Game Review: Daylight

Let me save you some time.

Let me save you some time.

 

Some weeks ago I made a joke to a Colleague about how I had gone too long reviewing games without running into something that was the equivalent of Bad Rats. A game so bad that even attempting to be rational and boosting whatever positive points it has that you can’t excuse the black hole the game really is. I considered myself not a fan of Continue?9876543210 , found not much to like in Outlast and felt like Slender: The Arrival was barely more than a bundle of incomplete thoughts. And yet I still felt like there would be something much worse waiting on the horizon for me, slipping its vile tendrils around my neck and hanging me where I sat.

Daylight, I’m sorry to say, is that game.

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From the get-go we are tossed onto our asses into an asylum with only a cell phone and a cheap Malcolm McDowell imitator barking nonsense over the speaker. However he contacts us is beyond understanding as the phone never rings nor does the protagonist Sarah ever do anything with her phone to invite his squawking. He just spouts out grade-school philosophy such as “Life is but a butterfly’s dream,” and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned… and you’ve scorned them all.” With @John_Henry_Eden_ebooks as our good company, we stumble around in the dark hallways (using useless glowsticks and flares) of which you will see the same of many times. One of Daylight’s big selling points is that it is randomly generated as you play so you can never have the same play experience twice. Well that doesn’t help when every single room you use as an asset looks exactly like the others, does it?

The goal of every area you visit is to collect 6 “remnants”, which is an absurdly vague way of saying “Find 6 pieces of paper with a red rune on them, some of which will be hidden in boxes on the walls and in desks”. Once you’ve stuffed enough Macguffins into your jacket, Ol’ Phoney pipes up mentioning that the “Sigil” has been revealed. While that sounds like something deep and meaningful, all it really turns out to be is a pair of surgical scissors or a porcelain doll floating in a room covered in glowing writing that you most likely already found before you had all six remnants. In taking the Sigil, you become defenseless as you are no longer able to whip out any flares or glowsticks to protect yourself.

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…oh, right. I forgot something. The ghost. From the outset you’re being pursued by an apparition that appears out of the blue with little rhyme or reason. My first encounter with it was as follows: I heard a banshee cry out from behind me as I was in mid-turn. My cell phone minimap was beginning to distort with random artifacts and glyphs. I stopped moving and waited for a moment, noticing that I could see what appeared to be the leg of the creature standing there just to my right. I contemplated for a moment what may happen should I continue to turn. All the while it persisted on making weird hissy noises. And then, almost as quickly as it came, the creature disappeared. It felt like one of those hilariously bad special effects sequences in old low budget films where they paused recording while the person or object was moved off camera while everyone else held still before continuing to record to give the illusion that they had vanished in an instant.

You see, Daylight has a lot of problems. It fails to be truly engaging to the player at any point. All plot exposition is taken care of via the notes and remnants (there are two colors of seal on the paper to designate the difference!) which you can skip most of and most likely will because it is all drivel. There’s no reason to connect with the disembodied voice of someone trying to do their best 60 year old Alex DeLarge impression who waxes poetic about as well as a toddler could explain to you what the hell a quasar is. Sarah, our rather grim protagonist, often yelps at the sound of her own foot brushing against a sheet and reminds us that she “Can’t fucking see a damn thing” when you’re in a nearly fully lit room. There’s little connection at all between what happens in the game world and Sarah’s reactions. I can’t begin to tell you how many times she outburst with angry quips about knowing someone is there in the two hours I spent with the game.

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Any tension is completely ruined by the fact that none of the game’s systems work to support each other. Sarah can sprint indefinitely, which makes the ghost a trivial occurrence in the event that it manages to even spawn. Resource management is merely an afterthought thanks to being given free flares and glowsticks in almost every other room. And if you manage to fill up too much on either, finding one in a container causes you to just completely discard it. I’m pretty sure no human alive is going to just throw out a precious glowstick before finding at least one extra pocket to cram it into. The ghost itself can be almost completely ignored by never turning around to face it and just waiting for it to despawn mere seconds later. I only ever died once in my entire run by backing into the ghost and having it materialize on top of me, ending me instantly. Even when I bothered looking at it, just for the sake of science, it appeared to just be a person with ketchup smeared over their eyes.

It’s a shame that Unreal Engine 4 gets such a pitiful introduction into the world. The game does not look nearly as demanding as it claims to be and none of the setpieces are visually interesting or even memorable. Between the campy dialog, shoddy notes and head-shake inducing comments in the UI message area claiming “They will come to haunt you”, every bit of the writing is downright amateurish and is something to be ashamed of. The sound design does not fully register with what you see on screen. Nothing is connected and nothing matters. There’s no consequence for doing anything in Daylight’s world. The in-game Twitch streaming support tells me more about what was on the developers’ minds than anything else in the game. They were banking on the braindead simple stream avenue to perpetuate the game with its enticing look and promise of replayability via randomization.

 

Even the achievements didn't give a shit about the game, and showed up after I closed it.

Even the achievements didn’t give a shit about the game, and showed up after I closed it.

What they forgot to do was make a game worth playing, watching or thinking about.

Final score: 1/5

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Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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