I‘m of two minds on Daylight, part of me likes it and part of me just wanted it to be over. But all of me was frightened the entire time.
Daylight is advertised as procedurally generated, boasting that it is different every time you play it. The first problem with this concept is, gameplay wise, Clive Barker himself could not imagine an alternate universe where you would want to play this game again.
Secondly, this is good for horror and bad for gaming. It furthers the horror because you feel lost, even after you have learned a level’s layout. But it is bad for gaming because when you die all of the knowledge you have of the level becomes useless, meaning you have just as little chance of passing the level as you did on your first attempt. While feeling helpless in the game was a good idea as it adds to the horror, feeling helpless as a gamer inspires nothing but playing something else.
The game features the autosave function exclusively, again, this has two effects. It forces horror on you. One can’t just stop playing once they get scared, and come back to it when they are calm. You have to persevere and dive into the deep dark of this haunted world. But the other side of the argument is that you need to designate a lengthy period of time for gameplay. It’s not excessively long, but if you are forced to game in short bursts, it is not possible with Daylight.
As I originally feared, the point of this game is just to find a sigil which unlocks a door and lets you progress to the next stage. It is extremely repetitive. The game should have been one level shorter due to this fact. If you’ve played the first level, you’ve essentially played the entire game. It really adds nothing new to the gameplay to justify the time you spend on it.
Daylight also commit’s the cardinal sin of backtracking. Even if you play the game incredibly slow, you will find yourself at the end of the level with not enough remnants to unlock the sigil. This results in endlessly frustrating backtracking. Plus, by the time you have reached this point you have used up most of your defensive flares, meaning the game devolves into running away from enemies which prevents you from soaking up the tremendous amount of horror Daylight provides.
To put this in perspective, consider fascism. Fascism can be considered pure evil, but it is also a very efficient way to run a society. They say, “fascism makes the trains run on time.” Fascism has a redeeming quality, while repetitive games that feature heavy use of backtracking do not. In this respect, Daylight is worse than fascism.
But the main question regarding Daylight is, is it scary? Yes, this game is absolutely terrifying. The shadow hags are shock inspiring and they appear out of nowhere, meaning you never feel safe. It compliments this with immaculate sound design, there are a score of frightening noises and loud bangs that will never fail to put you on edge. I screamed out loud several times while playing this game.
A perfect example of the great sound design is in the forest level. Daylight moves from the claustrophobic confines of the hospital/prison and places you in an open space. To combat this feeling of safety, it pummels you with loud sound effects and constantly makes you feel like there is something behind you.
I spent most of this level fleeing in terror, too scared to even bother looking if there actually was something behind me.
Daylight also paces its horror very well. In between levels you will find “safe zones” where there are no shadow hags and there are an abundance of collectible notes to provide the player with a little more backstory. The horror in Daylight is so unrelenting that these safe zones provide a welcome opportunity to catch your breath and allows the shadow hags to remain a frightening event and not a constant annoyance.
The latter half of the game gives you a break from its repetitive unlocking doors strategy and focuses on exploration. It is here you learn details of the story and discover the nature of the haunting while learning about the history of your avatar. The latter part of Daylight is a very enjoyable experience, and gives you fortunate break from its very repetitive and formulaic first half.
Daylight is very interesting because it is both a great and terrible game. The first half of this game is ultra repetitive and borderline frustrating as you are forced to start a completely new level each time you die. But the latter half was a lot of fun, if you like to explore and want to learn the backstory of the world you find yourself in. As a horror experience it is downright terrifying, one of the scariest games in recent memory. I give it 4/5 on the fright factor scale. But the gameplay gets old quick, and you are so relived when its over. If you are looking for a truly frightening gaming experience and are willing to play a sub-par game to get it, Daylight is worth checking out.