The Dead by Daylight Experience
Downfall from Tactical Co-op Survival to Solo Casual Experience
Over the years, Behaviour Interactive's worldwide success, Dead by Daylight, swept the gaming market with riveting gameplay, player-versus-player experience, and compelling survivors and killers. After seven years of new chapter updates, character and perk reworks, and innumerable balance patches, has the game finally run it's course?
For those who don't know what Dead by Daylight is: the game is a cooperative survival experience that pits four survivors against a killer. The objective of the survivors is to power up five generators across the map and open the exit gates to escape, while the objective of the killer is to knock out survivors and place them on hooks to sacrifice them to the game's original deity: the Entity.
I began playing Dead by Daylight seriously when I starting hanging out with my new friends, which was just a bit before the third anniversary of the game (roughly March 2019). Back then, the game was much more of a cooperative experience than it is now. A player had to coordinate properly with his teammates in order to aggravate the killer and grab their attention, allowing the others to work on generators while the bait would constantly loop the killer around the map and buy enough time for the gates to open. If said bait gets knocked out and gets hooked, then at least two of the three teammates would have to coordinate properly in order to save them. The game had an extremely heavy focus on the concept of working together, balancing out extremely overpowered killer perks with player cooperation and coordination.
Gradually, the game started getting more and more players, eventually becoming a world-renown game over the course of the pandemic. The biggest contributor to the growth of the playerbase, however, happened in the summer of 2021. On June 15th of 2021, the update "CHAPTER 20: RESIDENT EVIL™" was released. Collaborating with famous Japanese developer Capcom, the update oversaw the release of two new survivors: Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine, a new killer: Nemesis T-Type, and an extremely faithful recreation of one of the most memorable places in the Resident Evil franchise: Raccoon City Police Department.
It was during this update that players from all over the world, both console and PC, started purchasing and player Dead by Daylight. With their ever-growing success and increasing fanbase, the developers at Behaviour Interactive started slowly drifting away from their already established playerbase and moving towards making the game appeal to newcomers and casual players. Their first course of action was to remove the ranking system in favour of a grade-based system. The ranking system was based on the idea that a player's skill should show the effort they put in and therefore, award them playing well. Players would go through a five-tier system (brown, yellow, green, purple, iridescent red) and go up or down a tier with evaluators known as Pips, having a reset at the 13th of every month that would put players to the tier before their current one (eg. purple to high green, iridescent red to high purple, etc.). The grade system that would replace it however, was just an evaluation of skill that would reset to zero at the 13th of every month. The developers ruined the overall competitive scene of the game, as with the original ranking system, the online matchmaking would queue you together with people who have a similar placement or colour, meaning relatively close skill level.
As the months went on, Behaviour started implementing more mechanics to try and make the game feel more fresh, while "balancing" old mechanics to "keep the game fair". The two game-changing factors that are currently an ongoing problem however, are the implementation of Boon Totems and Scourge Hooks.
Boon Totems were meant to be the antithesis to Hex Totems: five markers across the map that the killer can use via replacing one of his four perks. Hex Totems replace one of the base totems with a flaming one, giving the killer special benefits such as faster generator progress regression, no sound ques for skill checks, and restricting usage of killer-blocking advantages. The problem with Hex Totems is that once a survivor cleans them, they're gone for good. Boon Totems, however, are the survivor-equivalent of Hex Totems and much more abuseable than Hex Totems. Unlike Hex Totems, Boon Totems aren't lit at the start of the game. A player would have to find a normal or Hex Totem, then bless it to activate the boon effects. The only difference that makes it abuseable, is that unlike a Hex Totem where once it gets cleansed it goes away forever, a Boon Totem can be put up as many times as the player wants, even if the killer destroys it. It became so much of a problem that the developers had to address the issue multiple times and nerf the living hell out of the Boon Totems.
Scourge Hooks, on the other hand, are extremely killer-abuseable. Unlike normal hooks, they give benefits to the killer when they place a survivor on a hook, causing the survivors to suffer a penalty like a generator blowing up and making a survivor scream, or giving them a debuff until they get injured. Despite only two Scourge Hooks spawning in the map, they give ridiculous benefits to the killer, providing information and also allowing them render survivors unable to complete tasks to reach the endgame.
That said, the developers of Dead by Daylight over at Behaviour Interactive aren't doing enough to satisfy veteran players such as myself and others. It feels as though the game has become more of a solo experience rather than the cooperative survival it was initially advertise at. At some point, the game is gonna be overly gimmicky and promoting solo survival that it's gonna completely kill the old playerbase, and a new game would end up attracting veteran players. One such case would be the upcoming free-to-play horror game Video Horror Society, which promotes players being active and working together to kill the monsters. Regardless, I see the fate of Dead by Daylight to eventually hit a stop, even if they keep bringing in licensed killers and the like. After playing over a thousand hours over the course of three years, the game just doesn't feel fun anymore.