Review: Daylight

The occasional gameplay issue doesn't mire what is ultimately a well-pieced-together story in Daylight, with slightly predictable outcomes that are still enjoyable to see. The game is short and creepy and will satisfy someone not willing to put in the time for a similar longer title, like say Alien: Isolation.
Review: Daylight
Date published: Jun 30, 2015
2 / 3 stars

Daylight is a procedurally-generated horror game developed and published by Zombie Studios. Daylight is an odd title. Depending on how well you grasp the concepts presented to you in-game, it can either be a pleasant experience or an unpleasant one. The game is randomly generated. One would think this gives the game unlimited possibilities, but in reality this amounts to very little difference. There's several other examples in-game that are unique, yet poorly executed, as you'll soon see.

The story Daylight delivers is formulaic,
but interesting with some unique turns and concepts

Daylight puts you in the shoes of a young woman. Sarah wakes up in what seems to be an abandoned hospital. She has very little recollection of how she got there, or who she is. A phone nearby flickers, with a voice. A friendly voice in the darkness? It may be her only chance to find out why she is here. The darkness is encroaching and the hospital seems maze-like. Should she trust the voice? She has no choice it seems.

Along the way Sarah discovers what events preceded her winding up in the hospital. The strange goings on in the hospital, the odd mutterings of otherwise healthy patients, mysterious deaths and more. This is told via remnants; scraps of paper she finds that reveal more plot as she journeys deeper in the compound. Other than the remnants, there are random scraps of paper that provide a tad more backstory to the world and setting. Added to this is the occasional amount of voice acting that serves to further push what little of the story there is.

While the story in Daylight isn't anything absolutely fantastic, it is still interesting and unique. It has some creepy concepts and is well-written for what is present. The plot is somewhat predictable, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing as events don't play out entirely as one would expect. You're thrown into the game world with practically no story or idea what you're doing however; something that somewhat perturbed me. There wasn't even an intro to the game, really. The ending was interesting and satisfying, but left one really big thing a mystery; something that's not told to you the entire game.

Gameplay in Daylight is fairly simple but functional

The gameplay for Daylight is very simple, despite only the controls and the phrase "Find the Remnants of the past" being shown to you. What they don't tell you is there's a bit more to do than finding just the remnants. Along the way through the game, you will find these special scraps of paper marked with a red glowing seal. These are remnants, as opposed to the blue ones that just flesh out the world. While you search for these remnants you will also be given tools to help you. The tools are glowsticks, flares and something called a sigil. The sigil is usually an item tied to the horrific events that befell the hospital back when it was in its prime. Once you have found all four remnants, then the sigil room will manifest the key or "sigil" required to access the next area.

The end of the levels, and monsters in general
can just become a dash to the end, frustratingly

This is where the game gets either really fun, or really frustrating. All you can do is run once you have the sigil. You can't protect yourself in any way, and the enemies will be gunning for you as much as possible. In open areas this isn't too much of a hassle, but it can be if you hit a dead end. Memorising the map is the best way to avoid this eventuality. If you know where the door is, hoof it as fast and as safely as you can. Once you open the door, you've finished the level. The game also has minimal puzzle solving elements, requiring you to push boxes around and climb up them.

You can use glowsticks as an alternative to the light on the phone, as well as trace your steps. If you crack a glowstick, the green light will highlight any dirty footprints you have left behind, allowing you to retrace your path should you get lost. Boy, will you get lost. The level is extremely maze-like and the game claims to be randomly generated — this is not entirely the case — and you can use the phone to find yourself. As you progress, you'll uncover more of the map, opening doors and searching for remnants. These will show up on the map, allowing you to get your bearings as the map is further revealed.

While you find your way through the dark, you will be accosted by certain pursuers. Most of the time it is best to just run and break sight with them; if they can see you, they can hurt you. You can close doors behind you too, if you're fast enough though that will only slow them down, not stop them. If you are trapped in a dead end, (of which there are many) then your only other recourse is to pop a flare. Like the glowsticks, these are quite limited and you may only carry four of both. Popping a flare scares your pursuers, and keeps you completely safe. A handy method is popping one when you come across an area likely to give you a flare. You'll have one active, and can run through the maze, finishing objectives as you go. You'll also have the other four in reserve when that one dies down.

Framerate issues plague the game

Graphically, Daylight isn't what one would expect from Unreal Engine 4. It looks no better than Unreal Engine 3. Some visual aspects of the game are unique, like the marks on Sarah's arm, and the maze scrawled rooms. The game uses a lot of darkness and shadow, and very little light. There is a few different set-pieces, but nothing more than the run of the mill. There are only about five levels in game and only the final one really differs all that greatly to the rest. The water set-piece looks adequate, but ultimately all the levels are mazes. It's easy to get lost, even with the map and honestly the framerate doesn't help.

Regardless where you are in the game, the frame-rate chugs. In certain areas it becomes more egregious, especially while running with the sigil. The frame-rate is so bad, that it nearly got me killed, making me miss and exit or an area I needed to get to quickly. Other than that, the graphics are acceptable. Everything is fairly easy to understand, apart from while you're running. While running, you can't really look at your phone, and it makes seeing anything while difficult.

The visuals are creepy, adding to the atmosphere. Sadly, it's fairly difficult to pickup flares when they're in a locker, or a supplies box. The game seems to have issues judging distance from said box, and will only work when the button prompt comes up. This can lead to odd instances where you are standing with your nose to the box, still unable to pick up a flare. Really annoying and potentially harmful if you're being chased.

Sound engineering is particularly atmospheric

Sound-wise, everything sounds great. The creaking of a door, some wind blowing through the trees and the sound of your own footsteps will have you on edge. It's not uncommon to think that someone is following you, until you turn around only to find that what you're hearing are your own footsteps. There's not really much music within the game, but what is there is creepy. This coupled with the graphics really does lead to an immersive and frightening atmosphere. Where the game is slightly let down is the telegraphing of enemies. You'll hear them long before they get close enough to you to do any harm, and if you have flares they're ultimately pretty pathetic.

There is some light voice acting, not much. What is there is well acted and believable, apart from Sarah constantly asking if someone is there whenever she hears a noise that freaks her out. That was somewhat annoying, as you would think she'd learn the first time that it's best to remain quiet. The majority of the voice acting is more towards the end when the friendly voice provides exposition and further plot. Otherwise it's just Sarah and her footsteps.

The Final Word: Recommended - There's some nifty elements in Daylight. While there's many things that seek to drag it down, there is no escaping the fact that it had a fantastic, creepy atmosphere. It was quite immersive despite the terrible frame-rate, striking the right chord to occasionally send chills down my spine. Despite its' flaws the game doesn't overstay its welcome, being short and sweet.