Stumbling along a forest path, hidden from the sunlight and shrouded in darkness, where the trees have eyes, and you know that whatever lies beyond the shrubbery is out to get you. This terrifying situation is something that I’ve experienced in both Dead by Daylight and Alan Wake 2. With both titles utilizing cosmic horror to create an unearthly sense of fear, it’s no wonder that they sit so comfortably next to each other.
Recently, we learned that the latest survivor to be thrown into Behaviour Interactive’s asymmetrical horror game, Dead by Daylight, will be the noir crime writer Alan Wake himself. The multiplayer horror game is known for collecting numerous horror game characters, whether they be brutal killers like Jason from Friday the 13th or iconic monsters like the Xenomorph from Alien. Anyone who’s anyone in the horror genre enters the fog, so it’s no surprise that Wake is making an appearance.
But these two games have more in common than just being terrifying entries on our best horror games list. In fact, after a roundtable discussion with the game director of Alan Wake 2, Kyle Rowley, and the creative director of Dead by Daylight, Dave Richard, it’s clear that this collaboration was meant to be.
Out of the darkness
If you haven’t come across cosmic horror before, then simply put, it can be described as horror stories that include an ancient, uncaring, and/or powerful being or deity that exists beyond human comprehension, which challenges the character’s sense of reality.
Both Alan Wake 2 and Dead by Daylight take inspiration from similar sources, like the works of horror author Stephen King, slasher movies, and art-house horror. While these comprise a broad spectrum, cosmic horror joins these together and forces the player into an uncomfortable and horrifying sense of helplessness. Whether this be traversing The Dark Place in Alan Wake 2 or the entity's realm in Dead by Daylight, there are plenty of scenarios in both of these horror games that make the player feel insignificant and terrified.
“The Dark Place is like a nightmare that feeds off elements of your psyche and then conjures it in a nightmarish way,” Rowley explains. “It’s very similar to some of the concepts that you guys have with the entity realm in Dead by Daylight. It’s slightly more like cosmic horror in the sense that these entities are unknown; they don’t even have a face.”
I can recall many times in which I got lost in the confusing and supernatural Dark Place. Despite looking like New York City, this place was undoubtedly otherworldly; faceless cultists trudged along dimly lit side streets waiting to attack, and the constant dread of facing the unknown evil entity, Scratch, always kept me on edge. This confusing place is certainly successful in making you feel small and helpless.
This unnerving feeling is also prevalent in Dead by Daylight. Most of the time, I find myself frantically scurrying around abandoned towns or mossy forests, desperately trying to fix generators, knowing that any moment, a terrifying monster could appear out of nowhere and drag me away to be hung on a hook and left there to die.
“The fear of the unknown is a core pillar in Dead by Daylight,” Richard says. “Every time you load into a match, you don't know where you are, who you will face, what they’ll be using, what their strategies are going to be. So obviously, that is fear-inducing, or at least stressful for sure.”
However, it’s not just the killers that have all the power; just like in Alan Wake 2, some of the more creative survivors can have some influence. “Our characters are influencing the entity, and also being influenced by it,” Richard explains. “What they bring to Dead by Daylight is their memories and their influence that can populate the world with interesting things.
“There's a concept in Dead by Daylight where, because it's a multiverse and because the entity can break off into realities of different timelines and different universes, there are some people, especially artists, that can be conduits.”
Richard goes on to describe how this created a “chicken and the egg” type problem as developer Behaviour Interactive considered how best to approach Wake’s creative powers. In the end, it’s up to fans to decide whether it’s Wake writing the reality of the entity or if it’s the entity’s realm that is poking through to Wake’s reality.
Regardless of how it happened, Wake is probably one of the best-equipped survivors out there for dealing with this cosmic horror. “He's been trying to survive for 13 years in The Dark Place, trying to figure out ways to overcome these kinds of horrible entities that are coming after him,” Rowley says. “So I think that as a survivor for 13 years, moving into [being a] survivor for Dead by Daylight is a perfect fit. I think he can bring a few tricks to the table to help players.”
We’ve already seen which perks Wake will bring to Dead by Daylight on January 30, 2024. While these do look incredibly helpful, it will be exciting to see just how well the novelist fits into this strange and warped reality.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.