Thanks to the likes of 2019’s Resident Evil 2 and 2020’s Resident Evil 3 remakes, we’ve had a solid dose of third-person survival horror in recent times; but even with the resurgence of old-school mechanics of the genre, Daymare: 1998, which tells the story of three survivors during an outbreak, aims to bring an even more true-to-form horror experience that pays tribute to the Capcom classics while carving out its own identity.
It is successful, though? Well, yes and no. Daymare, which comes from the humble Italian indie dev Invader Studios, looks like a real love-letter to the more popular Resident Evil franchise, but the way it feels and moves doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Ambitious, but flawed
Invader Studios has done a great job on Daymare‘s visual presentation and art direction, providing familiar yet unique environments that take full advantage of the Unreal Engine 4’s impressive lighting capabilities. Dark rooms and littered streets with dynamic light sources deliver an uneasiness and lived-in feeling in the world, but the studios’ indie nature does reveal itself when a really close look is taken.
And this is the biggest problem: while it feels so close to Resident Evil, it’s hard not to make the comparisons (even if it is unfair), and the contrast tends to make Daymare feel somewhat dated.
While the game looks (kind of) like a new Resident Evil game, Daymare shambles its way with some visual shortcomings and gameplay stumbles. While the game controls like an older survival horror, this isn’t by design. Movement is slow and sluggish, while shooting doesn’t have the precise snappiness of other games in the genre. That’s not to say the game can’t aim for its own feeling in combat, but the shooting generally feels lacklustre and fails to deliver any real punch, in both the weapon impact and effect bullets have on enemies.
Speaking of, the enemies, while serviceable, don’t throw too many curveballs. Most of the time, you’ll be fighting run-of-the-mill zombies who don’t keep you on your toes, attacking you at the same shuffling speed until they grab you. And yeah, zombies are supposed to be simplistic by nature, but it just ends up feeling like you’re fighting paper-targets sliding towards you, rather than having dynamic enemy encounters.
Great idea, unconventional delivery
However, there is an interesting design-choice when it comes to resource and weapon management. Players have to manually reload their clips, by going into an inventory menu (which operates in real-time and doesn’t pause the game), and combining an ammo clip with bullets. Players can also quick-reload, but you will need an already-loaded clip in your inventory to do so. It adds an interesting element of stress and tension to combat moments, but as intriguing as the idea is, it may also turn away those who don’t like navigating tiny menus.
Daymare: 1998 is an admittedly ambitious (and frankly admirable) attempt to breathe life back into the survival horror genre; and maybe it’s just bad timing, but with the RE remakes doing such a stellar job and being on the market, it’s hard to push Daymare as an option above them. That said, if you do love the genre and don’t mind some rough edges, Daymare offers horror fans some familiar fun that’s far from a bad game.