How do you survive in Dead by Daylight? Perhaps you're a master of distraction. You might swear by your shrewd use of Add-Ons and Perks. Or maybe you're the best palette-hoarder the asymmetric multiplayer survival horror genre has ever seen. As a newcomer earlier this year, our own Alyssa Mercante found Dead by Daylight difficult to get into – until she started killing her friends. And as grim as that may sound, everyone, it seems, has a strategy for staying alive within this twisted star-studded murder playground.
But what of the old heads of Dead by Daylight? The ones who've risen from the grave time and time again; who've been hacked to bits and impaled on hooks more times than you or I have had hot dinners. How does the dev team at Behaviour Interactive itself survive until dawn – and who among Dead by Daylight's Hollywood roster of chilling celebrity slashers terrifies them most?
"My favorite way to get scared in Dead by Daylight is by setting up some atmosphere," explains influencer manager Mae Morrison. "I'm a huge nerd for aesthetics, and I have my hue lights synced up to my games battle station to give me some creepy effects. Now, when my nemeses Ghostface and Michael Myers get me, I not only scream but my lights start flashing and it's mayhem. A lot freaks me out in DbD, but add some low lights, candles and a stealth killer, and I'm sobbing like a baby."
Trick and treat
The mask-wearing, stalker pairing of Halloween's Michael Myers and Scream's Ghostface are well-placed in Behaviour's scariest Killer rankings across the board, but Morrison is also freaked out by Japanese horror flick Ringu's Sadako Yamamura. She adds: "I saw Ringu at a film festival in high school and had no idea what I was in for. I couldn't sleep for a week and she still haunts me, just also now in DbD." Introduced in the 'Rising' update earlier this year, Yamamura plays to her ethereal strengths with a library of mind-warping, reality-bending skills – that includes her ability to teleport around the map by climbing through television sets as per her signature gimmick in Ringu (and Samara Morgan's in American horror flick The Ring). Her ability to control several areas of the battlefield at once makes her an interesting character in both attack and defense, and what she lacks in obvious physical stature, she more than compensates for in delivering psychological terror.
To this end, mental prowess can be just as powerful as anything else in Dead by Daylight. Even among the brutes who specialize in their hands-on approach to slaughter, roleplayers can terrify by combining brains and brawn. "Which Killer do I find the scariest? Either of the stalking Killers – Michael Myers or Ghostface still creeps me out," explains community manager Dylan Del Col. "There’s something that’s so unsettling when you catch them staring at you. You have no idea how long they’ve been there, and they get stronger by stalking you."
"As for what I find most terrifying about Dead by Daylight overall, that has to be the Survivors, surprisingly. I watch and play a ton of horror, so I’ve become pretty tough to scare. I let my guard down when playing Killer because I’m supposed to be the big scary guy, so when a Survivor jumps out unexpectedly and drops a pallet on me? Still scary to this day. As a player, I switch between the two depending on my mood these days, but I started as a Killer player because you don’t often get to play as the Killer in horror games. There’s something so satisfying about sneaking up and surprising someone that never gets old – especially when they panic and stop moving. You just know they screamed and dropped their controller."
Mix and match
For creative director Dave Richard, it's Dead by Daylight's mix-and-match makeup that governs its scares. Across its 29 Killers and 33 survivors, each laden with perks and special abilities, players have plenty at their fingertips to determine the outcome of matches, with Richard's go-to Killers those who leverage stealth and surprise mechanics, including The Wraith (one of the game's original Killers), Michael Myers, and Ghostface. "It's the uncertainty, that's both thrilling and stressful," he says. "The game’s chaotic nature, vast amount of mix and match content, and the agency of human players over the use of this content make each experience unpredictable and potentially scary."
"I play both Killer and Survivor, but tend to prefer the former as I'm more of a role-player than a competitive player. I prefer playing the Killer to spook the Survivor and see cool scenarios unfold on-screen."
Which is, at its heart, what Dead by Daylight is about – the incidental, unplanned, and unstructured moments that unfold on the fly over the course of any given match, that are both exhilarating and terrifying for all parties involved. Naturally, the scares are more tangible on the side of the Survivors, but the sense of achievement gleaned from outsmarting and overcoming the likes of Leatherface, Nemesis, Pinhead, or Pyramid Head is likewise second to none. For influencer manager Morrison, that sense of camaraderie in the most twisted of virtual (but safe) settings is what keeps her perpetually perched on the edge of her chair. "I mostly play Survivor," she says. "In terms of a multiplayer gamer I enjoy the social aspect, and being able to really get scared in a safe space with my friends is my favorite."
"Also, when I watch horror movies I always had a soft spot for the loner/scrappy/alt underdogs that would find themselves and fight back. So it's initially the fear of this big bad, adrenaline, and then the triumph of beating a big scary supernatural foe."
Dead by Daylight's Halloween event, Haunted by Daylight, is live now – more info lives on the game's website.
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