Early last week, I had the chance to preview the survival horror game, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle. This entry is set before the events of Daymare: 1998, which was released in 2019 to questionable critical reception. However, it was Invader Studios’ first release and was made by a relatively small team. Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle has a team of fewer than forty developers on it and looks to be a step up from their first release.

First up is the graphics and it is impressive. Invader Studios uses Unreal Engine 4 to craft a run-down research lab that is relatively immersive. The team uses environmental clues like green lights to guide the player on where they should go. From an animation standpoint, everything was smooth except the backpack which would shake when riding up elevators. I was mostly impressed by the settings menu which not only featured a benchmark tool but also DLSS. Both of these features were surprising to see on a game this size. I personally didn’t need to use DLSS since the game ran at 80 to 110 FPS for me on 1440p max settings with my RTX 3080. Invader Studios recommends an RTX 2060 for an optimal experience since the build is still a work in progress, but they expect it to run even better in the months to come.

Credit: Leonardo Interactive

On the gameplay side of things, this game truly felt like a combination of Resident Evil and Dead Space. In the thirty minutes that I played, I experienced two puzzles. One was a computer game where you matched symbols which I enjoyed. The other involved the character having to freeze multiple pipes that would continue to get hot. It probably took a quarter of my demo time to finish this puzzle because I had figured that I missed something since the pipes would continue to unfreeze themselves. However, it turns out I wasn’t freezing them for a long enough period of time to last the entire duration needed. The combat wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as responsive as I hoped it would be. You would combine the use of the freezing tool and your guns to take down the creatures, but sometimes it felt like bullets were just bouncing right off them and they would grab ahold of you.

There wasn’t much of a sample size since the protagonist Dalila didn’t actually have any conversations and just made quirky remarks, but the voice acting didn’t leave me impressed. However, my mind can obviously be changed once I listen to her in an actual conversation with someone. I didn’t experience any bugs or technical issues, but I did have one more complaint. I felt like Dalila moved a little bit too slow, even when sprinting. It wasn’t the end of the world in a thirty-minute demo, but I question how it would start to feel after a few hours of playing.

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is scheduled to release sometime later this year, but you can play the demo that I experienced right now through the Steam Next Fest which will run from February 21st to the 28th. Thank you to Leonardo Interactive for providing the early preview copy.

Credit: Leonardo Interactive

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