My pick (if we were making picks this year) for Game of the Show at this year’s PAX East would undoubtedly be Behaviour’s horror co-op game Dead by Daylight. The basics of the game are really quite simple, play as one of four survivors being hunted by a killer based on one of the classic archetypal killers of Hollywood. The survivors goal, a simple one survive, and activate all the generators scattered around the map. Activating all the generators will trigger the gates to open and allow your escape. Sounds easy, right? Your opposition, one of the classic Hollywood movie killers based on characters like Michael Myers (Halloween, more on him later) or Jason Voorhees. It’s out already and quite popular on Steam, with over 1 million copies sold. And yep, it’s coming to console soon with the PS4 version on display at PAX.
The hunt is not fair, or sporting. The survivors are outmatched in nearly every way. But that is where the fun and challenge lies. Trapped in a nightmare-world arena that posits nearly every classic horror movie trope you can think of (corn fields? CHECK creepy basements? CHECK), survivors have to accept the fact that they have zero chance of overcoming the killer, instead they must work together (or independently, depending on your strategy), keeping the killer jumping from target to target and seizing their opportunities as they appear.
Players (survivors and killers) earn points for performing deeds throughout the game, particularly dramatic or traditional actions. Did you repair a generator? That’s worth points. Did you stun a killer with your flashlight? More points. Escape after a long chase? That’s points too. On the killer’s side, the same classic movie actions earn points. All these points can be turned in after the match to earn all kinds of rewards, like costumes, ability perks, items, all sorts of rewards.
While watching the players at PAX, I wondered, this is all well and good, but won’t everyone want to be the killer? That was the very question I posed to Mathieu Cote, the Game Director of Dead by Daylight at Behaviour. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that that is not the case at all. In fact, when they first began running games they had a near perfect 4-1 ratio of survivors vs killers and wile that ratio has wavered slightly throughout the games short existence, it has stayed largely the same.
Watching a game is nearly as compelling as playing it, and, as the Twitch Streamers that Behaviour had at PAX were stalking the survivors (players at the show), you could feel the tension and excitement mount as killers took down their targets, or as targets slipped away. This was one of the few times, as an observer, that I could identify with the players and share their excitement. Behaviour has done a great job developing relationships with both streamers and players, and the fan base was incredibly supportive of both the game and each other.
So you get the basics right, it’s like playing in a Hollywood horror film. Let’s talk about specifics. Currently there are six killers: Trapper (the first, reminds me of Jason Voorhees), Hillbilly (reminds me of Leatherface), The Nurse (reminiscent of the nurses from Silent Hill), The Hag (uses Hexes as one of here tolls), The Wraith (moves in and out of the Spirit World to gain surprise) and finally Michael Myers. Michael Myers was also the first classic Hollywood killer that Behaviour was able to get the rights to put in the game, not only Michael, but also Laurie Strode as a survivor, Haddonfield as a location and a good bit of the original Halloween music. Each of the killers has a signature ability, but Michael Myers was my favorite. You see, Michael starts out fairly weak (or weak-ish), but as he observes the survivors he get stronger and faster, until he becomes a killing machine. Just like the movie!
Each game is played in one of several locations, but regardless of the location, be it the MacMillen estate, Autohaven Wreckers or Haddonfield, the location is nightmarish and unreal. This serves to let the survivors know that in this world there can be no escape. There is always a Basement present though, complete with hooks.
Hooks? What are those for? I’m sorry, didn’t I mention that the killer hangs his victim on hooks as he catches each one? Well, he does, and this serves as both a message to the survivors, and as a lure. If a survivor comes across one of these hooked players, they can expend a little time and release them from the hook. Thus begins the cat and mouse of survivors help each other escape and killers gathering more survivors. While a player is on the hook, they have a limited time to try and escape. Succeed, and it’s off to the races again looking for escape. Fail enough times and eventually survivors die, are sacrificed to the evil entity that lies behind the whole game, granting a bunch of points to the killer.
Well, that’s the gist of the game. I am sure I am either forgetting cool stuff (like each survivor getting a chance to “wiggle” away from their killers) or don’t know enough about the deep and compelling background of the game, but I leave that to each of you to discover. If horror movies appeal to you at all, give this game a try, I think the team at Behaviour did a fantastic job bringing it together. Heck, they also just recently added Bill from L4D and the survivor outfits from the game as a crossover. It only keeps getting better.
This is a guest post by MMORPG.com’s Terry O’Brien.