Format: PC, PS4
Price: USD 14.99
One of the first things I noticed on starting Daylight was that the protagonist is female. I nodded in approval, before a millisecond later reflecting it is sad that is still noteworthy. Protagonist gender is a peculiar topic. In games like Mass Effect and the Elder Scrolls series, the character is pure avatar and gender is therefore optional and quite rightly selectable. In series like Uncharted or God of War, where the protagonist is defined and their character integral to the story, there is no such selection – and while this makes sense, the vast majority of characters are still male. A topic for another day, or perhaps just for Anita Sarkeesian. Suffice it to say, in Daylight, the gender of the protagonist is also relevant to her character, and I certainly felt no issues, as a man, playing her story.
She is also exceptionally well-acted. Another videogame topic! Quality of voice-acting. If you’re voicing B.J. Blazcowicz, the barbarian in Diablo III, or COD’s Captain Price, these are not demanding acting challenges. Even Kratos, star of “grown-up” series God of War is essentially just anger personified and some gravelly shouting will see you through. I was impressed with the subtlety and nuance that voice actor Khanh Doan was able to bring to Daylight’s protagonist, Sarah. She doesn’t speak often, due to the nature of the game, and some of the lines are on a random repeat cycle, but the emotion conveyed added a considerable amount to the atmosphere of the game.
A shame the same cannot be said of the other voiced character, Doctor Mercer. At times, the game reminded me of iPad classic Dark Meadow, in that the way Mercer addresses Sarah was reminiscent of the mysterious guide in Dark Meadow. However, whereas in the latter, I was always intrigued to hear what the otherworldly prisoner had to say, Mercer very quickly became annoying. This is partly due to the poor quality of the voice-acting, which unfortunately brought to mind the abominably hammy delivery of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. This grates even more considering the contrast to Sarah herself.
If we ignore Mercer, focus on Sarah, and delve into Daylight’s world, the game does deliver a very creepy experience. Sarah awakes in the lobby of a dark and abandoned hospital. She picks up a nearby mobile phone, which serves as illumination and map, and sets out to escape. The structure of the game is then fairly simple: there are safe areas, which have artefacts, called ‘remnants,’ which are signified with a blue light, and dangerous areas where the remnants are highlighted red. To escape an area, a minimum number of red remnants must be found, which causes a ‘sigil’ to appear. The sigil is effectively a key which will clear the passage out of the area. The remnants themselves are notes, newspaper articles, and other written records which reveal the history of the hospital and the island on which it is sited. The sigils are physical objects which also have some link to the terrible events that have happened on the island. Thus Sarah is forced to learn about the past, and ultimately about herself.
Additionally, Sarah can find glowsticks and flares. The glowsticks are used not just to illuminate darkened areas, but they will also reveal objects and containers covered in a strange mazelike pattern – these will contain items or remnants. The flares, on the other hand, are used to repel witch attacks. Did I mention the witch attacks? Ah. Well then. There are witches. They attack you. Randomly, witches will run out of the shadows, or will appear where you are not looking in order to brown your pants when you look back and find them shrieking at you. Stay in their vicinity too long, and you die. This of course raises the adrenalin and puts pressure on you to find those remnants and get the heck out. The environments are also procedurally generated, which raises the stakes a bit as the player cannot simply learn the map.
So, the 64,000 dollar question (or more accurately, the fourteen dollars and ninety nine cents question): is it any good? There are some peculiarly long loading times on both PC and PS4 versions. The PS4 version has horrible frame-rate issues on a number of sections. I found on the PC version that if I paused the game to look at my collection or remnants, on un-pausing, the mouse no longer was recognised, requiring a game restart. The game requires DirectX 11 and the game’s message boards are full of unhappy users unable to get the game to work. And for a lot of players, the repetitive nature of the game’s structure (get remnants to clear area, repeat) will be off-putting. And frankly, the game is quite short.
Despite all of that, I liked it. This is a game about story, and atmosphere. While the find-the-notes mechanic is hardly original, the backstory revealed is quite compelling. Without giving any spoilers, it is not just the story of the hospital going on here, but of the whole island, and it has quite a deep history. The story is also not forced down your throat, and requires the player to pay attention and to think in order to understand what has actually happened. I had to replay the final section a second time to make sure I had really got it. There is a minimum number of remnants required in order to exit each area, but there are many more remnants than that, and staying on to find them when the threat level is at full is a brave decision. The procedural generation of the environments plus the number of remnants to find does give good replay value – *if* you’ve bought into Daylight’s world.
This game has been quite hard to score. It has some technical issues, some of which are very serious for some PC users. I do wonder about value – third major videogame topic raised in this review – as it is a short main run through for USD 14.99. And at heart, its mechanics are limited and repetitive. However, it is also very well written, mostly well-acted, and always doing something different. I’m going to give it a Recommended for Genre Fans, but please do read the above caveats before making your choice.
|Deep and well-constructed, and some thought is required on the part of the player to fill in the gaps and fully infer the story.|
|Very simple controls, and overall the game’s structure is limited – find X number of Y to exit area. However, this is a story experience, not a complex MMO.|
|Low. If a witch appears when you’re in a dead-end, you’re probably toast, but the fear-factor is the raison d’etre of the game|
|There are serious technical problems for some PC users and its main runthrough is short. However, it is genuinely atmospheric, scary, and well-written. If you get into its world it is rewarding – but please do make an informed choice. Recommended for genre fans.|
This review was originally published on Fextralife.com. Used with permission