Daylight is the latest game to come out of Zombie Studios, and one of the first games to be released using Unreal Engine 4. It is a procedurally generated survival horror game, which is an interesting idea, but ultimately proves to be its downfall, due to a lot of content repetition.
As Sarah, you awake in a mysterious asylum with no memory of how you got there. The haunted asylum trope is the first in a long list of survival horror cliches with which Daylight embellishes itself. The game is full of witches, graveyards, ghosts, and even an Indian burial ground (which is mentioned once, and then never referred to again). Daylight is an extremely typical game, and with nothing special in its story to pull the player through it quickly becomes repetitive and dull.
One of the main causes of the repetitive nature of this game is the procedural generation. When done correctly, this can allow a game to change wildly with each play. In Daylight however, the procedural generation only shines a light on the lack of creativity in the game. Each of the areas are filled with the same 4 or 5 rooms over and over again. Apart from a small number of hand-crafted areas, the rooms are invariably repeated multiple times.
The gameplay at its core is also repetitive. The goal is to search through a number of rooms, pick up a couple of notes, find some kind of floating object (from a teddy bear to a pair of scissors) and bring it to the exit. Repeat 4 times. The game relies on its story and its horror to give the player an incentive to keep going, but ultimately neither of these are worth paying attention to.
While the horror in Daylight did scare me a few times, the lack of content ultimately means that I started to see each shock coming. There are 2 or 3 doors which close, and a chair which stands up on its own. These objects are found time and time again, and they telegraph each scare before anything happens. In addition, the main enemies in the game (known as “shadows”) barely provide any threat. The on-screen “threat” meter warns you before any arrival, and they are easily dealt with, or run from.
Once you see the same red-haired witch asset two or three times, it starts to lose all of its shock value. In addition, the spawn rates are so low that there is no danger for the first hour of the game. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that the game is only two hours long. Due to an abundance of flares (which are used to fend off the enemies) the game is consistently quite easy. These are problems which could probably have been fixed through just a few tweaks of the spawn rates for flares and ghosts, and it is a shame for it to ruin the gameplay experience.
The story of Daylight is incredibly hard to follow. It is told through a series of found notes, which reveal more and more details. Unfortunately, these notes seem completely disconnected from each other, and from the game experience. Plot threads are brought up in one note, to be mentioned once and never heard of again. It is hard for a player to tell which notes are part of the main story, and which are just random background horror. At the end of the game, there is a twist, but it is so easy to see coming that it is no surprise at all. The only reason anybody would be surprised is if they had been unable to follow the story due to its random jumps between plot threads from note to note.
Daylight does have its merits. The sound and art is all done well, but it is nothing exciting. There really is nothing more to say about the sound design, or the music, or the art. It is all satisfactory. It all serves its purpose of amplifying the atmosphere, but it is very standard for the genre. When I first read about the concept of a procedurally generated survival horror game I thought that it would be very interesting. However, Daylight misses the mark. Daylight lacks the content to be interesting. It needs more rooms to reduce the repetitiveness. It needs a more fleshed out story so that the player isn’t wondering exactly what is going on, even after finishing the game. Daylight is fully functional, but lacks anything to make it worth playing more than once. The procedural generation would add replayability, if not for the fact that Daylight starts to get repetitive before you have even finished the first playthrough.
I hate to be so harsh on a game. Ultimately however Daylight delivers a few quick scares which become the same very quickly. The problems with the game could potentially have been fixed by taking an extra few months to develop more content. Zombie Studios have stated that they are going to bring out further content packs for the game, which may help the experience, but until then I would stay away from Daylight. However, if you would like to purchase a copy, Daylight is available on Steam for $20.