In my list of the Top Games of 2013, I said that Outlast made the list for its peerless ability to scare me. I maintained that I’m not difficult to scare, and that’s true; at least when it comes to the sort of things I’m told must be scary. For example, Slender Man doesn’t scare me, because he doesn’t do anything. I know I’m supposed to be at my most scared when there is a dark, empty room ahead of me. But . . . no, I find the crazed inmates at Mount Massive Asylum charging at me screaming to be infinitely more frightening.
However, perhaps I’m just not trying hard enough. After all, an environment by itself can be a hundred times scarier than anything which actually moves. That was what I loved about the point-and-click adventure game Dark Fall. Set dressing and atmosphere have scared me in movies like Session 9. Oh look, another abandoned mental hospital!
How about we try some more of that? After all, whatever has the capacity to scare me into blithering hysterics once has the capacity to do it a second time! On that note, a game called Daylight is coming out for PC and PS4 at the end of the month.
Note that I’m not comparing the two. Daylight looks like a much more character-centric game than Outlast. Protagonist Sarah wakes up in the hospital in the dead of night with no memory, armed only with a cell phone. She’ll have to find ways of outwitting a supernatural threat which seems to have it out for her, personally.
The hospital and accompanying environments are “procedurally-generated,” according to the developers. I think that means “randomly-generated,” but it’s just obtuse enough that I’m not sure. In practice, though, it’s the same thing; no two play-throughs of the game will be exactly alike.
I hope for the game’s sake that it doesn’t squander the potential this sort of premise offers. Granted, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before: Amnesia, abandoned mental hospital, demonic threats in the shadows are all staples of a formula we can recite in our nightmares. But that gives them free rein to surprise us.
The key to a good horror game is vulnerability. Daylight appears to be a story centered on the main character, if Sarah’s panicky and sob-wracked voice-over in the trailer is anything to go by. We’ll have to wait and see if she’s a character we can identify with. If she is, we’ll probably share her fear. Here’s hoping I’ll be in blithering hysterics all over again!