‘Daylight’ Review

 

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Platforms: PC/PlayStation 4
Developer: Zombie Studios Publisher: Zombie Studios (PC)/Atlus (PS4)
Genre: Survival Horror Platform Played On: PC

There are a few things you should have ready before you play Daylight: have your local emergency number on ready in case of a heart related incidents, make sure your chair isn’t going to break for the amount of times you jump and a browser open of puppies and kittens for when you instinctively alt-tab after each scare. I think Daylight has given me the most amount of scares in one game more than any other game. Since it is a procedural generated horror, each time you die or start a new game the layout and scares are completely different.

It means you can’t really pinpoint exactly when you will get scared unlike games like Outlast where you know where you will get scared if you die. It has a fairly simple game design which takes you through the story of a girl named Sarah who has awoken in an abandoned mental hospital. You wake up, go through one area to collect 6 remnants of the past detailing what happened in the hospital. Once you collect all 6 remnants you can collect the key to unlock the sigil for the next area. The key is usually a unique object from her past which helps provide further backstory.

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I was surprised at how much story content there actually is in the game. The remnants are usually documentations of patients and events or more personal notes of someones experiences from the past. Whether people will actually read them is a different matter because when you have a terrifying ghost woman thing screaming behind you, the last thing you want to do is read something.

You also have a Andrew Ryan-esque narrator talking through the playthrough who usually fills in the silence and provides a bit more story through that avenue. I may have missed some key information by skimming through some notes but I was never entirely sure who he was or even where his voice is coming from. It certainly is an interesting aspect to the game and definitely one I never really expected.

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Now good stories in a horror are appreciated, but it the scare factor is what horror fans really care about. Like I said before, I don’t think I’ve been scared so much in a game like I was in Daylight. Everything sets you up under a blanket of tension. The environments are dark, lonely and eerie. The lighting is probably one of the best factors in this game, it is just blended into the environments so well. Looking down a long corridor to see a flickering light through the cells sent shudders down my spine to imagine something being there. Obviously the Unreal 3 Engine had a big part to play in it because it looks fantastic. Visually it is quite similar to Outlast, which might come down to the hospital setting itself but it  is no way a bad thing.

The sound scape in this game has been obviously been crafted with great care. The eerie music that plays in certain areas is spine tingling and so is the silence when you are exploring the areas. The game also has random noises going on around to you add another layer of tension. It varies from hearing screaming in the distance, thumping on the walls or the shudder of pipes. It really is one of the best sound scapes I’ve experienced in a horror game. The noises have also made me never want to turn around every again after certain events in the game. You aren’t sure if the noise is real, or if it is fake.

The level designs themselves are varied which I was pleased to see. It doesn’t just contain you in a certain area. You go through cell wards, scutter through the sewers below and even throws you into a dark forest with ruined buildings. Obviously because of the procedurally generated areas the layout becomes different for each playthrough and what I went through may be different to what you go through in terms of area layouts and scares.

The figure on the left is one of the keys, situated in the dark forest. Creepy right?

The figure on the left is one of the keys, situated in the dark forest. Creepy right?

The game also allows you brief moments of respite once you clear an area by putting you in small sections where there is no risk of being chased or screamed at. They are placed fairly well and it is entirely up to you as to how long or short your stay is. It also allows you to read interesting stories so you don’t miss out on everything in case you just breezed through the notes in the level. It’s almost like a more complex Slender style setting in that you have to collect a certain amount of notes to progress and as you delve further, your threat meter goes higher. In this “breaks” it differs it up by making you interact with the environment to progress which I liked, it allowed for a bit of a change. It isn’t anything complicated, but it does it’s job in taking your mind away from the horror for a bit.

Now as I mentioned before, it is a very dark setting. So to ensure you can actually see stuff and aren’t blindly running around into walls and scary ladies you have three items which allow you to see. You can use green glow-sticks which are very creepy in the setting but they also highlight clues so you know which cupboards or boxes you can actually open to get clues or more glow-sticks. You have the light from the phone itself which never dies, so you don’t have to worry about collecting batteries. The phone is also used as a map so you know which areas you have been and where you have to go back to once you find the key.

A perfect example of how they utilize light within the environment.

A perfect example of how they utilize light within the environment.

The last form of light is probably the most crucial light – flares. The flares are pretty much your only weapon as they burn away the Shadows, which are the ghost figures following you around. They are the only thing which will ensure you can actually progress so they have to be used carefully. You can only hold 4 of each item at a time but you can generally find some pretty quickly again and you have your light as a back up anyway. The lighting of these items make the game even creepier because of the way they illuminate the area. You’ll never be able to see two metres in front of you unless there are hallway lights. It is that factor of the unknowing which really adds to the already high tension of Daylight. You aren’t sure what might be beyond your reach and it is one of the form of scares Zombie Studios have encapsulated really well.

The obvious and clichéd scare that is rampant in this game is the use of jump scares and it is almost becomes overused. If it weren’t for all the other factors of lighting and the careful use of darkness I might not have even finished the game. They are done well though, I’ll give them that. One of the best/worst scares I had was walking into a section of the cell wards and I turned to my right to see one of the ghost witch ladies scream at me out of nowhere. Obviously I alt-tabbed out from fright, composed myself and went back in. As soon as I turned the other way she did the same thing and pretty much nearly killed me in real life. I lit the flare and burnt her away before pausing the game to calm myself down again.

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These type of scares are the pretty much the cherry on top of all the tension that is built up, particularly in the early stages of the game. The atmosphere actually blends really well with these cheap scares which I was happy to see. They will set you up with the perfect use of ambiance, use little scares like wheelchairs rolling or a noise in the distance, then crush you with the appearance of the witches.

Now it might be just my play-throughs or maybe it is the game itself, but I felt there was a lack of enemy variety. I think I only saw two different type of enemies, one being the witch ghost ladies and the other was some weird little person who was running around in what seemed like a circus outfit, although it was probably just an inmate with the hospital clothing. The one redeeming factor of this though was probably because it worked with the way the story panned out and because it was scary enough with just those enemies. Also the character you play, Sarah, can become quite annoying by constantly asking things like “Is anybody there?” Even if you have just encountered a ghost. You will probably wish you could mute her voice because it is so repetitive.

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One of the main features I really look forward to being able to try is the Twitch feature within the game. You essentially stream your game on Twitch and people watching you can type commands to set off scares within the game. Obviously if people just keep spamming commands it will become boring but if people time it well it will be such a cool feature, it just adds a whole new dimension to the horror of the game. It’s also one feature I’d like to see implemented in more horror games as a bit of fun, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to make their friends or strangers scream in horror.

The Verdict

Overall this game really stands out as one of the most terrifying horror experiences I’ve had the pleasure of playing. While the settings have been overused in horror games it doesn’t take away from the experience here because what they have done with the settings has been crafted perfectly. The lighting and the ambiance are really the key players in creating the high tension atmosphere while combined with the cheap jump scares make it the most consistent horror game in terms of scares.

A normal play-through will most likely take between 2-3 hours but you might want to do a couple of play-throughs to really take advantage of the procedurally genereated style and to delve deeper into the story, which has been written quite well with lots of background story. You will need to take a few breaks through this game because it is just so intense at times, particularly when you are nearing the end of a level. The Twitch feature will be a perfect companion to this style of horror for players to enjoy down the track and I can’t wait to see more of it. Daylight is only $14.99 on Steam, or for two weeks on PlayStation 4 you can pick it up for $9.99 which really is a bargain for the experience within the game.

The Good

+ Terrifying environment  is complimented expertly with good use of lighting

+ Procedurally generated areas means each playthrough has a new face to it

+ Terrifying soundscape to top off a horrifying atmosphere

+ Cool use of flares and glow-sticks

+ Genuine scares 

+ Interesting story with lots of background information 

The Bad

- It can become a bit too intense at times

- Lack of enemy variety it seemed (may be different for other playthroughs)

- Pushes boundaries for the amount of jump scares used

- Character can get annoying

The Score 8.5/10


Ryan Livingstone is the PC Editor at Analog Addiction. You can also follow him on Twitter, or send him an e-mail at ryan_13_10@hotmail.com.

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