How to live and die in Dead By Daylight

Slasher versus survivors multiplayer kill ’em up Dead By Daylight [official site] is free to play this weekend (and right now, in fact), which is splendid news. It failed to win me over when I played it around launch, but I love it now. I think the change of opinion is as much down to my expectations shifting as much as any updates to the game, but it is in a better place now, unlike its characters who appear to be stuck in an endless cycle of slaughter.

Here are a few reasons why you should give the game a chance this weekend, even if you don’t know anyone else who is playing, and a few tips to help you get the most out of your time.

Surviving solo is HARD…

In horror movies of the type Dead By Daylight is drawing from, there’s usually only one survivor. That survivor is often a woman, a trope examined in the neat 2015 movie The Final Girls and every script Joss Whedon has ever been in the same room as. Dead By Daylight doesn’t go in for a sole survivor sort of experience though; sometimes all four will escape, sometimes nobody will escape, and sometimes two or three people will make it to the exit.

The fact is, if you’re the last one standing you’re not going to get any kind of bonus to reflect your steely determination and willpower. The game will throw you a bone, opening a hatch that gives you an immediate escape route that doesn’t require teamwork, but you’re probably going to die. That’s because Dead By Daylight is a cooperative game, even if it doesn’t always behave like one. Solo survivors are at a huge disadvantage because there’s nobody to distract the killer. Think of a herd of gazelles when David Attenborough is pursuing them ravenously. The weakest, slowest members eventually drop away from the rest and that’s when the hungry natural historian strikes.

Without a herd, you’re the slowest, weakest prey animal by default. Big Dave is gonna get you.

…but playing with strangers is great

You don’t need to know any of the other players to enjoy Dead By Daylight. There’s no voice chat and the entire game is brilliantly designed to encourage cooperation even when the other survivors seem to be doing everything they can to save their own skin at the expense of your own bacon.

The beauty of the game is that even if you’re being chased and murdered, you’re contributing to the team effort. It might not feel like you are but by taking up the killer’s precious time, you’re freeing up space for the other survivors to repair generators and take one step closer to freedom. Even the most selfish survivors end up making sacrifices for the greater good, because everything that helps them, helps everyone else as well. And by doing just about anything useful, they draw attention to themselves.

Even if you screw things up repeatedly, missing prompts and causing generators to backfire, you’re making noise and distracting the killer. Basically, as long as you’re in the game, you’re contributing.

Being the killer is not easy mode

The first time I played as the killer, I didn’t kill anyone. That’s a serious problem considering the killers aren’t supposed to do anything except kill people. It’s not just that they’re angry possibly-dead people out for some form of misguided revenge, it’s that they’re trapped in a game of stalking and slaughter, doomed to play a game of cat and mouse lest the entity they serve punishes them. Killing is not just a pastime, it’s their entire raison d’être.

Killing is hard though. Much is dependent on the skill level of the survivors. If they’ve mastered some of the cheesier arts, they’ll lead you a merry dance, running around in circles and reversing or zig-zagging just as you’re about to chop them into pieces. Smart survivors are slippery creatures and it’s not unusual to spend five minutes of a round chasing them all over a map, only to realise that’s exactly what they want you to do.

See the previous point: a distracted killer is the best possible kind of killer as far as the survivors are concerned.

To play well as one of Dead By Daylight’s ‘orrible murder-monsters, you’ll need to have your wits about you. Patrol the generators, using them as targets rather than trying to chase every shadow of a victim that you see, or blundering into the dark whenever you hear a twig snapping underfoot. Remember that sometimes they want you to chase them. As long as there are generators left to activate, they’re not going anywhere, no matter how fast they run.

Since I last wrote about the game, I’ve heard negative reports about playing as a killer from a few people who know the ins and outs of it all far better than I do. Survivors, they tell me, often use Skype or Discord to organise themselves, tipping the odds far too much in their favour. This, combined with some of the cheesier tactics available (which I won’t describe in too much detail because I’d rather you didn’t use them) does make playing as the killer a thankless task at times, but I’ve had many a good time when I come across a hapless crew. Just don’t expect everything to go your way if you’re on the side of the devils.

Levelling up isn’t all that important

You’ll get some nifty perks as you rise through the levels with survivors and killers alike, but focus on enjoying the chase rather than trying to maximise your score. A lot of the stuff you’ll get on the procedurally generated upgrade trees is disposable – literally in the case of offerings, which are burnt at the beginning of a round to add some modifiers.

This isn’t the kind of game that wants you to push your face against the grindstone before you can start to have fun though. If you’re not enjoying it with low-level characters, you’re not going to suddenly reach a point where the good times start to roll.

The weirdness of the setting is important

Unlike the thematically similar Friday the 13th, Dead By Daylight isn’t actually trying to simulate a specific horror movie, or even a specific scene from a horror movie. Instead, it has a strange conceit whereby survivors and killers alike are trapped in a sort of pocket dimension, repeatedly playing out the sequences that make up the game.

It’s all a little abstract, from the maps to the hard and fast rules about sacrificing survivors. They get hit, they fall, but they do not die. In fact, the killers don’t directly kill their prey. They catch them and carry them to hooks where they are sacrificed to a big nasty entity that’s hanging about in the sky.

This odd conceit bothered me when I first started playing. I wanted to be in a slasher movie or at least in an actual place trying to survive, but instead there was this very limited space with a very strict ruleset. Friday The 13th is much messier but it is at least trying to be a simulation of sorts; Dead By Daylight could almost be a boardgame.

I came to terms with that quite quickly and now I see the whole killer theme as window dressing on a game that is more concerned with smart cooperation than with the thrills and (blood)spills of horror movies.


The Hag is the most horrible of all horrors

Each killer has a special ability and Lisa Sherwood, The Hag, has the nastiest ability of the lot. She can create phantasm traps that cause copies of herself to spring into life, shrieking, when survivors stumble too close. No matter how many times I encounter them, I panic and flee. Usually straight into the claws of the actual hag.

Toying with survivors is absolutely fine and a good thing to do

You’re playing as the killer and you see a survivor running into a locker to hide. She doesn’t know you’ve seen her. What do you do?

If your first thought was to stomp right over there, tear open the locker and drag the survivor to a hook, you might be playing the game wrong. Sure, I’ve talked about being an efficient killer but if you really want to enjoy Dead By Daylight, it’s ok to slow down from time to time.

What you’re going to do in the scenario I described is open the lockers on either side of the victim’s locker first. You’re going to make that survivor think you might have spotted her but that you’re not quite sure if she was in locker number two or locker number four, while you know the whole time that she’s definitely in locker number three.

Either she’ll try to make a break for it while you’re checking the neighbouring lockers, or she’ll hope you’re as stupid as you look and stay put. Either way, you’ve earned the screams.

And maybe the person in that locker will be you, and maybe the killer dragging you out will be me. Or perhaps it’ll be the other way around. I play most days so we might well meet out there. As long as you’re not the hag, we’ll get along just fine.


  1. TeePee says:

    Ah, I love the idea of this game, right up until it involves the logistics of playing it with strangers on the internet and all the asshattery that involves, no doubt double during a free weekend.

    Seems like it’s one of those games that’s genuinely good fun when it’s played as it was intended to be, rather than exploited by the ‘win-at-all-costs’ crowd.

    • PananaBeel says:

      It’s completely understandable why you’d have reservations regarding online matchmaking. However, I’m not sure what you mean by playing the game it’s meant to be played.

      I participated in the free weekend with a similar attitude and was surprised how successful the matches were with random players. Granted, some games had clueless teammates, or those who were not focused on the objectives (repairing generators, saving teammates). However, it wasn’t so bad.

      Have you had a chance to try it out?

    • iucounu says:

      – Just bought this, and having played a few rounds there’s actually zero room for ass-hattery. There’s no chat, all the game mechanics militate against ass-hattery, it’s actually nice.

  2. ChiefOfBeef says:

    It’s extremely important that we DO talk about the extensive crutches survivors use, some of which are borderline exploits of mechanics that survivors expressly lobbied the devs for. Survivors know they have the devs ears, it’s why they try their hardest NOT to understand the labeling of these tactics even as almost all of them above rank 15 use them. If the devs were to actually know what action players mean when they use terms like ‘pallet-looping’, they might actually acknowledge they exist, that they are exploits and that they should really do something about them. As it stands, the devs misunderstanding what pallet-looping is because the survivor-mains talk about it as if it were something else has led to the ‘solution’ being introduced called Bloodlust. This causes the killer to gain a few points of extra speed every 20 seconds or so of chasing, which is great against rank 20s who don’t know where every pallet and juke-spot is, but has minimal effect against pallet-looping.

    • subprogram32 says:

      isn’t pallet looping when you just jump over low walls over and over again because the killer can’t go past them or hit them in the jumping animation?
      And yeah not talking about the exploits is all well and good *in theory* but in practice anybody who wants to use them will find out in two minutes anyway, while anybody that wouldn’t might try the game only to find out how annoying said exploits are to a newcomer trying to have fun.

    • PananaBeel says:

      I have a hard time believing developers of the game are clueless as to how people are playing. They’re designing, implementing, and testing mechanics, receiving feedback from players and community moderators. They’re far from ignorant.

      As for pallet looping: As killer, it’s quite easy to circumvent this. First, if you’re so invested in capturing that particular survivor in that specific context, you can randomize your own movements to confuse the survivor who will then miscalculate their pallet-hopping, thus leaving them vulnerable to attack.

      However, I strongly recommend leaving them alone as it’s not productive to pursue them, and much better to go back to patrolling generators or roaming the map.

  3. BaronKreight says:

    Going to try it.

  4. Red_Fox says:

    I tried it after reading this and I’ve put around 3 and a half hours into it as a killer. I’d say it isn’t worth your money yet but it has potential.

    I found it kind of dumb to be this big super killer minion of an elder god of some kind yet I can do nothing about the generators once they are on.

    After 3 hours as a killer I can tell I’ve already seen all it has to offer at least on the top of the food chain. Not to mention the other players are little bitches about something known as “Face camping”. I was even supposedly reported for it.

    Face camping means guarding a survivor that you’ve hooked, preventing others from unhooking him. They bitch and moan about it at the end of the game. Yet it’s the only sensible thing to do as a killer because unhooking can be done in 1 second no matter how much of the “entity” has a grip on them. To let them be unhooked is in a way letting them win.

    On one map it’s profitable to use the hook that’s on an elevated hill which you can watch from a nearby open window, and corner the would be savior.

    What a generation of pussies this country has managed to raise. Whining like babies over a valid tactic.

    PS, also I lost a lot of progress as my first killer choice. Got knocked off and was busted from level 4 to 1. Didnt like that much.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Actually “camping” a hooked survivor is only effective against unskilled survivors. Especially now that damaging generators is back in the game, three survivors who know they are completely safe while their friend is on the hook can pretty much guarantee you won’t snag a single one of them. And you need to kill 2.3 of them to “win” and gain rank.

      It’s typically much more effective to patrol without completely forgetting about the hook, damaging generators on that side of the map and aiming to chase one of the two survivors as they escape after the unhook. This way you keep at least two survivors away from repairs, and force the survivors to all still play cautiously while someone is on the hook. If you can chase them down after the unhook, re-hooking causes them to die much more quickly than they would if you had just camped them.

      Now, what ruins this, are survivors who off themselves (by trying to escape and then failing the “struggle” qte) when they see that they’re being camped. This utterly destroys the massive advantage camping gives to the survivors. What sucks is that I can understand why survivors do this, being camped is completely and utterly unfun. You spend at least 2 minutes joining a game only to play for 1 minute and then sit waiting to die for 2 while being camped. Even knowing the importance I get super tempted to stop giving myself fucking carpal tunnel for the sake of disincentivizing camping.

      Also, camping is extremely effective against really stupid survivors who divebomb the hook while you’re staring at the damn thing.

  5. AutonomyLost says:

    I’m imagining sir Attenborough four-extremity galloping like a cheetah in pursuit of a herd of gazelle and… it’s funny :)