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Game Review: Daylight

Too often the term “clone” gets thrown around when talking about videogames.  If a game follows the formula of a previously successful title, people say it’s a clone.  But I think that’s a little unfair, because unless a game pioneers a new genre or technique, all games are clones.  Every FPS, every strategy game, every RPG follows previously proven formulas.  The trick is to take something effective that another game did & put your own spin on it.  That’s why Titan Quest did so well even though it was essentially Diabolo set in Greece.  But can a game like Daylight, which is essentially a Slender clone, bring something new to the table?

Ironic for a game in darkness

Ironic for a game in darkness

Daylight is a survival horror game where you play as a woman named Sarah.  Sarah wakes up in an abandoned hospital, apparently having been brought there by vengeful spirits.  Armed with only a cellphone as her map & various light sources she finds throughout, Sarah must navigate her way out of the decrepit building with the somewhat suspect aid of a man’s voice who seems to know more of what’s going on.  But she’ll have to survive the strange shadows that are out to kill her.

Are we sure this isn't Slender?

Are we sure this isn’t Slender?

Daylight’s claim to fame is that it’s essentially a procedurally generated maze game.  The layout of each area is random.  Each level progresses basically in the same way: find enough notes to make the key appear & unlock the door to the next level.  You can find glowsticks & flares to aid you.  Glowsticks highlight searchable containers to help you find the notes faster, while flares will burn the witches that haunt you.  But if you run out of flares you can always just run from the witches.  The longer it takes you to finish the level, the higher your threat level reaches & the more likely you are to be attacked.

Narrative: Eh… I can’t help feeling that the story is the weakest part of Daylight.  I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s bad, just clichéd.  You learn about what’s going through notes, & while not being the most inventive narrative device, it gets the job done.  The whole backstory for what’s wrong with the island has been done before.  If you’ve seen Poltergeist, you know what to expect.  But despite being clichéd, I felt there were a lot of important questions that didn’t get answered.  Who was the voice guiding you?  The game hints at it, but never comes out & says it or answers what happened to him.  What’s with the mark on Sarah’s arm?  Again, talked about in the notes but never explained why it appears on Sarah.  And that ending!  I really was following the story just fine until the very end & the game left me with questions about why the witches had brought Sarah back & ultimately what Sarah’s fate was.  Was Sarah dead to begin with & the island was her purgatory?  Was she just being tormented in her mind?  It’s not the sort of open-endedness that leads to stimulating discussions.  Just frustration.  So that was the biggest letdown for me.  But I will give the game credit on being able to portray Sarah as a bit more than just your standard silent protagonist.  Although she’s quiet enough for players to project onto her, she still responds to what’s going on.  She’ll scream, freak out over hauntings & call out into the darkness.  But it’s not enough to redeem the lackluster plot.  Score: 2

Daylight has a liberal interpretations of "keys"

Daylight has a liberal interpretations of “keys”

Mechanics: The best way to describe the gameplay in Daylight is by saying it’s like playing through Slender with a more competent protagonist.  Thankfully you’re not completely defenseless.  The flares will banish any witch.  And even if you run out of flares, running is always a valid option.  Sarah seems to have unlimited sprinting abilities & can run past every witch.  However, I will say that I often got stuck on debris in the path when running, & you can’t turn when sprinting.  Your map is invaluable & always visible, & it’s nice you can bring it up for a closer look if you get lost.  The biggest draw of the game is the random room generation.  This means the notes & room will be in a different place every time you play.  However, I found this a bit hit-&-miss.  It’s always a bit weird when you get multiples of the same rooms.  In the prison level I honestly had three of those triangular office rooms, which made the layout of the area very confusing.  It would’ve been better of there was a pool of rooms for each level, & once a room was used it was removed from the pool.  This would also prevent the repeated scares.  The first time a bed jumps at me, it’s scary.  The fifth time, it’s annoying.  I even had a few times when the game tried to trigger a scare but because said item had already moved, there was nothing but tense music.  Which brings us to the subject of the enemies.  I’ll say that, while I always found their presence distressing, as the game progresses they appear with annoying regularity.  The prison level seemed to be the worst offender.  Every time I turned around they were there.  So overall, while Daylight has some nice elements, it’s hampered by repetitiveness & frustration.  Score: 3

You want me to run past this?

You want me to run past this?

Aesthetics: I think the atmosphere for Daylight is the best part.  The whole ambiance of game is spot on.  For all the darkness & gloom, the environments are detailed.  It’s the first game using the Unreal Engine 4, & it looks like we can expect good things from it.  But it’s the sound design that sells the game.  This is definitely a game you want to play with headphones.  The sparse music is very tense.  You can hear creaks & groans, footsteps & whispers.  The witches really benefit from the music.  Their screams & the violent, frantic strings playing when the witches are on the attack never ceased to send me into a panic.  But the freakiest part was that you can hear their footsteps coming right up behind you.  The witches only attack if you’ve seen them, but hearing something behind you is nerve-wracking.  There was also this swooping sound behind me in the forest level that made want to cry.  I never did look back to see what it was… And although the only voices are from Sarah & her guide, I didn’t notice any problems with them.  Score: 5

Replay Value: Mixed.  The random room generator obviously lends itself to multiple playthroughs, but I’m not really sure many people will want to play multiple times.  The story won’t change.  However, I’m intrigued by this ability to stream the game & let the viewers type in command codes to randomly scare the player.  I think this could lend itself to many streams of Daylight.  Score: 3

Breakdown

untitled

Overall Score: 3

Final Word: If you’ve played games like Slender before, you’ve played Daylight.  But if you can slog through the story & repetitiveness to let yourself be immersed in the environment, I think you’ll find a fun, scary game.  For all its flaws, I have to admit that Daylight is the only game to make me scream out loud.  Not even Silent Hill could manage that.

– GamerDame

Title: Daylight
Console: PC & PS4
Rating: M
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Atlus & Guy Studios
Release Date: April 29, 2014
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Filed under 3, Horror, PC, PS4, Reviews

First Impressions: Daylight

The videogame industry, like all industries, has its cycles.  Some good, some bad.  I remember when it seemed like every shooter to come out was a WWII shooter.  But now it seems like we’re having a revival of survival horror games.  Apparently gamers are getting tired of watered down “horror” games that end up being little more than shooters with jump scares.  Recently there have been some really solid survival horror games coming from the Indie market.  But the latest entry, Daylight, is a AAA title.  Or at the very least comes from an established developer.

I first became interested in Daylight when I saw an interview from Zombie Studios (the developers) in which the representative mentioned that the game was procedurally generated.  Their aim was to have each playthrough of the game be a unique experience, with different layouts &, most importantly, different scares.  After playing the first few levels myself & watching some videos of other gamers’ experiences, I can say that there is a randomness to the layout.  Rather than everything being completely random, however, it’s more accurate to say that the placement of the rooms is random.  Think of Daylight as a randomly arranged maze of horror.

The plot, from what I’ve gathered so far, is that you play as a woman named Sarah who wakes up in an abandoned, dilapidated hospital.  She starts with only a cell phone, her light & map, with a mysterious male voice guiding her along.  The voice, apparently a doctor from the hospital, knows Sarah, who from what I’ve gathered was once a patient at the hospital.  But the island of New Kippling has a dark past, with notes hinting at plague outbreaks & dark rituals.

Daylight’s gameplay is very similar to games like Slender.  You wander through the haunted corridors, looking for notes while avoiding enemies.  In Daylight, your goal is to find enough “remnants” (ie. notes) to unlock a sigil to unlock the exit door.  But the longer Sarah wanders, the more danger she’s in.  Because of a strange symbol on her arm, the Shadow People are drawn to her.  And they’re not here for tea.  But Sarah can fend them off with flares she finds.

So far, my experience with Daylight has been very tense.  The game definitely has a good horror atmosphere.  Whispers, creaks & strange noises abound.  Most of the random scares, like drawers rattling, haven’t gotten me too badly.  But there was one moment that scared the crap out of me & made me have to take a break from the game.  You see, when you pick up the sigil, you can no longer use flares to defend yourself & your threat level is maxed out, meaning you’re more likely to be attacked.  Well, when I picked up the second sigil, I didn’t realize until I’d already started to get it that there was a witch (what the game calls the enemies) closing in behind me.  So I couldn’t use a flare.  I had to run past her as she was screaming at me like a banshee & booked it all the way back to the door.  Thankfully, sister can sprint.

I have to say that, while the controls are simplistic, they work.  Unlike most protagonists in games of this sort, Sarah seemed to have unlimited sprinting abilities & has a pretty decent speed, but she seems to have difficulty taking corners when running.  For now the witches seem slow, but running makes it hard to see the map.  And speaking of the map, it’s very useful & I think it’s unlikely most people will get lost using it.  Although one time (when I was running from the witch) I somehow got stuck in the zoom-into-map option & could only stand still while I gaped at the phone.  I don’t know if this pauses the game, & I only got out by pressing random buttons.  Daylight also seems generous in providing your with glowsticks & flares, but that probably depends on your difficulty setting & how thoroughly you explore the area.  The addition of safe zones in between levels is also a nice break.

(On an interesting side note, apparently Daylight is set up in a way that if someone is streaming it on Twitch, viewers can create scares for the person playing.)

Based on the Trophies, Daylight appears to have five main levels (hospital, prison, sewer, forest & final).  I get the impression it’s intended to be  a short but replayable experience, so this probably won’t be a long game.  Of course, that all depends on how long I can stand to sit down to play the game in a single sitting…

Daylight-PS4-E3-2013-Trailer_5

– GamerDame

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