"Daymare" (2020) Review from Justin!
A press copy of the game was provided by the publisher and in no way factors into the final thoughts of this review. As well this review will contain spoilers so you have been warned.
I remember seeing a trailer for Daymare back in 2015, then known as Resident Evil 2 Reborn. It was a fan-run remake of the original Resident Evil 2 that was announced only a month before Capcom themselves revealed the existence of Resident Evil 2 Remake. While the 2015 project looked promising, I am glad they stepped back and turned Daymare into its own thing.
While the game makes it very clear it is an ode to the classic Resident Evil games, Daymare does try many things to set itself apart. The big question is does it work? Not at every attempt but it did take me by surprise and I enjoyed a lot of it's tweaks (both big and small) to the classic RE system. Now it is time that I really get into the meat of this review.
The story begins with Special Agent Liev and team en route to retrieve a deadly bio chemical from a facility where said chemical has leaked, turning all the people there into the undead. I for one really enjoyed this setup! It was almost as if we were playing Resident Evil from the other side and it was interesting how clearly they set the tone, forcing you to kill a survivor in the first three minutes of the game! You then work your way through the lab killing zombies, retrieving the sample, and then basically leveling the building. On your way back to base Leiv turns on his fellow teammates, killing them. He ends up having to jump out of the helicopter because of this massacre. That moment is unfortunately where the story becomes a very subpar ‘zombies take over the town’ story.
Although I was intrigued by the story being from different points of view, my overall issues with the story made it not really add anything in the end. My biggest issues are the games writing and voice acting. Games like Resident Evil HD ride that line of cheesy and good, but Daymare tries to commit to hard to seriousness without any potential to push its dialogue. I felt myself very quickly not wanting to listen to the characters but the story as well, and that is a huge issue. When you do not have well written characters, you truly do not care if they live or die in the scenario, is there anything that can really save it?
This is where I saw the most promise out of Daymare trying to improve some of the system mechanics of classic Resident Evil games. To start out, Daymare has this....interesting reloading system that brings some well needed tension to gunning down zombies and monsters but it is also very tedious. For starters you have gun clips and each of those clips can be filled with bullets. If you leave a couple bullets in a clip you can in theory reload that clip in back later and it would still have the same amount of bullets left in it. This is where the tediousness comes in. Each time you swap out a clip and want to reload it with bullets you have to open your menu (which does not pause the action) and manually select the ammo you want to put in the clip. It just becomes a little much even within the opening hour of the game.
The cool part about this mechanic is that you have two options when reloading, which adds some cool tactical options when facing down the hordes. The first option is if you find yourself having a few extra seconds you can attempt the slow reload, which does what I explained above. The second option is a quick reload which takes fractions of a second, but you drop the clip on the ground. You can go back for it later but it also leaves you without that extra bullet or two which could be the difference between life and death.
The next thing Daymare does to mix things up is its heal system. Using healing items that go into your quick heal slot will up your Overdose meter. Fill your Overdose meter too high and it will actually start to hurt your character over time. There are items like energy bars that you can heal with that take more time to use but be sure to not risk that Overdose. That seems to be the biggest push in the gameplay of Daymare, do you want to risk doing something fast?
The other somewhat significant thing that Daymare adds is hacking. You find throughout your journey Override cables, that allow the player to hack. It really does not add much other than a hacking minigame that can lead to cool and sometimes useful rewards.
I do want to tip my hat to Daymare because the thing it does best is recreating the really intriguing puzzles from classic Resident Evil games (minus the very, very infuriating Greek puzzle in the opening chapter).
The zombies in Daymare are kind of a mix of fast and slow zombies, so jog zombies I guess! When they grab you they vomit up some green stuff on you while you mash the X button. Failing to do so will drop your health and eventually kill you. Speaking of zombies, headshots will not kill them in one shot, it usually took me between three or four. You have to pay attention because even after that they get up sometimes. I was caught off guard numerous times by what I once thought were zombies I had put down.
Overall I think the zombies and creatures of Daymare look really good! They are very creepy and to see them jog-shuffling towards the player from a distance in a dark setting can be really effective. Seeing the more evolved zombies basically running at you made me yelp in terror more than once.
The real big issue with the graphics in Daymare comes down to the human characters. They all just seem so bland and their animations are very stiff. There are times where they do some action oriented stuff in cutscenes but it just comes across as poorly directed. This is very unfortunate because the monster work in Daymare is fantastic!
If it wasn't for the subpar voice acting I think this is where Daymare would have really shined. Every shot has weight behind it, the zombies and monsters all sound fantastic, and it really got to me everytime I could hear one and not see it. I would stop what I was doing and frantically look for the culprit behind the sound because I knew if I let it be, that would be the one to get me. The background music all sounds very creepy and is a good mix of Resident Evil with it's own little spin. There were a couple times I thought that this music would fit right into a Resident Evil game.
But when it comes to voice acting I think everything it gained by having all these magnificent soundscapes becomes lost. The voice acting is really stiff and just as a whole unpleasant to listen to... for every character. I don't think there is much to gain on talking about the negatives of it so I am just going to leave it at that.
Daymare does a good job setting up this very oppressive feeling through its sound design and level creation that really help carry you through the game, making the player ready to fight or run from whatever they come across. There were multiple times I had some genuinely good scares and a bunch of times that I felt a real sense of dread being trapped in a room with the undead. I wouldn't say there is anything here that will really stick with you in your dreams, but Daymare does do a good job of making you fear what's behind every door and around every corner.
My time with Daymare was a bag of mixed emotion, and I think it's because it wears the inspiration for the game right up front. That also makes it really hard not to compare it to those games. I think Daymare is absolutely worth a playthrough, but be sure not to come for the story but for the puzzles and gameplay. I am really excited to see what this development team does next, and I really hope it's something that is their own vision since there are hints of something very special sprinkled throughout Daymare. I just do not think overall they get a chance to shine through. Again I think this game does have its issues but if you're the kind of person like me who likes games along the lines of Deadly Premonition or Alpha Protocol, you might find yourself really liking this game. It's just hard to recommend at full price. This game, for me, is a Wait for a Sale.