Dead By Daylight: tense horror movie multiplayer marred by a lack of polish

It's a matter of execution.


In survivor series we drop in on some of PC gaming's most interesting survival games. Dead By Daylight has been out for a couple of months, but is it worth playing? Holly Nielsen investigates.

The premise of Dead by Daylight is brilliant. An asymmetric online multiplayer horror game in which four players take the role of the survivors, aiming to escape, and one person plays as the killer intent on brutally murdering them. It plays on so many 80s horror film tropes that fans of the genre will feel like they’re putting on some comfortable, yet grim, slippers.

There’s a surprising amount of depth to it. There are different types of killers and survivors, each with their own skills and special abilities. The skill tree is called the Bloodweb and there is one per character, by unlocking skills the player can progress through the web. Skills and abilities depend on the character and can give you anything from a quicker chainsaw to additional beartrap.

As a survivor the only way to escape the horror is to start all the generators and open the gates. This is trickier than it sounds. Starting a generator takes a long time and requires a number of quick time events, messing these up creates a loud bang that will be sure to attract the attention of the killer. The killer cannot be killed themselves, but can be slowed by pulling down parts of the environment, vaulting through windows and running away. While survivors can quickly leap through openings in buildings with ease, the killer is a slow and lumbering nemesis. If you’re quiet you can also hide in closets, tall grass, and behind things. 

Working together, survivors create distractions, heal people, help them escape from the killer’s clutches, and start generators together to get the job done faster. Planning a tactical co-operative effort is difficult when you’re not conversing with your fellow players, but opportunistic cooperation has its benefits. Of course you don’t have to work with your teammates. It can also be an effective tactic to let the killer deal with them while you make a sneaky exit. The possibility of betrayal means that you can’t rely on following a preconceived plan.

As a survivor you can survey the area in third person. As the killer you are restricted to first person, but you see the noises the survivors make. You can also be notified of their presence through wildlife fleeing, generators making noise, or injured survivors grunting in pain or leaving trails of blood. The most effective way of murdering is to stick them on a meat hook and sacrifice them to your dark lord.

I often found myself holding my breath while playing. Dead by Daylight does create some of the tensest moments I’ve ever encountered in a game. The use of sound deserves a special mention. When the killer gets closer your character’s heartbeat quickens and gets louder—any little noise can trigger a reaction.

The most effective way of murdering is to stick them on a meat hook and sacrifice them to your dark lord.

However Dead by Daylight is not without its faults. It feels unpolished. It doesn’t look great, the textures and colours are all very muddy (not always intentionally) and indistinct. The animations can snap into place and look awkward. At one point the killer moved past me at a much quicker speed than his lumbering animation suggested, creating a pretty funny effect that broke the tension. Sometimes as the survivor you’ll get stuck in the standing position instead of going into the starting a generator animation. Whenever I was the killer and picked up one of my victims their body was glitching in and out of my field of vision in a way that made it very difficult to see, yet I could also somehow occasionally see through them. The range of the killer’s weapon is temperamental. At one point you’ll be striking a survivor with ease, reaching through a window, the next you’ll struggle to hit them when they’re at your feet.

There are occasions when the frame rate will noticeably stutter, and issues with online connections occurred frequently. It was difficult to tell if this was another player’s poor connection or an issue with the game as a whole. Looking through forums, it appeared to be a fairly common problem.

While some people may enjoy hours of entertaining tension in Dead by Daylight, I think the vast majority of players will struggle to find much longevity in the game in its current state. Very similar looking environments, and repetitive objectives eventually take their toll. I soon started to get tired of starting up generators and finding gates.

After trawling through the online communities the consensus with many fans is that it should have stayed in beta for longer to fix issues. I can completely sympathise with this feeling. At its very core the game is excellent, there's huge tactical potential and the atmosphere is brilliantly tense. However, bugs, online issues and the poor graphics and overall look of the game mean that it falls short. In its current state it feels too unpolished. So either wait for sale, or wait for a few more patches from developers so you get a slicker horror experience.

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