As far as games go you, can’t get much simpler than the basics like tag and hide-and-seek. It’s why mods like GMOD’s Prop Hunt and Team Fortress 2‘s Versus Saxton Hale are so popular. Which goes to show that rather than reinvent the wheel, sometimes you just need to repackage it.
Dead by Daylight is Behaviour Interactive’s repackaging of hide-and-seek in the form of an asymmetrical horror game. While it might be easy to mistake Dead by Daylight as similar to survival or action horror titles like Silent Hill (especially since Pyramid Head is in both), Dead by Daylight is simpler, and more competitive.
Dead by Daylight
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: Behaviour Interactive
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Release Date: June 14, 2016
At its core, Dead by Daylight is a competitive game rather than a horror game. While the gruesome aesthetics make for a fun playground, after a few hours the killers stop becoming terrifying monsters, and start becoming beatable opponents.
As an asymmetrical PvP game, players have the choice of one of two roles; playing as a killer and trying to kill the survivors before they escape, or as a survivor who scurries and runs through the stage fixing generators to power the exit gates and escape.
The survivors need to be alert, as some actions (such as repairing a generator) can provoke a random “skill check.” This little QTE is accompanied by a warning sound, and failure loses progress and make a loud noise. There’s also a small section of the skill check that gives bonus progress and points, for greedy or skillful players.
Both the killer and the survivors are equipped with perks, add-ons, and offerings to help them achieve their goal. Perks are innate talents and each character can equip four of them. A player’s choice of perk can drastically change their playstyle and can complement each other. Add-ons for the killer directly modify their innate powers, while add-ons for survivors affect items they can bring into a game.
Offerings are consumable items that are spent at the start of a game. They have effects ranging from determining what map the game will take place on, how many item chests there are on the map, to simply affecting how many “Blood Points” (in-game tokens used to unlock perks, add-ons, items, and offerings) are received at the end of a match.
The choice of perks and add-ons is ultimately where creative and competitive players make their most important choices before a game, and is a reminder that Dead by Daylight is a competitive PvP game before it’s a horror game.
Perks, add-ons, and powers are constantly being tweaked and reworked in order to keep pace with the ability of players to abuse them. But these changes are at least done in a good faith attempt to balance the game.
The layout of each map gives both survivors and killers opportunities to take an advantage. Killers can prioritize protecting only a few generators and creating a difficult situation later, they can drag survivors to the basement which is awkward to escape from, or keep the pressure by hitting multiple survivors before committing to chasing one.
Meanwhile survivors can leap through windows faster than killers to create distance, can drop wooden pallets to temporarily slow down killers chasing them, or hide inside of lockers. There’s more to the game than just chasing and being chased.
Skill and time management are the keys to winning Dead by Daylight. Chases are fun and full of mindgames, using walls and tools to juke killers, or trick survivors into running straight into you. Savvy players can use the clues the game gives such as the Terror Radius to confuse and disorient other players.
Survivors don’t feel powerless in the face of the killer. A good survivor can run away from a killer for a long time, and some perks counter decisions the killer might make. Most notably, survivors can sabotage hooks when killers are carrying another survivor, and the killer can be blinded with a flashlight temporarily.
It’s rewarding to escape as survivor, and to land a hit as killer. The game also balances its asymmetrical PvP by making surviving or killing only part of the scoring process.
It is entirely possible for a survivor to die and still rank up or for a killer to only kill one or two people and still rank up. How quickly generators became powered up, how long survivors were injured (and if you healed them), and how long chases took are all factored into a player’s score at the end of a match.
Dead by Daylight is an ambitious and fun game that’s been getting better and better over time. But it’s far from without faults. The game only has a ranked mode and a private lobby mode, which doesn’t allow you to earn points.
This isn’t exactly a problem, but in the ranked mode survivors are allowed to create lobbies. Dead by Daylight does not have voice chat in-game. But there’s no reason for survivors not to squad up and speak over chat applications like Discord, creating a meta advantage.
This activity is actively encouraged by Behaviour Interactive however, and the official Dead by Daylight Discord server sets aside voice channels specifically for “Survive With Friends” groups.
The game is also plagued by a growing library of DLC. The base game and all DLC (excluding purely cosmetic DLC and including DLC with characters) is over $120 USD. But to offset it, Dead by Daylight has one of the least predatory microtransaction shops I’ve seen in a game.
Just by playing, players level up their account and unlock a currency called Iridescent Shards. These shards can be used to buy most cosmetics, but more importantly they can be used to purchase characters and perks associated with the characters locked behind DLC.
The exception to this is the characters from licensed IPs such as Ghostface, Michael Myers, or Leatherface. However the perks associated with those characters can be unlocked with Iridescent Shards.
Thus, with the exception of the unique powers killers use, there’s no gameplay features that can’t be unlocked with the game’s free currency. There’s also no lootboxes or randomization, if someone really wants something, they can make the informed decision to spend their free or premium currency on it.
Graphically, things come together solidly with clear textures and identifiable visual cues. The textures and graphics are only getting better as some stages are undergoing a visual upgrade; the upgrade was announced during the fourth anniversary of Dead by Daylight.
Though like some competitive games, playing on low settings actually offers a gameplay advantage. Survivors are easier to spot when there’s less ground clutter. While some cosmetics are easier to spot than others, the best skins for hiding are the bloodied “prestige” skins which can’t be bought with money and are unlocked by playing.
Many clues are also visual, killers will be on the lookout for “scratch marks” survivors leave when they run, while survivors will look for the flashing lights signaling a generator is nearby to be repaired. Some perks and abilities will also allow players to see “auras”, illuminated outlines of objects or other players that are visible through walls in certain conditions.
Audio cues are just as important if not moreso than visual ones. Survivors will need to listen for a growing heartbeat and music that accompanies the killer called their “Terror Radius.” The loudness of the heartbeat is directly proportional to the closeness of the killer.
Special music also plays when entering a chase with a killer, and Behaviour Interactive is currently going back and giving killers unique music to accompany their terror radius.
Music volume can’t be changed in Dead by Daylight, which is by design. The loud music during a chase is meant to give survivors a hand in escaping. First, the music plays even when a killer has a small or no terror radius due to a perk or power. Secondly the killer hears the music also, and if a survivor gives them the slip it persists a few seconds to cover the sound of their footsteps.
Some perks also change how audio cues work. For instance there’s a killer perk that diminishes and then removes the warning sound for a skill check, making it difficult for players to rely on a familiar feature.
The story for Dead by Daylight exists, but isn’t explained outright. Rather, it’s told through character descriptions, context clues in item descriptions, and most recently in special journal entries discovered during “Rifts”.
Rifts are the seasons of Dead by Daylight, where players earn free (or premium) cosmetic items and complete challenges. Collecting journal entries by completing challenges also rewards players with cutscenes that play out the backstories of the game’s characters.
The world of Dead by Daylight is a pocket dimension, created by a manipulative and ancient godlike being known only as “The Entity” that seems to feed off of hope and fear. Survivors and killers are gathered from multiple universes to perform these ritualistic trials (that is, the matches of Dead by Daylight).
Survivors are maimed and killed repeatedly until their essence is utterly drained by The Entity. However, there exist those that live in The Entity’s realm that are aware of its nature, and have a limited ability to manipulate reality within it.
These side characters are mostly known through context clues in items, and make no gameplay impact on the game. Characters such as Vigo who is a scientist or engineer of some sort, Benedict Baker a struggling survivor who leaves his notes behind, and The Observer who has a limited ability to view the memories of those that dwell in The Entity’s Realm.
Ultimately Dead by Daylight is the best at what it does. It’s a competitive hide-and-seek game with a gruesome polish on it. Not even Behaviour Interactive themselves can outdo Dead by Daylight, their own game Deathgarden closed down its servers earlier this year.
Those looking for a PvP game that’s different from the usual FPS, MOBA, or Battle Royale titles saturating the market will find a lot to like.
Dead by Daylight was reviewed on Windows PC using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.