Dead by Daylight gets a little more complicated when you play as the killer, as you’ve got four moving targets that you must seek out and destroy. Survivors can be struck twice by the killer before being knocked down. If the killer succeeds in doing this, they must hoist them onto their shoulder and impale them upon one of the meathooks dotted around the map. Leave them there long enough and they’ll eventually be “sacrificed” to whatever Lovecraftian abomination controls the killer’s destiny, removing them from the game.
On this side, Dead by Daylight a devilishly delightful power fantasy. Meat-hooks and generators are highlighted in your vision by default, signalling to you if survivors interact with them in certain ways, such as rescuing a friend or failing a skill-check. That said, the killer isn’t omnipotent. He’s played in first person, and has a much narrower field of view than the survivors, meaning that it is possible for survivors to sneak around behind them. Also, the killer’s lumbering form cannot mantle obstacles the same way survivors can, meaning it’s possible for survivors to evade his chase if they know what they are doing.
To be a successful killer, you need to be devious as well as dangerous. Basic tactics include knocking a survivor to the ground and leaving them there, lurking nearby until another survivor comes to their aid, or laying bear-traps near generators and meathooks. Catching a survivor in a well-laid trap is immensely satisfying. Anticipating where a survivor will run to while giving chase is another important skill to learn, taking note of obstacles and barricades the survivors can use to hinder your progress.
Somewhat like Evolve, the quality a game of Dead by Daylight hinges upon the talent of the killer. Yet, unlike Evolve, where playing as a hunter was intensely dull until you caught up with the monster, Dead by Daylight never loses its tension because both sides are always doing something to forward their goal.
That said, Dead by Daylight isn’t without its flaws. One of the main issues is that it’s easy for survivors to exploit their ability to evade the killer, with one player constantly jumping in and out of windows while the others head off to fix the generators. I’ve only experienced this a couple of times, but when it happens it breaks the game. The Killer does have the ability to grab players trying to vault an obstacle provided he is close enough, but this skill doesn’t seem to work consistently.
Meanwhile, the systems which surround the game itself are mired by obscurity. The “Bloodweb” system, essentially a skill tree for both the killers and survivors, is confusing and unclear in its implementation, attempting to blend a web of locked upgrades with randomised “mystery boxes” that provide anything from powerful perks to literal bags of scrap. The ranking system is equally impenetrable. I’ve played matches where lethally powerful killers are pitted against level 1 survivors and vice-versa. Also, while there are plenty of people playing, the countdown timer on the lobby resets to one minute every time a player leaves the lobby, which results in lengthy wait-times between matches.
In addition, I worry about the potential longevity of the game. The killer’s side seems fairly robust, with various forms of deranged murderer to master, each of which plays differently. But there’s rather less variety at the survivor end. Whatever map you play, the survivor’s goal always involves repairing generators, with no other available objective modes. It would further help if the survivors had a few extra ways of outwitting the killer, rather than simply having to evade him. It’s a tricky balance, I’ll admit. But currently there’s far more reason to play as a killer than there is a survivor.
It may be a tad too thin, but there’s a good kernel of an idea at the centre of Dead by Daylight, and I enjoyed the time I spent with it. Sadly, the surrounding infrastructure needs considerably more work to elevate the concept into something great. As it stands, Dead by Daylight is an entertaining distraction, but unlike the best horror experiences, I doubt it will linger in your memory for long.