The latest online craze to hit the gaming industry is the asymmetrical multiplayer genre. Asymmetrical is a term used to describe a multiplayer game where one team plays the game differently than the opposite team. Made famous in Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory in 2005, the asymmetrical multiplayer game has taken many forms since. It wasn’t until Turtle Rock’s title Evolve hit the market in 2014 when developers began to craft entire games out asymmetrical gameplay types.
In comes Dead by Daylight, a multiplayer horror title developed by French studio Behaviour Interactive that tasks a group of players to survive the night from a stalking serial killer. The game just celebrated its one year anniversary by launching on both the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Now’s a good time to check out the game and see how it has developed throughout the course of a year, especially with some steep competition on the market with Friday the 13th: The Game.
Dead by Daylight is a multiplayer horror title that includes two competing teams that both play drastically different. One team includes four players taking the role of survivors tasked at trying to escape a variety of horror themed maps. The other team consists of one player who controls a murderer who must catch the survivors one by one.
The killer will then sacrifice survivors to The Entitiy; an unknown evil force that consumes humans. What’s interesting about Dead by Daylight is that the game manages to take a simple multiplayer match and turn it into a tense experience drenched in thick horror atmosphere. It’s the first multiplayer game I’ve played that successfully combines unnerving atmosphere with fun and compelling multiplayer gameplay.
Before starting a multiplayer match, players can choose to either be the killer or be included in a team of four survivors. The sole player on the killer’s team will choose from seven different murderous creatures to stalk and kill the survivors (some of which are downloadable content). Killer creatures include a crazy doctor, an old witch hag, a ghostly wraith and a psycho hillbilly.
The goal of the killer is to hunt down players who are trying to escape and must sacrifice them to the Entity. This can be accomplished by attacking players and forcing them to drop to the ground. Once a survivor is down, the killer can pick up the player and carry them to a meat hook that will impale and hold the player in place. If the survivor cannot wiggle free from the hook in time, the Entity will come and consume them.
Killers have a few abilities that will aid them in disposing of the surviving players. Depending on the killer you choose, each one has a melee attack that can quickly damage and drop a player to their hands and knees. Each killer has a special secondary ability that can stun or slow down a survivor if caught into it. For example, the Hag can lay traps that summon clones to stun survivors while the Hillbilly can sprint with a chainsaw that will automatically take down a survivor. Thankfully, secondary abilities have limited uses so the killer cannot abuse them and gain a huge advantage over the survivors. The killers are also stronger and faster than survivors, forcing the opposing team to think outside the box in order to outsmart them.
Gamers who are on the survivors team will select from a group of customizable characters with different personalities. Each character has a variety of clothing to choose from, items to equip and their own Bloodweb to work through. Once the match begins, survivors must work together to find and repair five generators that are randomly placed within the map. Each generator takes time to repair, which can be sped up if multiple players aid each other in the repair. Random quick time events will appear during the repair process that can force the player to lose progress and potentially alert the killer if missed. If the survivors successfully fix all five generators, the exit door will be available to open, thus allowing players to escape from the killer.
Survivors are slower than killers but are also more agile as a result. The survivors can sneak, sprint, vault over objects and jump out of windows. The killer players can do the same but at a much slower speed, giving the survivors a chance to escape from their sight. Players on the survivors team can also push objects like wooden pallets that will block paths and slow down the killer’s pursuit. Survivors are also noisy and can be difficult to for them to hide if they’re not careful.
Outrunning a killer can be difficult but if a survivor can use their enhanced agility and awareness of the environment to their advantage, they will have the upper hand. Although, the survivors can leave tracks, alert wildlife and make noises that can give their position away to the killer. If a surviving player spots the red aura from a killer’s gaze on their backs, you better hope another player will intervene before that killer takes you out.
Alternatively, a secret hatch will be hidden in each map that players can open and use to escape. This hatch takes a lot of time to open, making it a risky move. If you happen to be the last remaining survivor, the hatch will automatically open (if you know its location). Finding this hatch isn’t easy and I haven’t actually came across one yet myself. Survivor players can aid one another in healing and saving each other if a player takes damage or gets captured by the killer. Healing items can also be found and equipped that help speed up the healing process. Random boxes are scattered around the map that include helpful items that can heal players, stun the killer or speed up the repair process on the generators.
Dead by Daylight handles killer and survivor skill trees uniquely compared to most games who use similar systems. By completing tasks, taking risks and helping other players, blood points will be accumulated that are spent to level up your character. The Bloodweb is a skill tree with a web of different perks and items players will spend their blood points to earn. Once every item in the blood web has been purchased, the player will gain a level and earn a new blood web with new items.
Everything in the Bloodweb is randomized, so every player in Dead by Daylight will earn different perks and items compared to others. Items earned in the Bloodweb can be equipped before a match starts that can aid the player in various ways. Some of these items include tools to help speed up the repair process on generators, first aid kits and weapons that will stun killers. If a survivor dies within a match, all items will be lost.
I found the amount of strategy found in Dead by Daylight to be refreshing, since the survivor players will use tactics that are completely different from the killers. Survivors must work together to outsmart the killer by using a number of clever methods. I’ve seen surviving players “take one for the team” by distracting the killer enough to allow the others to repair the generators quickly. I’ve been in a group of survivors who are such skilled stealth players that the killer will have a hard time even finding them. Many survivor players will work hard to make sure no one is sacrificed to the Entity by sneaking around and saving those who end up on the hooks. Watching a killer player methodically wipe out each survivor with skill is fascinating as well.
Personally, I found playing as the survivors to be a lot more enjoyable than playing as a killer. This opinion is totally subjective though since I know several players who feel more comfortable with the killers. For me, I enjoy working as a team to outsmart a killer more than I do being the only person trying to outsmart four other players. When placed in a good team, surviving the match can be an extremely tense and rewarding experience. Although, teamed up with poor players who are facing against a skilled killer can be a frustrating experience. Luckily no matter what the outcome of the match is, I always felt like I earned something useful for participating that pushed the sense of progression forward.
Even though Dead by Daylight has been out for a year now, the game still has a few bugs and glitches that still need to be worked out. First off, I noticed it’s difficult to find a game quickly as a survivor since there seems to be more players who play as the survivors than the killers. If I select to play as the killer, I can always get placed into a game instantly. I can’t say the same for the surviving team. I have a feeling that the developers may need to tweak the killers’ gameplay in order to make them more attractive to play. Although, these matchmaking issues could also stem from simply matching four players up with only one compatible player. The fact that matches are peer to peer instead of using a dedicated server browser doesn’t help either.
I also noticed that I can get stuck in objects while trying to run through the maps. This doesn’t happen often but I have had it happen to the point where it made me an easy catch for a pursuing killer. Almost every time I see a survivor picked up by a killer, the surviving player will float away from the killer until something snaps in place and forces the player model to appear on the killer’s shoulders. It’s jarring and kills some of the tension and immersion. Some players can take advantage of cheap tactics too that I would like to see punished in some way. For instance, killers who camp around the hooks and survivors who constantly jump in and out of windows knowing the killer cannot get to them.
Dead by Daylight is a pretty nice looking game for the most part. The art design on both the killers and the survivors are well done. I love how the survivors are cliche in personality but not necessarily in design. I did notice a few player models lacked some extra polish in their details, like the Wraith’s texture work on his legs and clothing. The maps infuse many fun horror tropes in their themes, but the actual design of most maps feel like I’m in an arena instead of an actual scary environment. Sound design is strong and adds a lot of tension to the game, especially when you hear a whimpering survivor hiding in the bushes and go in for the kill.
The elephant in the room is the recently released Friday the 13th: The Game by Gun Media, which obviously plays very similarly to Dead by Daylight. Whether or not Dead by Daylight is a better game is subjective, but both games have their strengths and weaknesses. Dead by Daylight has quicker matches that normally last around 15 minutes compared to the competition. I appreciate the simplicity of Dead by Daylight too. Friday the 13th has a laundry list of different things to achieve as a survivor in order to be successful. However, Friday the 13th also has a slew of different ways to defeat the killer unlike Dead by Daylight. The asking price for Dead by Daylight is $10 cheaper too and includes more content than Friday the 13th.
After spending a good chunk of my week playing Dead by Daylight, I have become a pretty big fan of both the game and the asymmetrical style of multiplayer gameplay. Dead by Daylight is a fun and creepy game that delivers thrills and tension unlike no other multiplayer title. While I enjoy playing as a survivor more than a killer, the game is fun no matter which team you side with. A few glitches still need worked out and matchmaking can be difficult for survivor players at times. Still, Dead by Daylight is a lot of fun and highly recommended if you’re looking for a unique multiplayer experience.
Dead by Daylight was review on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.