Daylight Review – PC/Steam

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Don’t go into the light…especially if it happens to be the new no-thrills and limited chills survival horror game, Daylight from Zombie Studios.  I’ve been following this game a bit closer than I’d care to admit – especially after playing it.  I’ve done two live streams, one Beta and one for the final release version of the game if you want to see the game in action…or a lack thereof, or you can just read my final thoughts on this dismal experience below.

Daylight desperately wants to be the next Outlast game, and it borrows just enough conceptually to make me type that sentence then cease all other comparisons.  Daylight puts you in the first-person perspective of an unknown female dropped into an abandoned, burned out, and haunted prison taunted and guided by a mysterious voice.  You are armed only with a cell phone whose powerful flashlight function is rivaled only by its impressive battery life and the amazing ability to keep your arm outstretched for endless hours.  During your exploration of the prison you will gather up green glow sticks that reveal clues and secrets and orange flares to defend against shadowy evil as well as countless (only because I refuse to count them) notes and documents that come in both blue and red varieties.  Blue notes flesh out the story while red documents or Remnants, fuel the in-game counter that will trigger the release of a Sigil item required for unlocking a magically sealed exit so you can do it all over again in a new location.

One of the big bragging points for Daylight is its procedurally generated levels; which is a fancy way of saying the game is randomizing item locations and room designs making it impossible to create a walkthrough for the game.  The general blueprint of each level remains the same but what you find inside each room as far as contents, both design and collectible items can and will vary, even if you die and start the level over from a checkpoint.  Ultimately, this is a cheap way to artificially extend what is arguably already a very short game.

So the basic formula is that you explore these confusing and repetitive mazes of corridors and rooms looking for the Sigil room, the exit portal, and six key Remnants.  During this time you will also be stalked by Patient 13, some psychotic girl who looks like she came right out of The Ring.   Her first appearance can take upwards of 20-30 minutes.  In fact, the first 20-30 minutes of the entire game are terribly boring, as the designers are relying way too much on their “suspenseful atmosphere and sound effects”, thus confusing terror with frustration and boredom.  There are numerous jump moments and much like the rest of the content, these too are randomized so if that sink springs a noisy leak or a bathroom stall slams shut don’t expect it to happen every time or in the same place.

The designers apparently realized their game wasn’t scary enough on its own so they included some Twitch-chat interaction whereby you can broadcast your gameplay and anybody watching can type in various trigger words to cause things to happen in your game.  While this sounds clever in theory it only works when you use the game’s built-in Twitch option which has yet to connect to my Twitch channel after dozens of attempts.  Ironically, I can stream quite easily using Shadowplay or my external video capture but this will not interpret the chat commands.

The only thing truly terrifying in the game is actually being pursued by the shadowy witch with the glowing eyes.  Her appearance is almost always foreshadowed by your phone screen glitching out and some sinister flapping noises, but not always.  There have been moments where I have turned around and she has just been there, RIGHT IN MY FACE, and those are the rare short-staining moments I admit to audible screams.  But even this singular threat is easily defeated or kept at bay with numerous and readily available flares.  The trick is not to get caught holding a glow stick or the Sigil, which makes that level-ending run from the Sigil room to the exit portal some of the most terrifying moments in the game, as you are almost always being pursued in these final moments and unable to light a flare.

There are numerous questionable design decisions like having no user saves.  If you die you restart at a preset checkpoint and are forced to find all six remnants over again, which have now all been randomized to new locations within the level.  Keep in mind that the only time you are likely to die is on the final run to the exit after collecting all six remnants and the sigil.  I suppose this adds to the intensity of that final dash to the exit, but it’s also exceedingly frustrating when you have to traipse through that prison cell block for a third time.  Also, you can only carry four flares and four glow sticks, so if you open any cabinet or drawer you are told you can’t carry anymore, BUT you cannot come back and get them later.  You essentially have lost those items forever, which will tempt you to never open up or search anything if you are fully stocked until you realize that remnants are also hidden in the same cabinets, drawers, and boxes that flares and glow sticks are kept in.

Daylight is dark and ugly, both artistically and technically and hardly worthy of the power the PS4 or PC have to offer.  It’s easy to see why they had to highlight the notes with red and blue lights otherwise you would never find anything.   The blueprints are confusing and the cell phone map is way too small, even on my 58” screen to be useful.  It is way too easy to get lost in the confusing labyrinth of rooms and connecting hallways since there is no logical sense to the design of the overall prison.  It’s just a collection of randomized room designs that are all connected and can easily reappear numerous times within the same floor plan.

Things take on an eerie green glow when you crack and shake a glow stick or flicker with a fiery glow when you ignite a flare.  The blood red iris effect when the witch is sapping your life is annoying at best making it even harder to escape.   The framerate is deplorable, even on my PC that easily exceeds the recommended specs for this game.  I can only guess that this has something to do with the levels being generated on the fly, or at least I hope that’s the reason because Outlast looks infinitely better than Daylight in every way possible.

I’ve played Daylight; both the beta and the final version, for nearly 15 hours now and I’ve been truly terrified maybe four times, most of which are documented in my live streams for your enjoyment.  But when I wasn’t nervously looking over my shoulder for that evil Ring girl I was usually bored and going through the motions of this uninspired maze-crawler and note-reading simulation.   Pretty soon I even stopped reading the notes.  I just didn’t care.  Ultimately, every moment I spent playing Daylight had me flashing back to my favorite moments from Outlast and making me wish I was playing that game instead.

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