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  • What Dead By Daylight Brings To (And Fails) Horror

    [01.06.22]
    - Josh Bycer
  • It's taken me quite a while to finally load up Dead by Daylight, one reason was that I was playing Back 4 Blood, and another was the nightmares I heard of its toxic community. But with some added time and just ignoring all chat, I decided to jump in and see what one of the more successful takes on multiplayer horror can deliver. DBD stands out as a one-of-a-kind experience...but how much will that horror cost you?

    Evolving Horror

    The basic concept of DBD's gameplay is asymmetrical multiplayer. Two teams: four survivors and one killer are set loose on a procedurally altered map. As the survivors, you need to repair five generators, escape through either the exit door or hatch, and try not to get killed. As the killer, your job is to hunt down the survivors, sacrifice them enough times on hooks to finally kill them, and stop them from escaping.

    Since the game's original release in 2016, the gameplay has evolved beyond the original survivors and killers. There are now 32 pieces of DLC, multiple collaborations between other games and iconic franchises, a battle pass system, and a store (that I'll talk about further down).

    What separates DBD from the other multiplayer horror games, including at the time its closest competitor: Friday the 13th The game, is how much mileage they have gotten out of two basic gameplay loops working together. What both sides are doing in each match doesn't change on your first run or your 500th, but how you play does.

    In terms of progression and secondary systems, DBD has come a long way

    As a survivor, you need to not only get good at performing skill checks, but also how you move around the map, how you avoid the killer, and what do you do when the killer finds you. Each killer has the same basic abilities but also has a unique power. In a way, the different killers remind me of the champions of a MOBA, requiring the player to almost relearn how to play when they switch to a different one.

    I recently played Back 4 Blood and I commented in my review about how progression in games like this has changed with the introduction of live service design. Dead by Daylight is now over 5 years old, and monetization has evolved, and that can be seen with the extensive progression and monetization systems.

    Bloodied Progression

    From the outside, it is easy to assume that DBD is much like the original Left 4 Deads in terms of progression being fixed, but the game leans more into long-form progression. How it works is that every survivor and killer comes with three exclusive "perks." These perks greatly vary in terms of what they offer - one survivor could get free healing without med kits, someone else could get the ability to get off a hook for free. For the killers, they could get the ability to see survivors further away, stop generators from being activated for some time, and much more. There are also generalized perks and each perk can also be found at different rarities, with the higher rarities having better stats.

    the bloodweb system is just a giant lootbox that dictates progression

    To get these perks, players have to spend "blood points" at the "bloodweb." Blood points are DBD's version of universal experience points. The game randomly generates a bloodweb for each character level that will have different rewards. You could immediately get a rarer version of a perk you like, or you could go many levels before you see it. All rewards unlocked on the bloodweb are fixed to that character.

    Besides equipping perks, you can also equip addons, items, and offerings before each match. Addons for killers and for survivor items enhance an aspect of their abilities or items and are specific to their respective attachments. Items for survivors allow them to do something better or make things easier during a play. Both groups can use offerings to change the upcoming match in a way that makes it easier for their side. However, there are several catches to this system. Any add-ons or offerings used during a match are consumed after it is over; requiring you to hopefully find more of them on your bloodweb. Items have a limited charge and once they're done, the item is destroyed.

    For both killers and survivors, if you level up your respective character high enough, you then unlock their perks to possibly show up on other characters' bloodwebs and eventually gain the ability to equip up to four different perks. The idea is that high-level play is all about mixing and matching different perks to best suit your skill and the abilities of the character you play as. This is a great option for long-term play and rewarding people for playing multiple characters, but it also brings into question the monetization of the game.

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