Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle released a demo as part of the Steam Next Fest earlier this week. A third-person survival horror title, it's the prequel-sequel to Daymare: 1998. Players take control of a spy turned H.A.D.E.S. member by the name of Dalila Reyes. Equipped with an experimental scanner and a plethora of weaponry, she explores a massive research facility in hopes of escaping with her life.
If this sounds remarkably similar to a mash-up of Resident Evil tropes, it should. The first Daymare game began its life as a Resident Evil 2 remaster before Capcom pulled the plug. As such, players who enjoyed the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 or 2020's Resident Evil 3 should feel comfortable with the controls and navigating the environment. Even the inventory UI functions similarly to the remasters, with limited slots and a grid-like system. Reyes' health is displayed numerically and color-coded, which is a helpful barometer for gauging when to heal and when to conserve supplies. The HUD elements are easy to comprehend and convey information effectively.
Gameplay in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle
Combat in the demo is pretty standard third-person shooter fare. Reyes has a limited number of bullets, but as someone who's played a lot of survival horror games I never felt starved for ammo. Her "subweapon" is a recharging canister full of a special coolant. This manifested in several ways, from a simple conical short-range spray to an explosive projectile. If grabbed by an enemy, Reyes can also discharge some of its energy to freeze nearby enemies. And that's important in Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle, as enemies are quite tough if you don't slow them before blasting them to bits. This is fine when you're facing a single enemy, but in packs of three or more pulling off the total freeze can prove problematic. The mysterious electrical charges animating them coalesce and find another charge in an active host when you kill an enemy. This makes them stronger and eventually immune to firearms without freezing them first. Unlike the Resident Evil remakes, the basic enemies here are particularly fast, aggressive, and evasive. They were more than able to keep up with my running speed. Because of that, I didn't feel rewarded for evading combat, I just felt I delayed the inevitable for a few moments. I managed to give them the slip a couple of times, but I couldn't tell if it was their AI or an inability to follow players through doors.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle's demo doesn't overstay its welcome. It's a short introductory sequence that teaches you to use the spray to put out fires and solve a simple puzzle with an overheated set of pipes. A few enemy spawns help teach the player the basics of combat. Towards the end, the player comes to a huge hangar. I encountered some performance issues here, and it seems other players had similar issues when panning the camera towards the big, open space. Besides that blip, I didn't encounter any other technical problems.
Put simply, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle plays a lot like Capcom's survival horror remasters, but it is developing an identity distinct from them. Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle has a different tempo and energy to its gameplay, but maintains a good sense of survival horror tension. There are some good ideas buried in there, such as using the subweapon to solve temperature-based puzzles, and I hope to see more of that brought to the surface and refined for smoother execution. If I knew the performance issues were fixed, I would seriously consider picking it up for myself.
Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle will release sometime in 2022, though the team has not confirmed a date at this point in time. It will be available on PCs (via Steam), and both PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
TechRaptor previewed Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle on PC using a copy freely downloaded during Steam Next Fest.