Tapping into the ‘80s and ‘90s killer craze, Dead by Daylight pits four survivors against one killer. Intelligently crafted, it takes its premise and runs with it.
Four survivors. One killer. Find a way out of the arena, or be sacrificed to The Entity. That’s the premise of Behaviour Interactive’s asymmetrical online multiplayer world. Painted in the veneer of campy Monster Movies the likes of Friday the 13th and Halloween that remain a guilty pleasure, Dead by Daylight is a class-example of how much fun there is still left to be wrung out of the “trapped with the killer” story template.
Each match opens up with four unlucky survivors that are trapped in an arena-like area with one killer of specific origin. Their objective? To locate and repair five generators that power two gates located on opposite sides of a procedurally-generated map.
Each match, the land itself changes in a bid to keep both the survivors and killer guessing until the end. And the source of this hellish game, is what is only referred to as “The Entity”. Its backstory is breadcrumbed throughout the game via strings of text from one “Benedict Baker”, who had the misfortune of being taken to the staging grounds:
“These things differ from time to time. But each acts in a similar manner, and with similar human physical traits. But they are more reminiscent of beasts of burden even though I can spot some flicker of humanity. With scars and marks on their skin and body. As if they have been self-mutilating themselves. They even look dead.
“I fail to see some humanity in them. They are bent on finding me. But somehow they refrain from killing me. Instead I am hung from one of those dreaded hooks. I keep asking myself why they do not snuff the life out me themselves. But someone must control them. Might they do someone else’s biddings?”
Benedict Baker’s Journal, Nov. 1896
This cosmic terror is loosely delved into but it is the being – or rather, entity – responsible for the nightmarish tournament. For whatever reason, the entity seems perfectly capable of transporting beings but far less capable of killing them to further its unknown ends. That’s what it needs the killers for.
From the outset of the match, killers are locked into a first-person perspective and armed with their weapon and tools of choice. Each killer comes with a highly varied backstory, appearance, and playstyle.
The Trapper capitalizes on laying bear traps at chokepoints for unwitting survivors to stumble into, whereas The Nurse blinks through reality toward her quarry at a frightening pace. Regardless of which killer stalks the woods, the threat to the four remains the same.
The Survivors, on the other hand, are equipped with their own advantages to evade their relentless pursuer. Where the Killer is locked into a first-person view, the Survivors get the advantage of operating in a third-person view.
This grants them a considerable advantage in situational awareness over their adversary. An advantage that they can exploit to further increase their chances of duping and juking the killer until the final generator is powered up and they’re on their merry way out.
Dead by Daylight not only uses procedural generation for its levels, even the levelling and progression system is laced with it. Each level, your survivor or killer receives a new Bloodweb.
This web of nodes is randomly generated according to an algorithm which keeps each level after your “prestige” mark nearly as satisfactory and enticing as the one before.
After level 10, however, the Entity appears on the Bloodweb, hungry to take nodes for itself. This effectively turns the level-up process into something akin a mini-game in and of itself – as players are forced to prioritize some rewards and eschew others to the Entity.
Since its release, there have been a series of games in its stead which bear a striking resemblance to Dead by Daylight – including the official Friday the 13th game.
While the concept of an asymmetrical multiplayer in a killer/victim scenario is sure to become a fad in the same way the films which inspire the genre did, Behaviour Interactive have managed to find a formula that not only works effectively but makes their freshly-spawned world feel like one that is just begging to be fleshed out – even if it was for some of cosmic entity’s sick designs.