After almost five years, Dead By Daylight has gradually become one of the best multiplayer experiences available.
The combination of horror tropes, unique gameplay, new content and updates has kept the game positively fresh. It might gate a lot behind a paywall, but there’s still more than enough to keep you entertained.
Hooked on a Feeling
Dead By Daylight is deceptively simple. As one of four survivors, you repair five generators and escape, whilst the killer hunts down those survivors and throws them on hooks. When the survivors have either escaped or died, the game's over.
After understanding the basic mechanics surrounding these goals, there’s plenty of depth in terms of player ability and mechanical choice. The skill ceiling is high but not so high that you’ll find yourself outmatched at every turn once you hit a certain point.
Thanks to the survivor and killer classes, there are essentially two games in one. Survivor has you severely underpowered in comparison to the killer, so stealth becomes an intrinsic part of success and mirrors horror movie tension pretty well.
Playing as a killer is all about patrolling the map whilst using in-game cues and weapons to hunt down the survivors. Each killer plays very differently, so the way you approach your core objective of eliminating survivors can differ wildly. For example, Huntress is about distance and throwing axes, whilst Trapper is focused on setting up bear traps and baiting survivors.
In the end, it’s all about mind games. Understanding how to predict your opponent's moves and successfully catching them out mid chase leads to a feeling of exhilaration few other multiplayer games can match.
“Do you like scary movies?”
Dead By Daylight isn’t a horror game, but it’s very close to one. It shows that asymmetrical multiplayer games' inherent power imbalances actually suit the tone and futility of horror really well.
This is mostly achieved through sound design. Many of the game's actions and alerts are accompanied by audio cues, which conditions you to always be listening and alert. Some are simple QTE cues and others tell you a killer is nearby. They all work so well together to create a tone that leans into horror but doesn’t rely on it.
Even the player actions are horror-centric. Survivors can crouch and use full control of the third person camera to see the killer without being seen themselves. On the other hand, killers are faster but use a first-person camera, severely limiting their view. This creates an interesting relationship where survivors have more choice over a situation, but a killer has the power.
Combine this with all the perks both sides have, environmental options like vaulting and obstacles, and you’ve got yourself interesting tactical choices at every turn.
You can obtain characters from horror games, TV, movies, and even original ones too. This is a really nice touch, but it's worth mentioning that many of them are locked behind a paywall when you’ve already bought the game. Granted Dead By Daylight isn’t a full price Triple-A title, but it’s still something to be aware of.
There’s certainly enough there in the base game though, with teachable character perks allowing for full player customisation.
A constant balancing act
Since its release in 2016, Dead By Daylight has had hundreds of updates and patches. Behaviour Interactive is constantly making sure that the meta remains balanced and that the game sees graphical improvements to some of its maps and characters.
Perks and mechanics will get rejigged to prevent overuse or unfair strategies, which is essential in a game that desires longevity. Even the original survivor perks and killers see constant updates to make sure that they’re on a level playing field with all the new characters coming in, so people who don’t buy new characters still have a fair chance.
As of writing, there have been trials of the MMR (matchmaking rating) system used in plenty of other games, but it’s yet to see any sort of full rollout. In layman’s terms, MMR would match players with a more similar skill level, but we're yet to see how effective it'll be.
It’s clear that the developers want Dead By Daylight to remain fair and balanced for new and old players alike, and will keep making adjustments to try and reach that goal as best as possible, despite its asymmetrical nature providing much of the fun to be had.
Verdict - Is Dead By Daylight A Good Game?
Dead By Daylight has thrived for this long because of an excellent core gameplay loop for groups and solo players.
Leaning into horror has really helped create a multiplayer game with a thematic and mechanical difference, and the arrival of recognisable characters only bolsters that.
It isn’t always as finely balanced as the community would like, but Behaviour Interactive is clearly implementing everything they can to lessen this problem, even after all this time.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S