We've been eagerly awaiting the release of Zombie Studios' Daylight ever since we had a chance to try an early demo at last year's E3. Released today, this indie horror title is one of the first games to utilize Epic's Unreal Engine 4, and offers a few new twists for an already successful formula.
Players take control of Sarah, who has woken up in an abandoned hospital with no memory of how she came to be there. A mysterious voice tells her to uncover the secrets of the hospital, found within notes and newspaper clippings that have been scattered about. These pages tell of a troubled past, which was littered with murder, suicide and seemingly random acts of violence. The game is broken up into several levels, each of which takes the player deeper into the madness that has consumed the derelict facility. It will take multiple playthroughs for players to uncover every bit of backstory, but is such tedium worth the trouble?
There's no denying that, at its core, Daylight was very heavily inspired by the freeware game Slender. Granted, Daylight offers a much more polished and refined experience, but the basic game design remains largely the same. Each area of the game tasks the player with finding six notes, which are referred to as remnants. Immediately, the game feels a bit too much like its inspiration. As players continue to find these remnants, their threat meter increases, which leads to more frequent encounters with the vengeful spirits that roam the hallways. However, the level isn't over upon finding the sixth note, as players will have to find the “sigil,” an item that somehow relates to the spirit stalking them through the darkness. That item must then be brought to a sealed door in order for the player to progress, which is rarely as easy as it sounds.
Luckily, players will be able to light their path with Sarah's cellphone, as well as the glow sticks that can be found throughout the building. These glow sticks also reveal the player's most recent footsteps, which is incredibly useful when trying to navigate through the maze-like corridors. They also cause interactable objects to glow, which is essential when trying to find more items and remnants. Players can also find flares hidden within the level, which can temporarily scare away spirits, if only for a few moments. Sarah can only hold four of each item, both of which become unavailable once the player has obtained the aforementioned sigil, which can make finding the sealed door an incredibly difficult task. While this game never made us feel empowered, the increased vulnerability while holding the sigil led to some excellent moments of sheer panic, and made reaching our destination all the more rewarding.
The enemy itself has been completely redesigned since we first saw it last year. Our first encounter with it occurred while we were exploring a mostly empty room. Turning around revealed a lightly visible figure standing in the doorway. We spent several seconds waiting for it to charge at us, only for it to disappear for the time being. Zombie Studios was wise to use the “less is more” approach, as it kept us from becoming familiar with the spirits before the more aggressive areas of the game.
Possibly the biggest draw to this game is its procedurally generated map, which ensures that no two playthroughs will be the same. Unfortunately, Daylight begins to lose its charm before the end of the campaign, meaning that players will most likely be too bored of the game's repetitive design to give it another go. This will hold especially true for anyone who has already played any of the Slender games that came before this. After a couple of hours, even the most interesting tidbits of story couldn't prevent us from thinking that we were simply playing the same level over and over again, but with a simple puzzle or cutscene between each section.
In the end, Zombie Studios has crafted a great foundation for a horror title. We would have loved to see them do more with their intriguing setting and delightfully morbid story. Daylight is now available for PC and PS4 at $14.99
+ Great atmosphere, sound design and soundtrack
+ Enemies are genuinely creepy
+ Randomly generated map and enemies add to replay value
- At the end of the day, the game is basically still Slender
- Some notes were repeated within the same section
- The game is incredibly repetitive in general
This review was made possible with a Steam code provided by Zombie Studios.