Daylight will live and die by how well its scare mechanics hold up. Yes, it’s one of those horror games where you walk through an environment with a light source and hope nothing sneaks up behind you. It sits alongside Slender: The Eight Pages and Outlast in this new non-confrontational take on survival horror — I only hope it manages to be better than both of those games.
Don’t get me wrong, Slender certainly has its charms, and Outlast had its scary moments too, but neither game felt like a complete experience. Outlast is a scripted rollercoaster, Slender is something you show your friends for a laugh.
Daylight seems to sit somewhere between those two games. You’ve got a cellphone, glowsticks, and flares lighting your way, similar to the camera with batteries in Outlast. But the environment you’re exploring are much closer to Slender — they're more non-linear, and randomly generated. Whereas Slender places its eight pages around a stock environment, Daylight actually features an entirely procedurally-generated world.
The demo I played didn’t showcase that aspect of the game, but I did get a sense for a game that’s a lot more open-ended than Outlast, while looking about as good. Your cellphone displays a map of the area that fills in as you explore. Glowsticks help you light the way, allowing you to track down documents and bits of lore that fill in the story of the game. Lastly, flares are used when ghosts show up, clearing them out of an area temporarily.
Yep, Daylight isn’t about zombies or psychos or mysterious, low-poly men in suits — it’s a ghost story in an abandoned hospital. This accomplishes two goals that I really appreciate — it justifies the player not being able to fight the threats with guns or fists, and it allows the enemies to sneak up behind you without feeling like a cheat.
As you search the environment for clues hidden in desks, cabinets, or just laying around, the area gets painted in strange glyphs. Your character’s arm even gets covered in them, and when a ghost is nearby, the glyphs fog your vision more and more until you die.
I’ll admit, despite the low volume on the demo station and the crowded showfloor of PAX East, Daylight managed to get a good spook out of me at least once. The ghosts are certainly a lot creepier than the Slenderman, and far more tasteful than the graphic shock-violence of Outlast.
That said, Daylight's quality will depend on its randomly generated environments. If replaying the game can be just as creepy as the first time, then it will certainly be something special. What’s more, if the gameplay can hold up through multiple playthroughs (something Outlast certainly couldn’t maintain), then this could end up being one of the more memorable “survival horror walking games” to come along.
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