Dead By Daylight is a cooperative masterclass

I’m hanging from a hook, struggling and kicking as the claws of a dark cosmic entity close around my skull. Not by choice, you understand. The bastard thing that placed me here is nearby, pleased with the sacrifice but also hoping to use me as bait. To my horror, the plan works and I see someone approaching, inching forward through a cornfield, trying to stay hidden. She’s going to get herself killed and I guess I’ll be adding survivor’s guilt to my list of ailments.

“Stay away!” I want to yell, but my voice has been stolen, and it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. In Dead By Daylight [official site] people usually try to do the right thing, even if they’re risking their life to do it. It’s a horrid game that cleverly encourages good behaviour.

A lot of you are probably already playing this fantastic asymmetrical slasher sim and wondering why I’m so late to the party. Quite simply, I tried the game at release and didn’t enjoy the first couple of rounds I played, and then never found the time to go back to it.

“Too gamey”, was the criticism I levelled at it, which often seems like an odd complaint when writing about games. What I meant is that it seemed more interested in hard rules and some level of balance rather than the sort of thematic flourishes that I wanted from a multiplayer game about slasher films.

When Friday The 13th came along, one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much lay in the differences between it and Dead By Daylight. Wherever the latter was a little too tidy and tactical, the former was loose and messy. It’s easy to flip those qualities around and to see how the tidy and tactical game might be superior to the loose and messy game, but they can happily co-exist without competing directly for my attention, even though they have obvious similarities. I wanted something that felt chaotic and unpredictable when playing as a survivor though, and Friday The 13th fit the bill.

I’ve drifted away from it, mostly because of a few bad experiences with survivor players helping Jason, presumably because they’re real life friends or simply mischief-makers. Because my enjoyment of the game relies on people buying into the illusion, and role-playing to a certain extent, that kind of inconsistent behaviour doesn’t just annoy me because I lose in a way that feels unfair, it breaks my desire to play entirely. Imagine watching Halloween and seeing Laurie directing traffic, leading her so-called friends into dead-ends and then loling with Myers after every kill

By design, Friday The 13th opens itself to unhelpful antics simply by dropping players in a miniature sandbox where they can either scurry around trying to help one another or simply disrupt the entire flow of a round. With Dead By Daylight, which has just stolen an entire weekend for me, I found the opposite to be true: everyone is making the game a better place to be.

The genius of Dead By Daylight is that you inevitably help the other survivors, whether you intend to or not. There’s only one way to escape (until a hatch opens when there’s only one survivor left) and that requires survivors to repair five of the seven generators randomly scattered around the map. So even if you’re a lone wolf, anything you do to facilitate your own escape helps the other three survivors as well. And not just in terms of completing objectives but by distracting the killer, because whenever a repair is completed, the location flashes up in the killer’s view, potentially bringing them to that part of the map hunting for the perpetrator.

Even if you’re having a really bad round, and I’ve had many of them, and can’t shake the killer off your tail, you’re helping the cause; if you’re being chased and murdered you’re creating a lull in the hunt for everybody else, and they can use that free-time to work toward an escape.

There’s no voice chat, which seemed strange at first, but the design of the game is so tight that there’s no real need for planning Instead of relying on instructions and panicked orders, you use the visual cues that the game provides, whether that’s the location of a wounded or soon-to-be-sacrificed ally or the brief glowing outline of the exit gate. Everything is happening at breakneck pace in a claustrophobic space where death might only be a heartbeat away, and the entire structure of the trial guides everyone toward useful actions.

“Trial” is an important word. Dead By Daylight isn’t a conventional slasher script. It takes place in an abstract space where the survivors are trapped by a shadowy entity, and the killer is trapped in there with them. This isn’t Camp Crystal Lake, it’s more like Cabin in the Woods and that neatly explains the uncomplicated rules. Killers and survivors are, within the fiction, playing a sort of game.

Let’s go back to that opening story, when another player risked everything to save my life. I’ve been every character in that story – the saviour, the victim and the killer – and they’re all great roles to play. Sometimes I figure that people are only helping one another because they get points for doing so, and points mean prizes (in the form of skills and items from a randomly generated web of unlocks). It doesn’t really matter why people are playing to the game’s strengths though and making it a pleasant place in which horrible things can happen – if it’s only the promise of rewards from a higher power that leads them to help their neighbours, that doesn’t really matter in the heat of the moment.

The simple fact is that Dead By Daylight has the best multiplayer community I’ve spent time in since Rocket League. Both games reward what I’ll describe as good sportsmanship, and neither waste time or energy berating people who have a bad round. I haven’t got the hang of playing as any of the killers yet but when I fail miserably, I suspect the survivors feel like they were awesome and that they outsmarted me rather than suspecting I spent a whole lot of time running around in circles.

Coming to the game late, it’d be easy to feel lost but even though there are a few different killers, they both work to the same basic rules. They find you, they chase you, they catch you, they hook you. Their unique abilities are wrinkles in the rules rather than changes to the foundation of the game, and the same is true of survivor skills and items. Aids rather than game-changers.

It’s a superbly designed game and I’m kicking myself because I wish I’d realised that this time last year. I’d be a super-survivor by this point, the kind who is the last one standing in the first film and comes back for a cameo a couple of decades into the franchise. As it is, I’m still finding my feet and spending a lot of time hanging from those dreadful hooks, but I’m having a blast.

What a surprising place to find such helpful people, and what a pleasure to find a game that is so carefully designed to promote cooperation and kindness in between all the slaughter.

23 Comments

  1. Chentzilla says:

    >Imagine watching Halloween and seeing Laurie directing traffic, leading her so-called friends into dead-ends and then loling with Myers after every kill

    Horror movies often work this way, you know.

  2. ChiefOfBeef says:

    Survivor-main detected. Must be talking about a completely different game to the one where a premade group of four survivors talk on Discord and the killer has nothing but frustration and tears to look forward to.

    • Pulstar says:

      Yea I’m not sure what the author is talking about. This game is a steaming pile of the ol’ wank.

      • Kitsunin says:

        The experience playing as a killer is often terrible, but honestly, the game is still really good aside from perks which kind of ruin it for killers. You shouldn’t see too many fully perked players until you’ve played for a while…

  3. QSpec says:

    Wait, it has a good community?

    I’ve largely steered clear of it despite having some interest because I always read about how terrible the community is.

    Maybe I’ll have to check it out.

  4. ramirezfm says:

    It has the same toxic community that f13 has (and all other multiplayer games?), but here you have no voice chat so it’s harder to pinpoint. I find both f13 and this fun but both are made or broken by the people you’re playing with. As often is with mp games. Anyone here plays this and/or f13? Anyone wants to play?

    • EyelessFormx says:

      hey ramirezfm, you can count with me if you wanna play DbD as long as you dont mind my kinda bad english ^^

    • ThatoneFalloutguy says:

      Yo man i dont mind playing i got to rank one survivor a while back just going to be farming games to level up the rest of my survivors just send me message if you wana play

  5. Al Bobo says:

    It’s fun game and I started playing it again a week ago. However, it’s not as rosy as you paint it to be. Occasionally, you meet killers, who hook you and then proceed to camp you at hugging distance – giving you no chance to escape. Now you say “but survivors have time to fix generators!” Yes, they get a few gens done, but then the killer is after them again and probably gets another hook and proceeds to camp again.
    If everything goes right and survivors don’t waste time trying to help camped victim, they get those last 2 gens by the time the second hooked survivor dies. If the killer has a perk that lets him down a player with one hit after gens are done, he has a good chance to get 1 or 2 kills more…he will likely have it, if he’s the type to camp.
    This all was a thing a year ago, but it was aggravated by the new way killers get level up in ranks, which was introduced in Victory Cube – patch. By camping, you have a good chance to level up so many people use it. Path of least resistance and all that shi…jazz.
    So, yeah, it’s really exhilarating, when you play with/against people who are not meta-gaming the shi…roses out of it. Most of the matches are good times.

    • ChiefOfBeef says:

      Doing the gens is the counter to hook-camping because it works. Unless the first survivor to be found is utterly clueless, they can keep the killer distracted in an extended chase for minutes. If they are only mediocre, it can still take the killer a half-minute to hit them the necessary two times before being able to pick them up. It’s then almost two minutes in total on the hook if the killer is camping. There is no way the other three can not prime a generator each plus any they managed during the chase and carry to a hook before that. Survivors refuse to use the counter, which is why killers keep camping the hooks: it works too well because survivors refuse to adjust to what killers are doing. They don’t want to adapt because complaining to the devs has worked so well for them in the year since the game released and the devs have tested a feature meant to prevent it, only for survivors to do as predicted and abuse it for griefing.

      • Kitsunin says:

        It’s frustrating survivors don’t learn to do gens to discourage killers from doing it, because facecamping is one of the few ways the game becomes strictly not fun. The only real solution here is for all the survivors to be smart as you say, but you’ve gotta understand why people complain to the devs. Having a match consist of less than two minutes of chase followed by two minutes of waiting for death, followed by losing rank through no fault of your own, is an awful, nearly scream-inducing experience. It makes it tempting to just Struggle so you can die and queue up for another game sooner…but you don’t because this would just encourage the killer to keep doing it.

  6. Chem says:

    Only had 2 bad experiences with the community one time was my first game as Mike Meyers who I’m terrible at and the post game chat a guy was being a jerk but like me doing bad is good news for you so why be angry?

    The other was as the trapper when the survivors kept waiting in my view while I hooked people then complained that I camped and got a 4 sacrifice win when I knew if I walked away two feet I’d be able to turn around and immediately catch a survivor.

    I don’t play survivor as it is not interesting to me and being the killer is way too much fun.

  7. Synesthesia says:

    I’m willing to bet good money most groups are using some sort of voice comms, be it mumble, discord or what not, to tip the scales. It’s been shown time and time again online communities cannot engage with these games without exploiting them, or turning them into brainless deathmatches.

  8. RiotShield says:

    This is why gaming journalims is dead. People who write the articles are just promoters, they have a very basic knowledge of the game. This game isn’t ment to play together, even dev’s state that. But they still allowed people to do that, and that leads to the terrible disballance. But game never had a ballance to start with – for example, since release survivors can just stand near open hatch, and mock the killer who can do nothing but stare at them, because if he will do anything – they will escape for free after losing the game. And that exists for year, and not fixed yed, along with other issues. Journalists this days are simply unprofessional, if they can’t notice that whole game design – is a giant failure.

    • JnnsMu says:

      I don’t think that situation, where killer and survivor stand on the hatch, is survivor-sided. If they just jump into the hatch, the killer can grab them and carry them to a hook. They are just as powerless as the killer is in that situation. They don’t tea-bag to mock the killer, they do it to kind of communicate because they can’t really do anything else. That situation doesn’t give the survivor the power of deciding when the game is over and mocking the killer as they do so. It keeps both killer and survivor in the game and the only way to get out of it is one of them giving up and backing up from the hatch so that the survivor can escape or just jumping so that the killer can grab and sacrifice them, depending on their role.

    • Rituro says:

      “This is why gaming journalims [sic] is dead.”

      Columnists != journalists. Or, “journalits”, I think, to use your vernacular.

      Point is, people are still allowed to have opinions without killing the effectiveness of the written word. It’s a column and was presented as such. Calm down.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Even if it worked just like that, is this much of an issue? The game is designed around the idea that in most matches, the killer will only score one or maybe two kills. It’s not a game where you have the traditional winner team and loser team, rather the goal is to get points where you can. So having a free escape, is that really a big deal at all? It’s not a free escape anyway, as the last survivor you need to have found the hatch, gotten there without leading the killer there, and you need to have at least done a couple gens.

    • jomurph86 says:

      “This is why gaming journalims is dead.”

      Nobody here claims to be a journalist, ya crazy nut!

  9. JnnsMu says:

    “Their unique abilities are wrinkles in the rules rather than changes to the foundation of the game” I guess you haven’t played against a decent Nurse yet. She completely breaks the game’s core mechanics: She leaves you no option of escaping by blinking through pallets or anything else you mind find and rarely hooks anyone until she has every survivor in the dying state, unable to do anything other than wait for their sacrifice or crawl into a corner and bleed to death.

  10. DThor says:

    I stumbled on this game on Twitch and I must admit my basic reaction was blech. It just seemed the only emotion it created was one of endlessly being chased by a superior force. Dragging around batteries and other things necessary to win made you more of a target. I admire a well constructed horror film that plays on that feeling (there aren’t that many, most are simply *boo* moments), but this simply distilled that feeling into an endless *boo*. Meh.

  11. frozbite says:

    I used to be killer main. And was playing vs decent teams most of times, facing:
    every single trap destroyed if playing trapper;
    infinity loop abusing;
    when you check first or second gen, one already done or left in almost done state;
    when doors open, survivors wait you here, t-bagging you (9 out of 10 games);

    And survivors keep whining that game too hard for them. Its hard to balance asynchronous multiplayer game even for veterans of game industry and so its almost impossible for beginners.
    Quit game after spending around 2 months in it. But it wasn’t balance or survivors behavior issues for me (not in first place), release of not free dlc with additional content (map and killer) limited for dlc owners is overall bad politics, but game itself was too intense for me: you spend time starring into darknes, while trying to hear footsteps or breath wasnt for me, i just needed something more relaxing, something i could play listening music…

  12. WhiteWolf says:

    “The simple fact is that Dead By Daylight has the best multiplayer community I’ve spent time in since Rocket League. Both games reward what I’ll describe as good sportsmanship”

    Sorry, couldn’t keep reading. Fell out of my chair laughing that the hilarity. A good community? Good sportsmanship? You must have gotten some EPIC games, then, because all I’ve seen are survivors tea bag taunting the killer when they win, and more than a few claims of “camper” when the killer walked off to check a nearby generator, then came back. Or harassed a would be savior that got seen FAR too soon.

    Not to mention the survivors that quit because they’re about to go on the hook for a sacrifice.

    I’ve seen better communities in a petri dish at the CDC.

  13. z00163b1 says:

    It’s the first time that I read this:
    The simple fact is that Dead By Daylight has the best multiplayer community I’ve spent time in since Rocket League.

    I’m not agree with this. I stopped to play DBD for a while because of its toxic community. Maybe for you toxic communities are the best in the world. For me a good community is one where the 99% of people is nice but in DBD is the 1%.

    By design, Friday The 13th opens itself to unhelpful antics simply by dropping players in a miniature sandbox where they can either scurry around trying to help one another or simply disrupt the entire flow of a round. With Dead By Daylight, which has just stolen an entire weekend for me, I found the opposite to be true: everyone is making the game a better place to be.

    I’m no agree with this too.
    Both Friday the 13th and Dead By Daylight are different video games, but the behaviour of the players is the same. In both games I see people hide for all match, people who is teabagging, people insult to the killer or the other player when they die, people who is playing alone, people who try to help their teammates.

    The good of Friday the 13th is this game has a timeout. In DBD survivals can make that a match last hours and hours if they want. Also they can troll the Killer all time they want. In Friday the 13, a good counselor who know play very well can troll 20 minutes as maximun.

    This is the first article I read from this website, and I’m glad so much for it. Now I know what website I shouldn’t visit when I need information about video games. I hope you enjoy the money which you has received for telling lies.