is a first-person horror game for the PC and Playstation 4, published by Atlus and developed by Zombie Studios, best known for developing Zork Nemesis
, the early tactical shooter series Spec Ops
, the budget tactical shooters Delta Force Task Force Dagger
and Shadow Ops Red Mercury
, and the more recent Blacklight Tango Down
. They have also been involved in developing simulation software for the U.S. military. The game is one of the first to use the Unreal Engine 4, developed in 2014 specifically for the 8th generation of console systems.
The player takes the role of Sarah, a young woman who wakes up locked in the abandoned Mid Island Mental Hospital with nothing except a cell phone and a cultured male voice urging her to proceed deeper into depths of the hospital and unlock its secrets. The cell phone serves as both a flashlight and a real-time mapping device; Sarah can also carry a limited number of glowsticks, which provide additional light and reveal secrets, and flares, which can be used to drive off the dangerous "shadow people" that inhabit the asylum halls. Flares are limited and Sarah has no other means of combating the shadow people, so much of the game must be spent evading and escaping from them.
The main gameplay element of Daylight
is that each maze-like level is procedurally generated, so the experience will be different on each playthrough. There are no traditional cutscenes, and pre-scripted events and even the voice's narrative are at a bare minimum, with most of the story being found in notes and logs. Similar to Slender: the Eight Pages
, Sarah's goal is to collect all the notes detailing the hospital's past (referred to as "remnants") scattered throughout each level. As Sarah collects more and more notes, maze-like markings appear on her left arm, increasing the ferocity of attacks by the shadow people. Upon collecting all notes in a level, Sarah call collect the "Sigil", an item of significance from the hospital's past such as a teddy bear, a bible, or a doll. The "Sigil" can be used to unlock the "Seal of Shadows" blocking the way to the next level. The game has 5 levels of gameplay and a playable epilogue. The overall length of the game is relatively short, but the procedurally generated levels are intended to add replay value.
The game provides examples of:
- Abandoned Hospital:
- Action Girl: Averted. Like her male counterparts in other similar games in the genre, Sarah is just an ordinary person trying to cope with a terrifying extraordinary situation. She has no combat skills or extraordinary physical abilities, and is understandably freaked out by the terrifying entities stalking her.
- And Then Sarah Was a Witch: Implied by the rather dark final image in the ending.
- Arc Number: 13. It reoccurs prominently throughout the remnants, Patient 13 is repeatedly mentioned, there are 13 nodes to the Seal of Shadows, and 13 accused witches were supposed to have been executed and buried on the island 300 years ago... but only 12 were actually killed. The fate of the 13th witch is central to the story.
- Bedlam House: The hospital's heyday was in the late 19th century to early 20th century, so this is to be expected. However, the notes portray the overall running of the hospital as generally orderly with the staff trying to do the best they could, despite a level of monetary-driven corruption by the management and recurring disturbing paranormal events. The management of the attached prison next door, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter, with prisoners being tortured to obtained confessions, in order to justify keeping them there.
- Bilingual Bonus: The 13th node of the Seal of Shadows is given in English as "Awakening" in the ending. However, the actual latin word inscribed on the node is Mortis, which is latin for "Death". This adds additional Fridge Horror to the already dark ending image.
- Body Horror: The maze-like markings appear to be carved into Sarah's arm as she picks up remnants, although they do disappear once she passes through the Seal of Shadows. The notes detail how some patients actually carved the markings into their own bodies with sharp objects; this process was usually fatal.
- Checkpoint Starvation: Dying in a level sends you back to the beginning, so you'll have to re-collect all the remnants again. Particularly annoying if you die towards the end of the level after collecting all the remnants or collecting the sigil.
- Sometimes even finishing the level isn't enough. Some players have taken a break immediately after a level, only to have to redo it when they play again.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The hospital's management covered up a number of the deaths and misadventures that occurred on the island, in order to avoid scandal and the notice of regulatory officials.
- Deadly Doctor: The remnants in the prison area paint a very dark picture of Dr. Mercer, the last director of the asylum.
- Driven to Suicide: The notes detail the stories of several patients and staff members who were seemingly driven to suicide by the strange forces on the island and in the hospital.
- The Faceless: Sarah's face is never shown in-game, and even in promotional art it's hidden by shadows. Possibly averted in the ending. It's not really clear.
- Hope Spot: Congratulations, you've managed to escape the hospital! Too bad you're still stuck on an island, and it turns out that it's the island and not the hospital itself that is the source of the haunting. The voice even taunts you by saying that perhaps you should try to swim for it (you can't).
- In Media Res: The game starts cold with no intro or backstory. You're told your name at the beginning, and from there you have to piece together the rest of the story from the notes found throughout the game.
- Let's Play: Journalism review copies were sent to a few notable Let's Players, most prominently PewDiePie, several weeks before the game's actual release... without any sort of disclosure stipulations, to boot. Zombie Studios seems to be really confident of the gameplay longevity potential of their procedurally-generated levels.
- In fact, the game was designed specifically with livestreaming in mind. There's an option to make the game interactive with the livestream chat, so that stream watchers can trigger events in the game (such as flickering lights or noises) by typing commands in the chat window.
- Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: It doesn't take long to realize there's something sinister and just plain off about the voice guiding Sarah through the asylum. As the game progresses he gets creepily intimate and even seems to stealthily taunt Sarah on occasion. However, he never actually betrays you (other than perhaps having put you in the situation in the first place), and disappears without fanfare by the time you reach the epilogue.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Like other games in the genre, the tension of waiting to be attacked can often be just as scary or even more so then when you actually are attacked, especially when you've collected a lot of pages and therefore are at a high level of shadow activity.
- Playing Against Type: Zombie Studios is best known for tactical shooters. Daylight is their first foray into the horror genre, unless you count the dark adventure game Zork Nemesis.
- Protagonist Without A Past: You don't know anything about Sarah's past prior to her somehow waking up locked inside the abandoned asylum. Like many games that use this premise, her past turns out to be central to the game's plot.
- The Quiet One: Sarah does occasionally speak, but generally only to express fear when a shadow is nearby. She never really comments in-depth or specifically on the bizarre events happening around her, and at no point does she attempt to engage in conversation with the voice guiding her.
- Randomly Generated Levels: One of the key features of the game.
- Regenerating Health: Sarah rapidly loses health when she comes into contact with the shadow people. If she manages to escape or drive them off with a flare, her health will eventually regenerate back to full, although it takes a while to do so.
- Tomato in the Mirror/The Reveal: Sarah is Patient 13, who was born and raised in the mental hospital. Her mother was one of the patients, who died in childbirth, and she had no family to take her in and foster parents would return her due to supernatural occurrences surrounding her. She's also a descendant of the 13th witch, a young girl who avoided execution by accusing the other 12 suspected women of witchcraft, resulting in their execution and burial on the island. The other 12 accused witches are understandably pissed at her.
- Weakened by the Light: The shadow people will burst into flames and dissolve into ash when exposed to the light from a flare. However, the voice specifies that "they wither in flames", and they don't seem at all bothered by your flashlight, glowsticks, or the occasional dim bulb still active in the hospital. Then you learn the shadow people are the ghosts of 12 accused witches who were executed on the island... granted, they were apparently hanged (as was historically accurate in the Americas), not burned at the stake.