Dare You Face The Horror Of Empty Rooms And Reading?
At first I felt apprehensive playing Daylight, feeling it was doing a pretty good job of building up an oppressive atmosphere; however so little happens, and what does happen is incredibly predictable, that my mood quickly switched to frustration, and subsequently to boredom. For example the random closing of doors had me spooked at first, wondering what I was going to see when I opened it... Nothing ever appeared. Things get knocked over or gently pushed across the floor, but they're completely unconnected actions; it's not to lure you in a particular direction or deter you, it’s just a random event that the developers thought would be spooky. Any fear I experienced came from my own expectations of what a horror game would involve.
The game boasts procedural content; however on the two occasions that I died (once because a ghost spawned right next to me, the other because I fell into water and couldn’t find a way out, exciting ways to go) I didn’t see much to support this. The layout of the area seemed to stay exactly the same, only the letters that you’re tasked with finding seemed to move. If there is more to it I certainly didn’t see it, and if you’re going to claim that each playthrough is going to be different, the game either needs to be good enough to warrant that second time or offer some incentive to. The game fulfils neither of those. The rooms and corridors are generally devoid of content and all look practically the same for a given level, to the extent where it feels like there are two sets of corridors and two room types. Procedural content is pointless if you only experience it once.
There's a few different areas to experience, with you being blocked off from the previous one each time you progress, so while there are no loading screens after the initial one, these serve as obvious barriers to save them having to keep too much geometry in memory. That may sound like trying to delve too much under the hood, but the knock on effect of the game play is that the game areas feel incredibly small, and not confined in the “good” claustrophobic way you'd want from a horror game.
Glowsticks are provided that highlight objects you can interact with when used; however not only is it not really necessary, it’s usually pretty obvious what you can click on, but it bathes the world in a garish shade of green. The only weapon you have against the shadows is a flare (no idea why), but it takes so long for the lighting animation to finish that if they’re close you may as well just run. Also, as per the silent hill radio, if a shadow is nearby the phone screen flickers, meaning; the moment you notice that, light a flare and spin around, since all shadows are killed instantly by it there is no danger at all in the game. The game provides a “threat” meter on screen, which gradually fills up as you find remnants, which I assume is supposed to be tied to shadow spawn frequency, however I've had shadows constantly spawning every few seconds with only a sliver of the threat meter filled in.
As such the game becomes a tedious chore of looking around the current environment for letters that are marked with a red seal, though the game doesn’t provide any context as to why these letters are littered around. Finding all the ones in the level spawns a sigil in the maze room, no indication as to why there are maze rooms in each level, which you then take to some aura… thing, which blocks the exit to open up the next level. Again, no explanation as to what the mysterious power that blocks your way is.
Something that really brought me out of the experience was Sarah's insistence on calling out "is someone there?" and the like, while I'm trying everything in my power to remain inconspicuous. While I understand it sells that Sarah is her own character and is affected by the situation, everytime I'd assume it was provoked by something and start spinning round trying to work out what it was, unfortunately there never seemed to be any specific trigger, which got really tiresome after the first few times. The other use of audio isn’t particularly noteworthy, you’ll hear the assortment of effects you’d expect from a horror game, but they never appeared to be tied to anything in game.
It took around two hours to finish the game, which, considering how little fun it is to play, may be some small solace, but even at the reduced preorder price I paid, I felt ripped off. Regardless of how long it took to beat though, the gameplay is essentially 15 minutes long; once you've been through the first environment you’ve essentially experienced all you’re going to with the game. The “puzzles” (if you get stumped moving a box into position or finding a switch to flip you can remove the quotes) are completely unnecessary and offer nothing to distract you from the tedium at hand.
The story itself is competent enough, and put into a more tailored experience where the environments you go through actually mean something rather than being a conduit for letters, it’d be fine. It really is a shame that the gimmick of the game is what ultimately fails it. I’m not going to say the game is absent of horror, I’ve been to plenty of movies where the rest of the audience has been in shock and disbelief at something I’ve shrugged at, but for me, Daylight was one of the mildest horror experiences I’ve had in a long time.