The rumors of its demise on the early morning of June 15, 2016 have been greatly exaggerated: Dead by Daylight has spent the last five years coming into its own as one of the best takes on asymmetrical multiplayer out there. Its very distinctive premise – a multiplayer horror game where one person is a monstrous killer who stalks, slashes, and attempts to capture a team of four survivors before they can accomplish objectives and escape – has been copied many times since, but never surpassed. Intricate but intuitive checks and balances and thoughtfully designed characters create an escalating back-and-forth that naturally recreates the tense arc of a horror movie, often ending in close calls.
Part of what makes Dead by Daylight so unpredictable and deep is that it is, in a sense, two separate game modes happening at the same time. For the four survivors, it is an exercise in stealth and teamwork: at the start of each match, they must find and activate five of seven semi-randomly distributed power generators, then open and walk through one of two procedurally generated exits without being murdered. Fixing a generator is a simple task, you simply hold a button, but comes with the risk of triggering an attention-grabbing noise if you miss your timing on randomly occurring skill-check minigames. Skill checks come with little warning and require focus, but you also need to keep an eye out for the killer while you’re doing them, and that split in attention creates some very palpable tension.
The killer, meanwhile, is out to incapacitate the survivors, then pick them up and put them on hooks, where they need to stay until they are “sacrificed” and die. In theory, you have all the power in this scenario: You can attack and the survivors can’t fight back. You even know where the generators are, thanks to their red glowing silhouettes appearing in the distance. But there are still four of them and one of you, so it’s a game of spinning plates: you need to hunt while watching the generators and keeping an eye on your hooked survivors, who can be freed by their teammates. What’s more, the killer plays in first-person while the survivors can use their third-person cameras to check their surroundings and peer around corners.
There are lots of nuances that create a give-and-take relationship between the two sides.
The difference in perspective is the first and most obvious distinction between the killer and survivors, but there are lots of nuances that create a give-and-take relationship between the two sides. For example, most killer characters walk faster than the survivors, so they will win a plain old chase. They are less agile, though, and survivors can use environmental obstacles like windows to put some distance between them, or stun the killer by knocking over a large wooden palette at the right moment. Killers also have to stop for a moment after swinging their weapon, giving a survivor some time to get away. Since a killer has to hit someone twice to knock them down, a chase can easily become a protracted engagement, and the other survivors can use that time to make valuable progress.That’s one of many ways Dead by Daylight encourages cooperation. When the killer hits a survivor they need to heal, and if they don’t have a medkit (one of five types of gear they can bring into a match) they’ll need a teammate to help them out. When a survivor gets captured, they have a small chance to escape themselves, but stand a much better chance of getting free if someone comes to help.