Daylight is an ambitious game that tries to do something exceptionally hard to do. Horror games are usually not playable after the first experience because the inherent fact is that horror is just not as scary a second time through. Zombie Studios looks to challenge that fact and make a scary game that is full of story as well as unique experiences every time a player starts a new session. The hope is that the player will understand the world around Daylight a little more through each play through. Does Daylight shine a light on an area of the horror genre that has been lacking, or should Zombie Studios return to their Blacklight Retribution days?
Dropped into a medical hospital that doubles as some sort of prison ward for some people, the main character Sarah, wakes up at the entrance and must make her way through the building. A main antagonist narrator/spooky voice in the dark pokes at Sarah as she finds clues to where she is and why she is there. The ambiance in the game is no doubt one that Zombie Studios has nailed. The eerie bumps in the night, the creepy distopic violin scratches and the screams of women that used to inhabit the facility all do an effective job of setting the mood.
The practice of the game, however, is nowhere near as scary as the ambiance would have you believe. The true scares come from the ambiance and the quick interactions of ceiling tiles falling, chairs bumping around and loud sounds interacting with the player. The main “ghosts” of the story that are supposed to be scary, and cause player death, actually come across more as a nuisance rather than a scary being. The experience is supposed to be replayable and can be finished in almost an hour. Every time the player restarts the game the halls are randomly rearranged and new clues are supposed to be dropped in to give the game a unique feel.
The main character essentially only has three tools at her disposal. When Sarah wakes up she finds a cell phone that acts as the map and illuminates the dark halls of Daylight. She can also pick up glow sticks and flares that are used to find clues and ward away the ghosts. The one problem I had with this tool set, because it does seem like a good tool set built for horror, is that there seems to be glow sticks and flares hidden everywhere. I understand that the developers want to make sure that the player gets through the game and sees all of the content, but limiting the resources of the player might have caused the ghosts to be a little scarier and less annoying if flares weren’t always readily available.
Daylight is one of the first Unreal Engine 4 games to hit the market. The unique thing the developers talked about before launch was the ability for the game to generate unique tile sets for rooms, halls, and environments so that every playthrough felt different. The reality of the situation is that every playthrough doesn’t however. Sure there map isn’t exactly the same, but similar rooms, similar hallways and word for word repeated store notes do not hold up over time. The repetitiveness is noticeable, and although things do change, it isn’t enough to keep things fresh. Making a replayable horror game just sounds like a mountain of a task, and Zombie Studios worked hard to make it happen I have no doubt, but the reused assets eventually do wear thin.
One thing that might give the game more replay ability is the twitch commands that go along with the PlayStation 4 version of the game. Players watching PS4 players of Daylight will have options in the chat to mess around with the player. They can do things like spawn a witch, make Sarah scream, flicker the light on her phone and many others by typing corresponding commands into the chat. This is an interesting addition to the game that makes interacting with a community more enjoyable and makes the game more interesting. People who love to stream may want to pick this game up just for the scares and interaction with a twitch community and that makes the game relevant moving forward.
The overall experience is one that is enjoyable, but multiple playthoughs without the Twitch experience leaves a flat undertone. Finding the same pages over and over again gets annoying to a point and the ghosts that are supposed to be haunting come across as an agitation. It’s no doubt that horror is a hard genre to develop for and there are a lot of really good ideas in Daylight, but in the end the game just feels lacking which is a darn shame.