Survival horror like it’s the nineties all over again – Daymare: 1998 from Destructive Creations and Invader Studios delivers a nostalgic horror game experience in 2019 that’s coming to consoles later but is already available on PC. Here is our review.
Daymare: 1998 doesn’t waste any time trying to hide its source of inspiration. It features a city overrun with the undead as a result of a chemical that’s tied to a sinister organization. Sounds kind of familiar, right? Destructive Creations used the Resident Evil franchise as an inspiration for their title, and taps into the fondness that many people have for the original games in the series – something Capcom also recently did with their remake of Resident Evil 2.
Our time with the review build of Daymare wasn’t the first time we went hands on with the game, by the way. We met with the team at Destructive Creations a few weeks ago at Gamescom as well to get a brief intro on the game as well as some hands on time. That slice of gameplay translated well to the final experience, though the full game features changes of perspectives between three main characters in the story and the demo didn’t (or we just didn’t get far enough in it).
Daymare has its own secretive military organization, and it’s ominously called H.A.D.E.S. Two of the characters you’ll be playing as, Liev and Raven, are members of this organization – whereas the third playable character is Sam, a local forest ranger who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Each character experiences the disaster from their own point of view, offering a different take on what’s going on each time the perspective switches.
Although the controls and skills of the three characters are similar, their unique situations give them more (or less) to work with in terms of supplies and weapons. Ammo is scarce in the game, and the game doesn’t shy away from telling you that “running away might be the best option.” Judging from our playthrough, it’s not even a question of “might”, it’s the best option whenever you have it. Without it, you might find yourself running out of bullets at a time where you desperately need them. It’s a bit of a shame because it’s very satisfying to get out of a tricky spot by blowing a zombie’s head off, but yeah… in the spirit of 1998, it fits.
Speaking of ammo and thus inventory management that harkens back to 1998, you only have a limited amount of stuff you can carry around with you. This can be frustrating, especially when you’ve just gone out of your way to unlock a special area that gave you access to new items only to find that you can’t take them or have to get rid of other supplies first. Definitely a nostalgic experience, but it’s one I could have done without. Supplies can be stored in select spots throughout the game if you want to avoid dumping stuff, but here you have to be careful to not run out of the items you need as you proceed towards the next stash location.
A very neat way of making Daymare: 1998 feel like a retro experience is the device you carry around on your arm that lets you check things like your inventory and the map of the environment. These things were usually tucked away in menus on the original Playstation Resident Evil games, and this approach is much more immersive, especially because the danger around you doesn’t stop coming when you decide to check your inventory. Your device’s map feature can also help you find hidden rooms and save points, so it’s worth checking whenever you see something that could house a secret. And what’s especially cool from a “1998” perspective is that the user interface on your device looks very “original Playstation”.
It’s a nice visual touch, because the game itself features modern graphics that elevate it far beyond what was the norm back in 1998. Sure, it’s not as polished as Capcom’s recent productions, but Daymare: 1998’s developers definitely didn’t limit themselves to what was possible with 1998 hardware either and it’s a game that sits comfortably among other AA games. The camera work is more like the kind we got since Resident Evil 4 as well, eliminating the awkward camera angles that plagued the first three Resident Evil games. Some of the voice acting isn’t up to par though, which stands out more because the visuals did receive a fair amount of polish.
Gameplay is what you’d expect if you have some experience with the genre, with puzzles that occur here and there and usually require you to find or manipulate an object in the environment – or has you hitting the right buttons in the right order, based on clues you find. The puzzles are generally well designed, with only a few that are devoid of challenge and even fewer that are so difficult or seemingly random that they become frustrating. Boss battles can have that effect though, as even on the default level they represent big spikes in difficulty.
Daymare: 1998 is a quality ode to a beloved era of horror games, albeit with some rough edges – a fair few of which stem from the “1998 factor”. If they decide to make Daymare: 2005 (or whatever they want to call it), I’ll happily dive back in though.