Dead by Daylight Chapter IX: Shattered Bloodline Review (Game DLC, 2018)
This review is based on the PC release of the DLC. I have not spent enough time on PS4 with the new DLC to make a fair assessment.
Behaviour Interactive, the developers of asymmetrical 4v1 survival horror game Dead by Daylight, have been working very hard to meet their stated timeline of a new chapter (DLC release) every quarter. This is a pretty grueling timeline for a comparatively small studio, especially since the game needs to update on PC, XBox One, and PS4. Every step back (like the Playstation store rejecting the Chapter VIII DLC for weeks after the PC and XBox launches) makes them work harder to prove that their fans deserve their trust. Each update always brings fixes, even if some of those fixes might throw something else out of whack.
A quick recap for those who might be unfamiliar with Dead by Daylight. This game pits a team of four survivors against one killer in a survival horror match. The survivors have to power five generators, unlock one of two exit gates, and escape before being killed. The killer has to track, attack, and hook the survivors to sacrifice them before they all escape. You earn bloodpoints for everything you do in the game and use those points to level up your character, adding new perks (special abilities), items, and offerings that impact how each match is played.
Let’s put the complexity of this game into perspective at this point. Aside from 14 survivors (on PC, Xbox One and PS4 do not get Bill from Left 4 Dead) and 13 killers, Dead by Daylight Chapter IX: Shattered Bloodline brings us to 25 maps, 51 killer perks, 56 survivor perks, and more add-ons and offerings than I care to count at this point. That’s a lot of game to balance. The trick is creating a platform that encourages players not to all just run the same four killer or survivor perks with the same items and offerings every game. Different elements come in and out of popularity depending on changes made to the game, and Shattered Bloodline once again is going to impact what is or is not meta. That keeps the game fresh.
Technically, Shattered Bloodline adds one killer, one survivor, and one realm (game world), and one map to Dead by Daylight. The DLC also comes at the same time as a new update, 2.2.0, for all players that reworks the Wraith’s abilities and add-ons to make him more viable in the current game. The Wraith gets built-in Windstorm—the ability to move faster for one second after uncloaking—and a complete rework of all his add-ons to make better use of the Wailing Bell—his power, lets him cloak to become invisible in the game—and tracking abilities. Essentially, everyone who plays gets a new killer and the option to pick up the new original killer, survivor, and realm/map for $7.99.
I’m a big fan of the game. I play it a lot. When I’m not playing, I probably have a Dead by Daylight stream up on my second monitor as background noise while I work. Shoot, there are times that I’m playing the game and watching someone else stream the game at the same time. A really strong community of players has formed online and I can’t imagine having stuck around for as long as I have without that level of support. This does no mean that I like everything the game does automatically or think all the DLC are actually worth buying.
Shattered Bloodline is a mixed bag. The new survivor, Adam Francis, has a great design and story. He’s a former English language teacher working abroad in Japan who gets taken by the Entity (the otherworldly force that pulls all the survivors and killers into the deadly game) when he sacrifices himself to save someone else during a train crash. Adam has the most formal default style of any male survivor, favoring a suit with a long overcoat in muted tones over the flashier colors or casual wear of the other male survivors. Since Survivors all play the same, it’s nice to see a survivor offer a new default cosmetic style.
Adam’s perks are another story. I’m really not a fan of any of them. Let’s break them down one by one (based on my experience in the PTB and from playing all day during the release yesterday while watching other people play on a second monitor).
First up is Diversion. Diversion is a brand new survivor mechanic unlike anything we’ve seen in he game before. If you can stay in the killer’s radius without being in a chase for 45 seconds, you activate the perk. Diversion allows you to throw a pebble while crouched that creates a notification explosion for the killer. Killers get visual and audio notifications when survivors fast vault through a window, run in or out of a locker, drop or sprint over a pallet, sabotage a hook, disarm or sabotage a trap, idle long enough to gather three crows, and miss a skill check on a generator. That’s a lot of information to process, but it’s basically the game’s way of giving killers any indication of where a survivor might be without a tracking perk. Diversion essentially creates a false alert 10/15/20 meters away from you, allowing you to distract the killer to help yourself or a teammate.
In theory, this could be a really useful perk. Imagine distracting a killer while they’re chasing someone else or breaking line of sight in a chase and throwing a pebble to misdirect the killer. That could really work. At low ranks, it does work. More experienced players just aren’t falling for it. 20 meters at Tier III is just not that much distance when killers like Nurse, Hillbilly, and the new Spirit can travel great distances very quickly. Diversion is a lot of fun to play, but it is not particularly useful in the game. I’m curious to see where the developers go with more aggressive survivor perks in the future.
Next up is Deliverance. Deliverance is a get out of jail free card for the hook. When you get hooked by the killer the first time in Dead by Daylight, you can take three attempts to pull yourself off the hook. With base stats, you have about a 4% chance of freeing yourself. Deliverance gives you a 100% chance of freeing yourself on your first hook if you can do a safe rescue of another survivor on a hook before you get caught.
I’m not going to lie. It felt great when I got this perk to work in game. Wait for the killer to leave the area, check and see if any teammate is coming in for the save, and decide on just the right timing to jump off the hook like it’s no one’s business. It’s the independent Unbreakable—pick yourself up from the dying state—perk for getting stuck on a hook. It’s great if it works, but it’s too conditional. Not only do you need to not be the first survivor hooked (you can’t unhook yourself the second time you go on a hook), you need to unhook someone else and make sure they do not go down within 10 seconds of being saved.
Further, using Deliverance leaves you Broken. Broken is a new status effect in the game that I’m sure the developers will be expanding on in the future. When you use Deliverance, you are unable to heal yourself back to full health for 100/80/60 seconds. You’re essentially forced to run temporary No Mither and risk being downed and hooked again with one attack from the killer instead of two. You cannot heal or be healed until Broken runs its course. For me and my playstyle, the Broken status effect on top of the unhook someone first conditions doesn’t work for me.
The third perk is Autodidact and, I’ll be honest, it just doesn’t make sense to me. This is the most RNG-reliant perk in the game and it just doesn’t need to be.
Autodidact has you collect tokens to improve your healing speed. Your first skill check actually regresses the health bar 20% when healing someone else (not yourself, doesn’t count). From there, each token earned from hitting a skill check can increase your healing efficiency until you can fix 60% of a health bar in one skill check.
A potentially useful perk is made pretty untenable through a series of limiting decisions. First, Autodidact does not apply to healing with a med-kit. You can either gain efficiency through hitting skill checks or just heal faster with any med-kit. Second, skill checks just do not pop up with any consistency or predictability while healing. A perk that requires you to hit skill checks rarely gets anywhere near enough tokens to make it worth actually regressing the health bar progress to gain any real benefit. There are literally add-ons to med-kits that increase the amount of skill checks you encounter, which would make Autodidact viable, but for the sake of balance, the developers made it so you have to use your regular heal and not a healing item. There might be some synergy with Botany Knowledge or Leader, but there is no other perk that increases skill checks. Autodidact is a needless challenge with no real reward.
Here’s the thing. You’re probably not picking up Shattered Bloodline for Adam Francis. Sure, I love that there is a teacher in the game (and an English teacher at that), but he’s not the make or break of the DLC. The killer is, and she’s glorious.
The Spirit, aka Rin, is Behaviour’s spin on the modern J-horror ghost story. Rin is studying to be a teacher (look: the first actual connection between killer and survivor in a non-licensed DLC) in Japan. She lives with her parents and takes on a job to help pay the bills when her father becomes unemployed. She comes home one night to see her father brutally murder her mother in a rage. He then turns his rage on her. She is sliced up with the family’s katana and escapes by jumping out a window. Her father leaves her for dead, but she swears revenge and is captured in full rage by the Entity to play its game.
The Spirit has what I believe is the coolest and scariest design of any killer in the game yet. Her long black hair floats above her head, framing her face stuck in a permanent expression of pain, betrayal, and rage. Her body is covered in shards of reflective glass and some of her limbs are literally separated from her body. She’s a ghost, through and through, held together to enact revenge.
Her power is two-fold. First, her M1 weapon is the katana her father used against her. It is hidden inside her arm and essentially tossed out with a flick of her wrist when she goes to attack. Her special power is Yamaoka’s Haunting. This grants her the ability to enter an ethereal plane for a limited amount of time. Survivors cannot see her as she moves faster for five seconds before reappearing. The Spirit cannot see their physical bodies, but she can hear the survivors and track their sprint marks. She leaves a husk of her body behind her that takes on her terror radius as she’s free to move undetected by the survivors.
The Spirit has a high skill ceiling. She’s probably the most difficult survivor to control other than the Nurse. She might be harder to use. Not being able to see the survivors really balances out her speed and stealth ability, but takes a lot of getting used to in order to use effectively. When you learn to pick up on the signals, you’re going to consistently get within striking distance of survivors who don’t hide or double-back to mask their tracks. I don’t have fun playing the Nurse—the blink controls are too finicky and disorienting for me—but I have a ton of fun playing as the Spirit. Frankly, I think having access to the Spirit herself makes the DLC worth buying if you enjoy killer.
The Spirit’s perks are much better than Adam’s perks, but they’re not necessarily useful for the Spirit herself. It’s an odd dynamic we haven’t really seen for a killer before. Her perks are actually interesting and have a lot of potential, but I personally don’t see them as the best options available for her.
First up is Spirit Fury. This is the perk I cannot see myself running on her at all. Spirit Fury rewards you for playing aggressive and allowing survivors to drop pallets on you. For each 4/3/2 pallets you are stunned with, you gain the ability to instantly destroy a pallet the next time a survivor drops one on you. You still get stunned, but the protection of the pallet is instantly gone and you don’t have to waste time destroying it after being stunned. The Spirit is all about the mindgame on the pallet, going into the ethereal plane so the survivor can’t anticipate how to effectively loop. This is a great perk but not for her.
Killers that struggle to counter loops now have a perk that gives them a bit of an edge in those chases. Pair it with Enduring, the perk that allows you to recover 50/60/75% faster from pallet stuns, and you’ll have survivors thinking twice about dropping a pallet on you. For a full meme build, add on Brutal strength, the perk that lets you destroy pallets/regress generators 10/15/20% faster, and you can eat pallets all day long.
Next is Hex: Haunted Ground. This one actually is useful for the Spirit and is probably the strongest totem perk in the game so far. Essentially, Hex: Haunted Ground activates two trapped totems to trick the survivor. When a survivor cleanses the Haunted Ground totem, they force all survivors to suffer from the Exposed status effect for 40/50/60 seconds. That means you can knock them down in one hit instead of two all because they decided to touch your totems.
I love this perk. I see myself using this perk in any killer build I can spare the slot for. Paired with another Hex perk like Ruin that encourages survivors to break totems, you can essentially force the survivors to get desperate enough to give themselves Exposed for up to a minute depending on the Tier of the perk. From a survivor perspective, I tend to break hex totems just to be safe (and I know I’m not alone), so there’s a good chance just having lit totems with no other hex perk will trick survivors in enough games to justify using a quarter of your perks on Hex: Haunted Ground.
Last up is Rancor and it’s something else. Rancor is an obsession perk, an aura reading perk, a status effect perk, and a mori perk wrapped up in one. Each time a generator is completed, the obsession can see the killer for 5/4/3 seconds. The killer, in turn, sees the survivors’ locations for three seconds after every completed generator. After the last generator is complete, the obsession has Exposed, can be downed in one hit, and can be killed by the killer’s own hands whether they have been hooked or not in the game already. It’s an instant mori for one survivor without having to use an offering.
Rancor is going to work for specific builds. Again, I’m not sure The Spirit needs this level of information or if she’ll benefit from tunneling the obsession at the end, but I imagine killers who roll with obsession perks like Dying Light or Save the Best for Last will make good use of this perk. Much like Adam’s perks, it’s really satisfying when Rancor works as 3 seconds of being able to see the killer at Tier III might not be long enough for the survivor to realize Rancor is in play. Unlike Adam’s perks, Rancor is pretty consistently useful (any location information on survivors is helpful) and has fair conditions. You just need to find the Obsession after the last generator goes off to use the full benefits.
The new map and realm, the Yamaoka Estate, looks really cool. It feels small and, ironically, puts the Spirit at a terrible disadvantage. The dark tall grass and plants all over the map hides the scratch marks, making it much harder to track survivors while using your power. Killers who lack map control—especially Hag and Trapper—will do well in the smaller space. Yamaoka Estate is not a bad map, just a bad map for this killer.
Ultimately, I recommend picking up the Shattered Bloodline DLC. I like Adam’s character design, just not his teachable perks. The Spirit is the best killer added to the game since The Huntress and allows for a lot of strategy in what perks to use and how to wield her power. If you don’t like Adam’s character design, it might be worth saving up your Iridescent Shards to buy The Spirit from the store that way. Original characters can be purchased with in-game currency you earn by leveling up instead of money. They’re expensive and will take a lot of game time, but you can technically obtain all but eight of the characters (4 killers, 4 survivors) with shards. I prefer buying the DLC outright just so I get the character right away and work on leveling them up, but I also know how even $8 can make a difference when the budget is tight.
Dead by Daylight: Chapter IX: Shattered Bloodline is available for PC, PS4, and XBox One now. If you pick up the base game at Humble Bundle, I get a percentage of the sale and so does the charity of your choice. I default to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund but you have 1000s of options.