Dead by Daylight Has Gotten Shockingly Scary
For me, Dead by Daylight is a bit of a known beast. I play it casually with my friends almost always as survivors, with occasional solo romps as a killer when I’m in the mood. After watching Scream (2022) I grabbed Ghost Face and got back into the game. It turns out that right around the same time that I did, the Sadako Rising expansion dropped, adding Ringu‘s Sadako as a new killer. Right after that came Roots of Dread, adding a new original killer known as the Dredge. Both also add in something I didn’t think Dead by Daylight could do for me anymore: genuine terror.
Both killers are teleporting killers, Sadako to TVs and Dredge to lockers, with a twist. For Sadako, if you see her teleport too many times (seven to be exact. Get it?) she can jump scare you to death. Also, she can be invisible and phase through walls up to a certain distance from you. As for Dredge, if it teleports too many times then the game will temporarily enter a special mode called “Nightfall” where it becomes pitch black and Dredge will have any survivors in its field of view highlighted. These mechanics have terrified me more than any other single addition to the game.
I knew all of this couldn’t be an accident. It’s, simply, way too scary by design. So to confirm this suspicion, I had a chat with Dave Richards, the Creative Director of Dead by Daylight. “What is scary is very subjective from one person to the other,” Dave told me. “I would not say we are making a decision to move more towards horror but indeed with the graphical rework and a bigger team, we are able to explore and go in-depth into chosen themes which creates a more fantastical horror effect.”
Dave told me that the goal for Roots of Dread, and more specifically for its killer The Dredge, was to look at the theme of fear as a whole. “We explored how the boogeyman is represented in various cultures and thus inspired The Dredge,” Dave told me. However, it wasn’t just the killer inspired by this. “Even with Haddie, our Survivor, the theme of fear is present in her backstory which I’m glad we could also explore from that angle.“
It seems like this exploration went well. Several of The Dredge’s abilities, especially its power to pop out of lockers, are constantly leaving me terrified. I had to ask Dave if this was intentionally made to be a survivor’s worst nightmare, and he admitted that it wasn’t. “But we were hoping again that this would tap into a primal fear, the fear of someone disturbing you “at home”, where you feel the safest. I think this is why it works so well, because it is so unsettling!“
I had a couple of other random questions I had to ask Dave that didn’t really fit the rest of this, including if we’d see the return of the Moonlight Bouquets items (short answer: no), if future killers will also focus on being so scary (short answer: yes, but not in the same way), and thanking him for the recent Ghost Face rework. I was also asked by several co-writers to see if we can expect a Dead by Daylight chapter based on the classic 1980’s TV series Murder, She Wrote, to which the answer was “Nothing is off limits.”
However, Dave wasn’t the only mind I picked about this. I also had a question answered by Dr. Mathias Clasen. Clasen is the director of the Recreational Fear Lab, which studies why people use fear as an entertainment source. He has also written several books on the subject, including last year’s A Very Nervous Person’s Guide to Horror Movies. If there’s anyone who’ll know something about casual fear, it’d be Dr. Clasen.
“For many players, fear is like the secret sauce in their favorite burgers, or the jalapenos on your pizza—that extra kick,” Dr. Clasen explained to me. “For horror fans, the fear itself is attractive. It’s what they come to the show for.”
What I really wanted to know is if the experience of being afraid would make the game more fun for the survivors. Likewise, would the experience of scaring people be more fun for killers. In that sense, Dr. Clasen echoed what I already figured, that fear serves as a magnifier, something that takes an already good experience and makes it better. “…I would imagine that for horror fans, playing as a Survivor would have a particular appeal, whereas for players who are maybe not so enthusiastic about horror and about being scared witless, playing as a Killer has greater appeal. So it depends on what kind of person you are.“
As an aside, Dr. Clasen was more than happy to tell me what kind of person he is. “Personally, I prefer playing as a Survivor because I really enjoy immersing myself into a frightening fictional world, but I can see why somebody less drawn to scary games would prefer playing as a Killer.” Here’s hoping I get a chance to scare you as well.
The next confirmed Dead by Daylight expansion is the Resident Evil-themed Project W. The last Resident Evil expansion brought us Nemesis as a killer, and I imagine this one will go for another shlockey chase-heavy killer (don’t think I didn’t ask Dave: “All I can say is that you are going to love it!” is all he’d tell me.) To also be totally fair, there’s still quite the thrill of being chased by a giant monster. I’m looking forward to this expansion, and my hopes are future Dead by Daylight expansions will be just as terrifying.