Uninspired. Probably the best word I can use to describe the experience that is Daylight. While the game does nothing all that poorly, the experience is little more than serviceable and does little to prove itself amongst the recent greats of the genre.
The game follows a protagonist referred to simply as “Sarah”, after awaking in the middle of an abandoned hospital. Given no indication to what had occurred prior to the start of the game, players are given context through notes and pictures laying around the rooms of the hospital, as well as by a nameless, faceless voice (you are to assume it’s a doctor of the hospital’s past) who, by all accounts, isn’t quite the life of the party and he certainly isn’t there to make your experience any more a pleasant one. This is something that holds true of most other elements of the game though, honestly.
I just touched on one of my biggest issues with the game, actually. It’s the writing. Maybe not the writing itself, though I wouldn’t exactly call the story all that strong. My main issue here is just how they tell the story. We are in an interactive medium. This is the medium that allow players to actually work at and uncover a story. It allows players to make their own stories. It allows players to create context where there is none. When it comes to delivering the story, this game falls flat and tells it in the easiest, safest way possible; the aforementioned notes and disembodied voice simply giving story and context where the developers could have chosen to meld the story and gameplay seamlessly, were they inclined to. I am not saying this isn’t an entirely serviceable way to tell a story, mind you. At the end of the day they did so in just a way and while they accomplished what they set out to do, it’s just . . . well . . . it’s an “uninspired” way of doing things.
That just touches on the story a bit and its delivery though. How’s the game? Well . . . that’s not all that great either. As a horror game that, judging by the images, a lot of people are putting in the same camp as Outlast (and in that case Amnesia even), I think it’s safe to say that those titles mentioned have little to worry about when it comes to Daylight. Don’t get me wrong, the game is serviceable . . . it’s just ahem . . . uninspired.
To be entirely forward, Daylight is little more than a somewhat more fleshed-out Slender. You run around buildings trying to find notes that will then give you a “key”, which will then allow you access to the next level. On your way you will be haunted by ghouls in the form of an undead woman, dressed in either red or white, who, when looked at, slowly drains your health. If enough health is drained, well . . . you die. Obviously. The rest of the scares come in the way of objects being thrown around the room, audio cues in the way of banging on the wall, quiet murmurings of past patients (I guess?). These are all, in my opinion, cheap attempts at horror. While I do feel that jump scares, when incorporated with a strong sense of atmosphere and a building of tension within the game itself, have their place in any horror title, relying on them as your pure means of scares is, you guessed it, uninspired.
There is little else to the game that hasn’t already been done with Slender. There are glowsticks scattered around the game, allowing you to easily point out areas of interest where items and pages may be, though they are far from needed. There are torches that help you dispel the ghouls at a close distance, but when you finally realize just how easy it is just to ignore them and run on past . . . they are far from needed. This only serves to drain what little scares this game actually has going for it.
I think that’s probably the biggest issue with the game. It’s just not scary.
I’ll be first to admit that it takes a lot to scare me. To be entirely fair, only titles like the original Condemned, Outlast and the Fatal Frame series have really managed to create an experience that I, myself, would call scary. That said, there is nothing found here that ever managed more than a jump scare or two (cheap ones at that), and there is a total miss in terms of atmosphere on show here. Mechanically, the game is rather weak and even one of its big selling points, the randomized levels, just means a certain lack of direction in the level design. The levels are dull, but rooms and item placement will be randomized on every replay. So . . . you get to play the same dull levels, time and again, just somewhat differently. Not exactly a selling point, but this is just one man’s opinion of the game.
In terms of performance, it’s sort of hard to say. This game doesn’t play nice with FRAPS, to any degree, so I had no FPS counter while playing the game. With the game maxed out, I certainly saw some choppiness going on, though it wasn’t consistent throughout. After disabling some of the Nvidia-specific features offered in the game I definitely saw an improvement, but the game would still take a major hit to performance in places. In leads me to believe that some areas of the game are a lot more taxing than others, though little in the way of change in the environment tells me this is more an optimization thing than anything. This isn’t the sort of performance I would expect, considering the game’s visuals. It must be said that Daylight is the first real game released with the new Unreal Engine 4. You wouldn’t be able to tell this, however. Outside of some rather impressive lighting (in places), the game certainly passes as a game released years ago. That said, it still seems to be too taxing for even a single GTX680 that, while certainly no longer the most powerful card out there, more than handles even the most visually taxing games available at the moment. While I would love to see the exact performance I was getting while playing, I feel safe to say that there is a bit more to do in terms of overall performance. Whether that be the fault of the developers, or simply coming to grips with a powerful new engine, I am not quite sure.
Not much else to say here, really. The game is serviceable, but it definitely doesn’t hold up to the better horror experiences we have seen as of recent. It’s a rather bland horror experience offered on the cheap. That said, with the game being completed in just about an hour, perhaps even the fifteen-dollar price tag is asking too much. I certainly don’t feel the randomness of the game does much to elongate the experience. My second playthrough felt just like the first. The levels may be randomized, but they are also generic and I really couldn’t tell you the difference in them between playthroughs. Sadly, this randomization they pushed with the title possibly had a lot to do with the weak way in which they tell the story. Surely not a game I recommend at launch, wait until the game drops in price and I am certain some people will enjoy their time with the game. With that, there are certainly better titles on the market that are more deserving of your time.