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Dead by Daylight (PlayStation 4) artwork

Dead by Daylight (PlayStation 4) review

"Hustle & Flow"

The Entity. Sacrifices. Offerings. Realms. Bloodwebs. Bloodpoints. Benedict Baker's journal quotes. Detailed backstories for every character. The Mist. The Stain. Shrines. Iridescent Shards. Dead by Daylight can seem ridiculously overwhelming with its excessive catalog of names, phrases, and flowery terms. You think entering the tutorial would help quell this feeling, but you're immediately greeted by three different categories... each having over ten subcategories. However, all the worldbuilding and in-depth explanations can't disguise the fact that you're simply playing a horror-based, hide-and-seek release.

An online multiplayer title, the goal in each match is for four humans, called Survivors, to escape each walled-in location by repairing five of seven generators scattered throughout. This is done while a fifth player, the Killer, has to search, hunt, and prevent their escape. As a Survivor, all you have are your third-person eyes to spectate the landscape, a heartbeat indicator that becomes louder and faster the closer a Killer gets, and some good ol' hiding behind walls, trees, or in grass. And unless you're in party chat, you can't even communicate vocally with the other Survivors.

Considering each generator takes a long time to repair if you're alone, the tension can become incredibly thick. A typical situation follows: you managed to fill a hefty chunk of the repair meter for a generator... but then you hear a slow heartbeat. Making a gamble, you stay on the machine, hoping the Killer is chasing others. The heartbeat disappears, a sigh of reli-KABOOM! The generator suddenly blows because you lowered your guard and let a quick time event go by unchallenged. The heartbeat returns. You wander off, hide, and hope the Killer doesn't find you. But they do, and you go on a panic-filled chase sequence across the arena, dropping half a dozen pallets along the way to slow down the murderous being. Suddenly, sirens abruptly blare , indicating another Survivor repaired the final generator, meaning the exit gates can now be opened... but the Killer finally downed you.

Dead by Daylight essentially has a sports-like vibe to its concept, as Survivors have to scramble all around arenas situated on farms, junkyards, and asylums for generators, then have to make a mad dash to the goal line when everything comes together. Gotta make it past that Killer goalie!

Sounds like a simple enough premise, until you realize Survivors have no default means of fighting back against homicidal maniacs who happen to run slightly faster than their prey, and each Killer has their own devious powers to evade; the Nurse can speed burst through objects, the masked Trapper can place bear traps in high grass or near generators, the Wraith has an invisibility power, and in the hands of a good player, the Hillbilly can travel across an entire arena within seconds by using his chainsaw dash attack. They sound omnipotent, but each has their share of intentional flaws to give Survivors a fighting chance, such as having to uncloak before attacking, or coming to a complete stop and breathing downward after ending a speed burst.

Killers can't outright kill Survivors, as well; with the exception of very specific items and circumstances, Killers have to hit Survivors twice, pick up their downed bodies, and then carry them to the nearest hook before said Survivors can wiggle free. And once they're hooked, the Survivor now has a health meter that needs to drain before they finally die, giving any nearby team member the opportunity to unhook while the Killer is elsewhere. On top of all that, the Killer has one more restriction: they can only see in a first-person perspective. It's a rather unique handicap to give Killers, differentiating their style from their targets. So while Survivors are a weak bunch, the game gives a bevy of ways to escape death.

Everything mentioned so far is just the core of Dead by Daylight, too. It's much more engrossing if you give it enough play time, and not the type of depth where there's an unnecessary amount of lavish text to read, either. With points received from every match, you can purchase a selection of items and abilities from randomly generated "trees" that branch in different directions. Some you can permanently keep, such as perks, while items and offerings have very limited use. It's a lengthy process, as well, so prepare to grind lots of points just to get most of the good stuff. And the only reason I'm putting so much emphasis on having to buy them is because these purchases can vastly turn the tide of a match if you have the right mixture of perks, items, and offerings equipped.

For example, Survivors can obtain toolbox items which can repair generators faster or temporarily disable hooks. There's even a perk that allows you to sabotage hooks without toolboxes. If you're fortunate, you might even receive a perk that grants your Survivor a speed burst or even the ability to see a Killer's aura when gates are operable. Killers also have their share of goodies, such as making it harder for Survivors to perform quick time events for generators, seeing Survivor auras at a certain distance when they're healing, or a tougher grasp when carrying a victim. Thankfully, a ton of these perks have cool down periods or other downsides that prevent them from being abused. As for one-time offerings, they can be anything from receiving bonus percentages for performing specific services, making the arena easier or harder to see, or trying to have the match land on certain maps.

As you can tell, the game is one big balancing act, and as such, there's bound to be stability issues despite attempts to curb such problems. That's just a given. However, the devs have made so many additions and modifications to Dead by Daylight's core since its original launch, that the whole thing feels unbalanced due to such supposed "fixes." Specifically, the game now feels more tailored towards a particular side of the battle: the Survivors.

These changes and additions may seem harmless on their own, but when they're being used and working concurrently in a single match, it can be a challenge. This is especially evident when you consider each of the four Survivors have a total of four perks they can use per match, making for a total of 16 perks against the lone Killer's four perks... and this is without factoring in items and offerings. That's just with a random lobby, too; if you play against a group with mics in party chat, termed Survive with Friends, then the Killer is at a disadvantage, and this is as a Killer with four unlocked perk slots. I can't imagine what it's like for newcomers coming in as a Killer, with only one perk slot and a weak perk, and having Survivors run circles around them like it's nothing.

Here's a sampling of the overwhelming damage that can be done with the following perks, items, and situations with a SwF group: a match starts, and five seconds later, two generators are finished since two Survivors had a Brand New Part item to make it happen. They now only have three generators to work on, the Killer barely started the hunt, and to top it off, one of the Survivors used an offering that allowed all four to begin the match together. When the Killer finally finds, downs, and hooks someone, they spot another Survivor boldly running to the hooked player before barely walking out of view. The Killer turns around, rushes, and attacks as they get unhooked... and both run away unfazed, because the person that unhooked has a perk that allows both Survivors to take an extra hit during that phase. Another generator is repaired.

The Killer picks someone up again, this time hiding beside a pallet, and they get free because another Survivor slammed the pallet down. They're still injured, so all it takes is one more hit. Except the Survivor used an instant-heal item. Okay, so... the Killer downs and picks someone up yet again, but there's no hooks in sight, because one of the Survivors broke them. Okay, so... the Killer picks someone up again, actually gets to the nearest hook, and two Survivors are conveniently waiting there, blocking the ability to hook with their own bodies. The grabbed Survivor wiggles free, and they scatter like roaches.

At that moment, the final generator is repaired across the opposite side of the arena. It's almost as if they have mics and were communicating with one another the whole time... But wait! The Killer has a perk that downs players in one hit once the gates are opened! Oh. The Survivors disabled that perk sometime during the match...Well, at least the Killer gets to capture an injured Survivor that happens to be right in fron-Actually, it turns out that injured, escaping Survivor has a perk that instantly healed them and gave them extra running speed when the gates opened. They're gone. Oh. Okay.

Don't get me wrong, Killers have their share of absurd item add-ons, not to mention powerful perks, usually ones labeled Hex, that either delay progress or down Survivors in one hit under very specific circumstances. However, as stated, Survivors can void these perks by destroying a Hex totem, which are openly visible in each match. Surprise: Killers don't have similar countermeasures for strong Survivor perks. It's ridiculous how many Get Out of Jail Free cards Survivors have, both default and obtained, to the point where I can easily ramble on for another five paragraphs listing and complaining about them. The devs need to take a good look at all the perks and items available, and either tone stuff down or remove them. I'm fine if this means doing the same to the Killers' stuff in conjunction. In the end, all I'm really asking for is more balance, and not something that favors either side.

But above all else, the Survive with Friends feature boggles my mind, or more specifically, the fact that these groups can communicate using party chat. Having players openly talk to one another, at any location in a match, contradicts the very spirit and essence of Dead by Daylight. The game is literally hide and seek. The entire foundation is intentionally structured around having to do things without the use of vocal contact, to figure things out on the go, survey the situation, and then act accordingly. Simply keeping party chat enabled feels like the biggest backhanded slap the devs could do to their very own product. It's borderline sabotage.

Not everyone you play against is going to give you trouble, not everyone you face is going to be a jerk, and not every match is going to be a nightmare. When everyone isn't abusing absurdly powerful perks, items, and offerings, aren't planning things out over mics before anything even starts, and are just playing a straightforward, hardworking match, then Dead by Daylight is a genuine challenge and joy to play. It's just really a shame how so much of its core is now clogged by an excess of unbalanced mechanics and features, that the game doesn't even come close to reaching its true potential as a solid hide-and-seek release. At this point, I'm just hoping everything becomes much more balanced and structured if the devs ever make a sequel.

If you're still itching to play this, especially as a Killer, then I have only one thing left to say: hustle. Hard.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (August 13, 2017)

You have no idea how close I was to using a Cool as Ice quote for my Riding Hero tagline...

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