to brighten up the dark corridors. The phone also constantly displays a map of where Sarah has explored and can be zoomed in to make it more visible for the player. As Sarah wonders around the corridors, the map will automatically fill in, making it easier to remember where you have traversed.
Sarah isn’t totally defenceless, because Daylight isn’t entirely about hiding or avoiding the bizarre haunting spirits that appear to stare you to death. Instead, Daylight is more about exploring around the rooms and finding hints that explain the overall plot. Each zone requires six remnants to discover before exchanging them for a key to unlock a mysteriously blocked door. This is why having a map is rather important for Daylight, because of the game’s procedurally generated environments there’s no real way to learn a building’s layout, as each playthrough is shaped slightly different.
Similarities do creep in, such as there is always a great big stash of glow sticks at the start of a new area. Glow sticks light up the darkness, but also show flickers on items that can be opened up, usually containing either a written note/backstory, a remnant or another glow stick or flare. Flares are key to staying alive inside these haunted walls, as they fend off the supernatural by burning them when they come into contact with the flare. This is the only way you can stay safe from them, and running out will often result in awaiting death as more and more ghosts begin to spawn.
Procedurally generation sounds like a great idea, but it’s not one what works all that well in Daylight. This is because the structure of Daylight repeats itself until the last few minutes of the game. Each section follows the same pattern – you begin in a room stocked with glow lights, and then must go find six (or sometimes five) remnants and take them to a special area to receive the key. This key then needs delivering to a specified locked gate in the area, which doing so then unlocks the next environment. Imagine it similar to doing the same six jobs in the original Assassin’s Creed over and over again, except this time you’re doing the same one job of fetching items. The only things that change in this two hour adventure are the environments, which can range from a hospital, jail, a cave and a forest area, the latter the more exciting of the bunch, since it’s a larger open space and the randomness is focused on where key structures are placed down. The rest are built up of sections that are repeated over and over, creating a level that feels unoriginal and very copied and pasted.
This does mean that initially the scares come fresh. Random furniture gets thrown around, doors slam open and close, and enemies can randomly appear close to you, signalled by your mobile phone screen’s interference. The problem is that after a while all these cliché tricks become predicable, it’s the same few scare tactics churned out again and again, and with just one enemy – a scary looking female witch with black eyes – it becomes tiresome. This is an issue with the procedurally generation concept and how it’s hard to craft a unique experience that doesn’t follow a strict set of rules. If these weren’t in place, then it would most likely fall apart and break. It has become a game that loses all excitement as it progresses. It might have been best to just focus on creating a very unique first playthrough, rather than going with randomness, which in all honesty doesn’t make for much of a different experience the second time. A more concentrated game would have no doubt in my eyes made for a better constructed and improved gaming experience.
Daylight is one of the first released Unreal Engine 4 titles, but the tech on display isn’t as mouth-watering as you were probably expecting. It’s not a bad looking game, and it does capture a very chilling atmosphere, with great lighting showering down on these dim lit corridors, but as a showcase for Unreal Engine 4, I was expecting more. The audio design is much better, with creepy instruments playing at random to create a sense of dread and anxiety for the person in control of Sarah. Ghostly woman can be heard laughing or screaming down the hallways as they near, with Sarah’s phone crackling to offer a guidance that trouble is close. The game has terrible crossfire performance, meaning I had to disable this feature to get decent frame rate. The game feels rather unoptimised, as maxing this game out at 1080p caused for some very unstable frame rate, sporadically jumping from 20-60, never keeping a solid number. I had to knock down the resolution to 720p to get a good 60fps, which still dropped during a couple of sections.
There are some jumps to be had with Daylight, but that is about as far as it goes for the horror title. It’s an idea that falls apart because of the procedurally generated levels that come across poorly designed, thanks to the repetitive nature. The gameplay is too one dimensional. There is only so many times you can go and collect things, then run to point A and then point B while dodging the same enemies before it becomes monotonous. It’s a shame that Daylight has turned out to be fairly average, because the title has the atmosphere, the creepily produced audio, some promising ideas, and initial jump scares, but the overall package is brought down by issues with gameplay, its focus on random design, clichéd story and unoptimised performance.