Dead By Daylight offers chilling asymmetrical gameplay
It's funny looking back now to our roundup of the most anticipated horror games of 2016, where we featured the asymmetrical titles Friday the 13th and The Last Year dueling it out: neither of which have actually been released yet.
Somehow the 4 vs. 1 Dead By Daylight, which has the exact same concept, has made it to release before either of those anticipated games.
Jumping in early and capitalizing on the momentum of the asymmetrical horror frenzy, Dead By Daylight may just have beaten both of the other two major contenders before they even get into the race.
Playing A Slasher Movie – From Either Side
Please note that this review is of the beta version just prior to release – info below is subject to change when the full version drops and patches are released.
Having spent quite a few hours already trying out both the killer and the survivor sides, I can say without hesitation that Behaviour Digital Inc. got this concept down exceedingly well and avoided a lot of expected problems.
There's an excellent juxtaposition of human slasher with supernatural elements, and the way various horror movie tropes are woven directly into the gameplay is incredibly fluid, makes sense, and actually adds something rather than just being window dressing.
The four survivors can't kill the slasher, and instead are trying to meet a map win condition to escape, like powering generators to open a door.
The slasher meanwhile usually can't immediately kill a survivor, but rather has to hit him or her twice to knock them down. Once down, a survivor can then be carried, hung on a meat hook, and sacrificed to the malevolent Entity that powers the slasher.
All along the way there's opportunity for a survivor to escape, either alone or with help, and get back into the game. If you die, you can still stay and spectate to learn from how other players manage to stay alive longer than you did.
Although a new player is almost certainly going to get sacrificed immediately while figuring out the controls on the first few rounds, there's actually an amazing balance here between the two factions at play.
The slasher, for instance, is always faster than a survivor, but the four survivors have environmental objects they can use to throw in the slasher's way and slow him while escaping. They also have the huge bonus of always knowing when the evil killer is near due to the heartbeat mechanic.
On the other side, the slasher can easily take down a survivor, but he has to work harder to find his prey.
Survivors typically only become noticeable when making noise by turning on generators, foolishly running in the open, or after they've been previously injured and leave a blood trail.
Traversing The Bloodweb
Of course there's only so many times you can play the same map against the same slasher without boredom setting in, which is why there's a leveling and item system.
Each of the four survivors is essentially a different “class,” with different skills and objects to unlock on the Bloodweb. This leveling scheme is also procedurally generated, so you will get different effects and items than other players and can keep unlocking equipment and offerings even after you hit the level cap.
Utilizing items unlocked on the Bloodweb is key to mastering the game, like using a flashlight to make a slasher drop a survivor, or having the ability to sense nearby players. The latter is particularly useful since there's no mini-map. True to the source material, if you get lost and separated, you are probably going to die.
Cat And Mouse
Once you get a group of people together in a lobby who know the mechanics, the real fun begins and matches can go on for quite some time as different strategies are deployed.
In general, survivors need to avoid panic and stay stealthy, but when they are detected, its a heart-pounding mad dash to find a window or other environmental object to avoid the meat hook.
The slasher on the other hand is always on the lookout for survivors who wandered into a trap and are making noises, or who messed up a skill check and caused a generator to backfire. Both are very satisfying experiences, and there's an excellent sense of dread woven into the gameplay.
As a beta just on the verge of hitting full release, there are a few issues that still need to be ironed out. Getting into a match doesn't typically take more than a few minutes, but it does drag on sometimes as people join then leave, join then leave, join then leave, etc.
It's unclear if there's a problem with the match making causing the issue, or if people are joining and quitting lobbies over and over to meet up with their friends in a match.
Either way, the developer needs to either implement a better invite system or prevent people from constantly dropping in and out somehow.
The only other issue I've had has been rare, but it does happen: the killer rage quits because he's not catching people fast enough. Obviously you can't play a 4 vs. 0 match, so the game ends if the slasher drops out.
There are incentives for the slasher to stay in the game, but I've seen occasions where players drop out anyway and look for easier prey, and that's frankly pretty annoying.
The Bottom Line
If you can overcome the frustration of figuring out the stealth mechanics in the first few matches, then there's loads of fun to be had in Dead By Daylight.
It remains to be seen if the fun can be kept up over long stretches (an issue that frequently gets cited in criticisms of other asymmetrical games like Evolve) and whether any of the other killers or maps will nerf the gameplay when the full release arrives.
For now though, based on what I've played, I expect this to be one of the definitive 4 vs. 1 horror titles and intend to keep playing matches long into the night with my headphones on and the lights turned off .
Full disclosure: Gameskinny received a promo copy of this game from the developer in exchange for an honest review.