PAX East Preview: Dead by Daylight

If I had a nickel every time someone asked me to play a deranged serial killer in a video game… I’d probably be broke. It’s not often that I’m asked to take up a meat cleaver and raise bloody hell against four potential victims. Dead by Daylight, Behaviour & Starbreeze’s terrifying brainchild, sets one player against four in an asymmetrical horror game setting.

It was put upon me to don a mask and bloody blade in order to catch hapless victims as they tried to escape my Forest of Terror. The survivors — my prey, really — were dropped into my procedurally generated Terrorland without a clue as to where I was, what I looked like, or the many ways in which I was going to horribly murder them all. The final game, to be released on Steam for June 14th (early access begins May 29th), will have a variety of maniacal, bloodthirsty killers to choose from. For this demo, I was given access to The Trapper, whose special sauce of murder was punctuated by bear traps.

Yes, bear traps.

And so, I set about the hunt.

In any given scenario, the survivors complete their map-specific objectives and unlock the exit. In this scenario, my prey… er… the survivors were to repair a number of generators so that the exit doors would remain powered long enough to escape.Unfortunately, each time that they attempted the repair, they would have to complete a skill challenge that is somewhere between a Quick Time Event and a meter test. Fail the test and the killer would be alerted to the survivor’s presence on the map.

This is a game of hide and seek, so any hurried motions would tip off the killer to a survivor’s presence by the scores of red lines marring the ghoulish atmosphere. On several occasions, I was blinded by a survivor’s flashlight, foiled by survivors healing themselves with med kits, and too slow to stop a toolbox-wielding survivor from repairing a generator (or three). However, I did put those pesky survivors through their paces by setting bear traps, freaking them out by getting close (triggering the heartbeat mechanism that the survivors have when the killer gets a little too close for comfort), and letting them Scooby Doo their way to my cleaver over and over again.

Dying isn’t a simple binary switch in Dead by Daylight. In fact, there are multiple stages to death in a match. The first hit is to wound and hinder movement. The second hit sends a survivor to the ground, leaving them to attempt to crawl away. And the third? Well, there is no third. The killer has the advantage after the second hit and will almost always pick a survivor up and find somewhere to put them for safe keeping.

That somewhere, of course, is a meat hook through the neck.

The survivor can struggle, wriggle, and attempt to escape all they like. Fortunately for me… er… the killer, it’s to no avail. The harder a survivor struggles at the end of a meat hook, the more likely they are to die, unless another survivor comes to the rescue.

At the end of this particular scenario, I had three survivors up on their respective meat hooks and one survivor attempting to escape. She was almost out the door when my cleaver bit home and I had her up on a hook.

While I giggled victoriously, and received my new favourite sticker proclaiming my Badass Serial Killer Skills, I knew that this game was going to be the start of something special. Though my skills as a survivor are fairly suspect, I know that this game will be making its way into my multiplayer game nights once it’s released in June.

The joy of Dead by Daylight is in the anticipation — the terrifying magic of a game of hide ‘n seek gone deliciously awry. The game empowers the survivors to play the game exactly the way they want, while allowing the killer to gleefully savage his way through his prey’s last remaining glimmers of hope.

(Original Post: The Daily Crate)

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