By Arik Yates / May 27th, 2014
|Publisher||Atlus (PS4)Guy Studios (PC)|
|Release Date||April 29, 2014|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PC|
Fear is an interesting emotion when you think about it. When it comes to real-world events that threaten our very lives, most of us are stricken with fear, which is a serious damper on our mood. However, when it comes to popular media, specifically video games, this emotion is sought after and craved! Real-life terror isn’t favorable whilst simulated terror in video games is fun; how ironic. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush of being put in those horrific moments and having the security to quit or pause out of the situation at any time that makes these games so appealing. Regardless of the “science” behind the appealing nature, the horror genre is one of my favorites. Anything from the original Doom to the towering list of recent indie horror efforts: there’s nothing like a good ol’ fashioned fright fest.
Thankfully, the indie craze that started a few years back gave the gaming world some solid titles, like Slender: The Eight Pages and Amnesia. As you may know, these titles kickstarted a new craze in survival horror by replacing combat with run-like-hell and hiding mechanics. It’s a simple, yet highly effective change that upped the horror factor to a high that hadn’t been attained up to that point. Now, this mechanic can be found in a plethora of games on the digital front, but, with the next gen systems now out in the consumer’s hand, could this further the possibilities of survival horror? Well, indie developer Zombie Studios decided to jump head first into the uncharted waters of next gen with their survival horror title, Daylight. Here’s the question, though – does it hold up to the last gen predecessors or does it get lost in the sea of copy-paste wannabes?
“Use that machine in your hand to find your way… There’s much to see. Much to learn,” an ominous voice utters as you regain consciousness. With everything being unknown — other than your name being Sarah — you gather your wits and follow the voice’s directions into the depths of the hospital. As you explore the hospital, as well as the other three locations in the game, notes and remnants are found littered throughout the spooky halls. These remnants reveal dark secrets surrounding the abandoned hospital/penitentiary. Some of them are simple notes written by the staff, disturbing notes written by an unknown entity, official documents or newspaper clippings. While most of the notes are fairly creepy and do a pretty good job of depicting just how horrid of a place you are in, they do little to actually clear up the story. And why is there a ghastly ghoul following you around, causing you much harm and stress? Without spoiling anything, it’s obvious that something catastrophic happened here, but the content of the notes hardly does anything but obscure the plot further from comprehension. What bothered me further was the many plot holes that never quite got filled up upon completion of Daylight. Even with all of this said, the twist ending does offer some player interpretation, so maybe everything wasn’t meant to be held together. Maybe the exact thing Zombie Studios was going for was to get the gaming community to try and tie everything together themselves. Or, once again, it could just be sloppy execution. Regardless, during my first playthrough of the game, each note added greatly to the horrific atmosphere of each level and drove me to continue. So, all in all, my experience wasn’t necessarily dampened until I completed the game.
Going along with the huge reliance on the player piecing together the story, Daylight is developed to be played through several times. The game only takes about three hours to complete and each playthrough offers a slightly different experience. When Daylight was first announced, one of the big features advertised was the procedurally-generated campaign. The story and goals all stayed the same, but the locations of said goals, the environment and the remnants were all slightly changed. One of the best things about each playthrough is that the scares are never the same, besides a few scripted sequences. The ghoul that haunts you throughout the halls shows up at completely random times. I can’t even count on my hand how many times I was caught off guard by her mumbles, movements and sporadic pop outs. Even if everything else wasn’t as varied as the scares on each playthrough, it’s still a valiant effort to implement something that’s rarely seen in the genre.
The gameplay found within Daylight is simple, but effective for the most part. In each of the four levels, you’ll guide Sarah from corridor to corridor in search of the eight or five specially-marked remnants. Glow sticks conveniently placed around the map will aid in their discovery. When they have been collected, you’re tasked with finding a “sigil” that will open the “Seal of Shadows,” allowing further progression into the unknown areas of the hospital. Something cool about the sigils is that each one holds some importance to the hospital. For example, a teddy bear of a child that was there, or scissors used to cause bodily harm to a patient are possible options. This helped further the immersion and connection between your notes and the particular area you explore. Anyway, while you’re trying your darnedest to do everything mentioned above, the ghastly ghoul will follow your every track and try to thwart your plans of freedom from this hellish prison. She won’t necessarily attack you, but if you’re caught in her gaze, in a matter of seconds it’s Game Over. Luckily, if you happen to have a flare, also conveniently littered throughout each level, you can send the ghost back into the shadows for a short while. BUT, let it be known that she won’t be gone forever. And last, but not least, the phone you pick up early in the game acts as a flashlight and a GPS. Even though the phone shows that you don’t have any sort of service or internet connection, the phone will display the area as you explore it. Maybe it’s to resemble Sarah getting her memory of each location back? Regardless of the symbolism, it greatly increases the accessibility of Daylight, and removes the stress of having to memorize and remember the layout of the area. While some may consider this a downside, it honestly didn’t bother me, but I could see it being a negative in some people’s eyes due to the absence of such challenge.
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