Daylight Review – Turn Off The Dark

Horror games can be immersive like no other genre.  They are unique in the regard that the better and/or more intense (those two ideas are not always mutually exclusive, but usually) they are, the more reticent you can actually be to play the game.  The reasons I was reticent to launch Daylight every time I sat down to play it was certainly not because the game was too good. Blacklight developer Zombie Studios put a ton on their plate with trying to craft an effective procedurally generated horror game, which is a huge task to begin with.

At its core Daylight is a maze game.  The dungeon layout is all procedurally generated which seems like it could be an amazing advancement for horror games down the road, but it only feels like a hindrance in this case. You begin running around the maze armed with only a cell phone, which is used as a map and your primary light source.  You will get other light sources like glowsticks and flares as you go to combat the enemies in the game, however the “combat” is limited to shining a light at the enemy and running away.  That can be sufficient in horror games where the other aspects of the games are strong but that just isn’t the case with Daylight.

Horror games don’t need to be overt in their storytelling to be effective, however they do need to have engaging or interesting lore.  Daylight is packed full of lore, however very little of it was interesting to me.  You play the role of Sarah who finds herself in an abandoned hospital with no memory of how she got their and only a cellphone (with infinite battery!) to defend herself with.  The story is usually told through a mysterious German man talking at you (though I am not entirely sure how he is communicating with the player) trying to create an interesting reason for your travels but his droning is mostly eye-roll inducing, though he is at least mercifully succinct.

Given that Daylight is the first Unreal Engine 4 game to hit the market I expected it to be technically rough, but I also thought certain aspects would be impressive.  There is very little to judge Daylight by as far as graphics go because there just aren’t that many objects in the game.  Rooms can range from empty to having a few chairs, maybe a desk, and maybe even a cabinet.  The environment Zombie studios has crafted is just so bare it makes me wonder if this game was up against deadlines it could not push back.  This is a pretty nitpicky point, but immersion is very important to the horror games I have enjoyed and Daylight breaks that in one particular way that is shoved in your face at almost every turn. For example, there are notes pinned all over the environments that include many memos about how the hospital broke down and all these notes have completely clear font and the paper looks new and crispy.  These memos should look pretty weathered and show standard wear and tear but everything looks perfect.

Outside of being the first Unreal Engine 4 game Daylight does a few technologically interesting things.  I have already mentioned the procedurally generated maps but Daylight also offers some potentially neat streaming integration.  Once you have started your own stream you can hook Daylight into that stream and your audience can interact with you.  Zombie Studios does this in a much more interesting way than Dead Nation did with the audience just basically voting to make the game easier or harder.  Daylight lets your viewers say trigger words that will cause sounds to happen in the game.  I imagine this could cause some interesting scenarios and I anticipate what’s next as Zombie studios is pushing the integration as an important feature for the game.  One scenario I could see Daylight shine would be if you to buy it just as a party game.  The catch there would be that everyone would have to be familiar with dual analog controls or keyboard & mouse movement but everyone could get their own jump scare in a very short amount of time.