Game Reviewed: Daylight
Date Released: April 29th, 2014
Developer: Zombie Studios
Platform: [Reviewed: PC], PlayStation 4
Rated: M for Mature
There are a few necessities that a horror title must have in order to be considered successful: first, it must have an intense atmosphere, one where it has me constantly on edge, and second, the monster/ghost/supernatural entity must be terrifying. The third is that the gameplay must complement the scares by making the actual encounters with the entities tense and frightening. Daylight does check all the items off my list, but there are a few gripes here and there that tarnished my time with Daylight.
Awakening inside a derelict penitentiary that was once a tuberculosis hospital, players take control of Sarah as she finds her way through and discovers the secrets of the hospital turned penitentiary. The backstory can be filled in by finding and collecting scattered pieces of newspaper clippings, notes, and photos that detail the experiences of staff members, and the transformation the building has gone through. They treat it like a mystery, but you can figure out for yourself that some bad goings-on happened and that’s why there are a bunch of tortured souls roaming the halls trying to kill you. What the notes do offer is a nice build up to the scares; reading notes stating that a particular room had a shadow person in it had me bracing myself.
Sarah has three tools at her disposal: a smartphone, glow sticks, and flares. The smartphone is used for basic lighting to illuminate eerie hallways and corridors; a map can be seen on the phone’s screen to help orient yourself and find your way back to points of interest, which I’m very thankful for because you will run into a lot of dead ends. An interesting mechanic involving the glow sticks allows players to highlight certain objects to help locate remnants and reveal switches. Lighting flares are your only means of defense against the tormented souls (besides straight up running away) and unlike the phone, which can be used indefinitely, only four glows sticks and flares can be carried at a time.
There are means to help determine when these spooky specters will appear. The presence of a ghost nearby will often distort the screen on your phone and the more jumbled the screen becomes the more likely there may be a ghost in your presence. A threat indicator can also be seen on the bottom right and the more remnants you collect the more persistent and tenacious the ghosts will be. There were times where everything seemed fine for the most part, threat level was low and I just entered a new section of the “hospitentiary”, then when I turn around I have a ghost screaming right in my face. The worst part was that after using a flare to dispel the haunt, and catching my breath, another appeared! The scares were unexpected and had my heart racing at a thousand beats per second, but it was a curveball that I wasn’t prepared for and left me without any flares.
The clues that you come across not give you some hints and back story, but a certain amount must be collected to advance to the next area of the game. Once you have collected enough remnants a key, or “sigil”, will appear in a special room that you must locate. Acquiring this sigil is the only way to unlock a door leading to different parts of the hospitentiary, which is easily identified by a large, luminous ritualistic symbol. Outside of the genuinely terrifying scares and encounters, the gameplay does become repetitive quickly. Walk around, use glow sticks to find clues, avoid ghosts, collect remnants, get the sigil, find the exit and repeat.
The Story Mode is very short, just around 3 hours, but what Daylight does to make up for the lack of length is the procedurally generated environments that change the layout of the map and offers different scares with each playthrough; no two playthroughs will be the same. The jump scares are erratic and unpredictable which answers the problem of when one plays other horror games too many times – you catch on and stop being scared. However, that doesn’t save the next playthrough from the repetition and finding yourself at numerous dead ends.
Daylight uses the powerful Unreal Engine 4 and it looks stunning. The attention to detail is really remarkable when you have the time to marvel, but the downside is that it’s shrouded in darkness. What else would you expect from a horror game, sunshine and rainbows? Spine-tingling whispers and howls, accompanied with intensifying music also helps drive the unsettling ambience and make you feel like you are being watched constantly. Some bugs were found during my game session like constant banging that seemed to originate from nowhere and at some points the game would stutter for a few seconds. These were annoying at times, but nothing serious like the game crashing.
I was on the edge of my seat playing Daylight. and it did what every horror title is meant to – scare the player. The unpredictable nature of when and where the jump scares will happen left me in a tense state of panic, but the story is lacking considerably, especially when compared to games like Gone Home that has an excellent and compelling narrative. The repetitious nature of the gameplay will leave some yearning for more and the glitches I found did get bothersome. Regardless, the setting is filled with a terrifying sense of dread that will truly make players uneasy, on top of the ambient music that sent chills up my spine and made me fearful, even though no obvious threat was in sight. If you’re looking for some good scares for a modest price then give Daylight a try.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5