Daylight Review (PC)

Cause I’m the porter and these wards I walk from wall to wall are full of the types of minds that might sometimes fight the binds of thought paths we all default to. Weird to think each one is someone’s daughter.

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Daylight is an odd combination of things: a horror game, a showcase for Unreal Engine 4, an experiment with VR technology and a budget game. As the last three it’s successful enough, the Unreal Engine provides some interesting lighting effects and procedurally generated but smoothly connected corridors and locations, with an Oculus Rift I’m sure the atmosphere and movement would be more effective and as a budget game it’s probably enjoyable enough for a couple of hours. Sadly as a horror game it’s lagging far behind its competition in the form of Outlast and Amnesia.

Set originally in an abandoned hospital you are left with nothing but a smartphone. This serves as both your light for some of the game and your minimap. Fairly quickly you also pick up a steady supply of glowsticks which can illuminate the area further and point out interactable objects and some flares which can be used to defeat the monsters in the dark. This is a very dark game and all the value of the title revolves around you being scared of that. Within the dark are maze-like corridors that hide collectable notes pinned to walls or left in abandoned houses (the later area is set outside)  which you must, for some reason, pick up six of. Once you’ve done this you can head to a room where you will see a little bit of story and grab an object, then you must carry that object to a ‘gateway’ where you will be able to progress to the next stage. There are four stages in total, and small puzzle like areas between them that consist entirely of moving crates and climbing on them slowly (possibly a concession for VR devices and avoiding motion sickness). If you don’t get too lost you’ll almost certainly finish the whole game in under three hours.

Serving as your antagonists in the game are a group of demonic ghost type creatures that stalk the halls of the hospital. Except you never really feel like they are stalking the halls, instead they’re simply around you, occasionally spawning when the game thinks you’re doing too well. In the first stage they don’t hurt you but as you progress they get more and more dangerous until you need to use flares to get rid of them in order to progress. Very occasionally they’ll kill you because you accidentally walked into them, but then you don’t have to go very far back to continue.

The problem in the game lies with the repetition. The enemies are all basically the same and once you’ve seen one up close it’s no longer scary ,it’s just a thing you sometimes need to avoid, and you can easily. The corridors change between areas but in each area they all look basically the same. You might see a nice lighting effect as moon rays shine through the window, but then you’ll see that exact same lighting effect repeatedly with those exact same moon rays in another corridor. Doors all look the same, blocked entrances are the same, everything seems to repeat so often that you can barely turn a corner without seeing a copy and pasted object or texture.

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After a couple of hours wandering around these identikit corridors being hassled by un-terrifying ghosts rapidly loses its appeal. All you’re doing is finding pieces of paper that could be anywhere so there’s no real skill involved. The game attempts to scare you with ambient noises and objects moving around, but they all do so in a painfully awkward and scripted way, and matters aren’t helped by the protagonist’s massive overreactions. Repeatedly she’d tell you that she just heard something, even if you didn’t, then in the next corridor you’d hear some god-awful noise and she’d stay mute. There’s no consistency or immersion when all of the systems fail to work together.

On the plus side some of the sounds can be slightly creepy and the aforementioned lighting effects are occasionally impressive, particularly in the later areas. Sadly you have to put up with a fair bit of monotony to get to those areas and when much of a three-hour playtime feels like filler, you’re hardly getting your money’s worth.

The developers have clearly tried to capture the imagination of streamers with a Twitch section in the menu allowing you to easily stream your gameplay, but the fact is that it’s not a particularly fun game to watch or play. The procedural generation should encourage some replayability but since the randomisation of corridor layouts has zero effect on gameplay, there’s no point. Once you get to the end you’ve seen everything over and over again already.

Overall this is a reasonably pretty tech demo showing what can be achieved fairly easily on the impressive Unreal Engine 4. Unless you’re really in the mood for some cheap jump scares you’re very unlikely to get your money’s worth at £11.99.

Verdict 5

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