It’s no secret if you follow me on Twitter or talk games with me regularly that Dead by Daylight has been my go-to game for nearly a year now. I was introduced to DbD by the wonderful Kate from Blogging with Dragons back in August of 2022. I’ve been playing regularly since. This is, however, the first developer update I’ve experienced with the game that has truly sent me for a loop (hah). I wanted to discuss some of the changes that developer, BHVR (Behaviour), has proposed for the Public Test Build period that began this week. Unfortunately, this test is only open to PC players, and as a Console Pleb, I’m not able to contribute. Theoretically, following the PTB, these changes will be implemented permanently for the entirety of the playerbase.
Before I get into it, I just want to explain where I’m coming from, and what I’m focusing on: I’m a Survivor main, and will be talking changes coming to that side of the game. Killer mains that are thrilled about these proposed changes probably aren’t going to care about anything I have to say, nor will they find any value here. So keep it moving. For the record, I don’t agree with a lot of the general nerfs they’re proposing for the Killer Perks either. But anyway. There’s a lot of salt and strong opinions on both sides of this game, but I’m committed to remaining constructive and neutral for the sake of this discussion. As a Survivor and regular solo queue-er, I just can’t agree with these changes BHVR has proposed.
Dead Hard is not OP
That’s right – read that subtitle and weep. For those not as familiar with this game, Dead Hard is a survivor perk (of which you can equip 4) which essentially allows you to take an extra hit from the Killer without being downed, and entering the Dying state. You are Exhausted for a certain amount of time (depending on the grade of the Perk), and cannot use it again until your Exhaustion disappears. Dead Hard is definitely one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) Survivor Perk in the current meta. It can be used to extend chases, save you from an otherwise deadly attack (while you’re Exposed, for instance) or get you out of a tricky situation when you might otherwise just die.
Dead Hard already went through a big change back in the summer of 2022 – the Perk originally functioned quite differently. Previously, when you activated Dead Hard, you would lunge forward with a burst of speed to put distance between you and the Killer. This didn’t really take any “skill” and the Killer had no way of countering. This version of Dead Hard was OP. As it is currently, Dead Hard is activated with a button press, and lasts for 0.5 seconds – if you’re hit during this animation, you gain the Endurance status, and enter the Deep Wound state rather than being downed.
Killers hate this perk, despite it a) not working as intended half the time and b) having an easy counter of simply waiting it out. If I had a dollar for every time I used Dead Hard and it didn’t work (for whatever reason) I’d probably be able to afford every single custom skin in this game. I’ve also had many an awkward moment of trying to bait the Killer into hitting my Dead Hard, only for them to hold their swing, and then look me in my both eyes as they club me over the head and send me sprawling. Ouch. Not to mention the amount of times I Dead Hard as the Killer swipes at me, only for them to unintentionally miss, and be rewarded with a free down after I’ve wasted my use and Exhausted myself. But you know what? It be like that sometimes. I accept these potential pitfalls because no other Perk does what Dead Hard does – no other Perk gives me the amount of options during a match that this one can. I also feel obligated to point out that Dead Hard isn’t even useable against certain Killers, Deathslinger and Legion being the first two that come to mind. These Killers are able to put you in the Deep Wound state immediately, which nullifies the use of the Perk.
Take this clip I posted on Twitter for instance. I’ll set the scene: I’m in a solo queue game, unable to communicate with my fellow Survivors, and we’re facing the Trapper – it’s a great map for him, with tons of sneaky places to put down his bear traps and catch one of us unawares. He’s already killed the other three Survivors – I’m the only one left. He’s closed the Hatch. My only option is to try and get one of the exit gates open. Because the Trapper has to monitor both doors to try and catch me, I manage to get the one gate about 90% of the way open before he’s on me. I let go of the switch to let him hit me – otherwise, he’d be able to pull me off the door and the game would be over. After he hits me, he has a brief cooldown, and I’m able to get the gate the rest of the way open. In a maximum clench exit, I Dead Hard off the switch as the Trapper tries to down me – he activates the Perk and I’m able to beat a hasty retreat to freedom.
Is this why Dead Hard is OP? Because I robbed that Trapper of his four kills? But here’s how I see it: this Killer had already murdered 3 of the 4 Survivors in the match. He’s killed more Survivors than have escaped. He’s already won. You can’t see the end screen in that clip, but this Trapper also got more Bloodpoints than any of us Survivors (myself included, even with my bonus for escaping). From my perspective, the Killer still “won” this game. I’m not sure they’d see it the same way. So, Dead Hard affords me some escapes I might not get otherwise, or allows me to take a free hatchet from a sniping Huntress while I’m on the run – however, this still hinges on me activating my Dead Hard successfully, and making it to a pallet, or another loop immediately. If I don’t, I simply delay the inevitable for a few seconds, and the Killer still gets their down. Killers aren’t “winning” or “losing” matches based on Dead Hard (much as some seem to think this is the case).
Part of why I love Dead Hard so much is because it can (theoretically) help me out in some not-so-survivor-friendly situations. For example, on several maps, there’s the one lonely corner generator that no one wants to touch – it’s in the middle of nowhere, with nary a pallet in sight. If the Killer finds you on this gen, they’re getting a free hit regardless, and you can’t do a thing about it. With Dead Hard, I can (again, theoretically) still soak up another hit after being stuck in this shitty situation. The gens gotta gen in order for the Survivors to escape, and Dead Hard gives me a slight safety net to handle some of the ill-placed ones. And obviously this is just one example – Dead Hard helps to get around some of the “one-shot” killers like Michael Myers (if I’m already injured, I can Dead Hard through his stabs), Ghost Face, and Bubba with his chainsaw. It evens the playing field, so to speak.
Dead Hard 3.0
According to the Developer Update posted on March 25, as of Patch 6.7.0, Dead Hard will be completely different. From BHVR:
Dead Hard will activate after safely unhooking a Survivor. When activated, press the active ability button while injured and running to gain the Endurance Status Effect for 0.5 seconds, then become Exhausted. Dead Hard will then deactivate.
This will put a damper on how often Dead Hard can be used, keeping it as a powerful reward for Survivor who have earned it.
In my humble opinion, this is an awful change as it encourages what is already a significant problem for survivors in Dead by Daylight – tunneling. As with many online games, there’s an unspoken “etiquette” to DbD; when a Survivor comes off a hook, the Killer doesn’t immediately go after them again. When a Killer continuously pursues the same survivor, said survivor is unable to heal, work on gens, or help their team at all. Of course, this is a massive boon to the Killer, who can prey on a single player and get them out of the game extremely quickly – a 4 v. 1 scenario then becomes a 3 v. 1. In that case, it’s nearly impossible for the Survivors to finish all five generators and escape.
I’m curious then how many Killers will start to adopt tunneling as a regular practice in the age of this new Dead Hard – if the Killer is suspecting the unhooking Survivor is running Dead Hard, and their pursuit would eventually be thwarted anyway, what’s stopping them from going after the Survivor who just came off the hook? Your immunity thanks to Endurance when being pulled off a hook only lasts for 10 seconds. Unless everyone starts running Off the Record or Decisive Strike, you risk being downed and hooked again almost instantly. Ideally, you wouldn’t pull a survivor down while the Killer is still in the area, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. And Dead Hard still functions the same way, with a button press, and still has to be activated with the right timing. This means I can get my safe unhook, be chased, and still miss my Dead Hard or have it nullified because the Killer has bad ping. I’m jumping through extra hoops, and still taking on all the risks of this Perk, with potentially zero benefit.
Overall, Dead Hard is being stripped of its versatility and changed in a way that’s going to make it much harder on Survivors. I’ve seen way too many Killer mains responding to frustrated Survivors on Twitter, “huehuehueing” to themselves as they gloat and type out “Sounds like you’re just dependent on this one Perk, cry about it.” And maybe they’re not entirely wrong. Dead Hard is a must on every build I have, because again, no other Perk does what Dead Hard does. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s a risk I’ll happily take for the chances that it gives me. To have that taken away and replaced by something that will not only encourage tunneling, but is useless without a safe unhook (I’m potentially wasting an entire Perk slot on something I may or may not get any value from) is a huge blow to anyone who uses this Perk regularly.
I’ll end this Dead Hard section with a final spicy take; the real tea, in my ever so humble opinion. I think a lot of Killers who complain about this Perk are the ones who don’t want to have to think. They don’t want to have to consider Dead Hard during a chase, or win a potential mind game. They committed to that chase, they want their Survivor down, and they want to move on. This is a competitive game, at its core – so why is this vocal minority of players so afraid of this kind of competition? This new version of Dead Hard is functionally similar, though I now have to fight with the rest of my team for unhooks in order to use it. There are tons of other ways to nerf this Perk, if BHVR genuinely thinks it’s somehow unhealthy for the game (which I fundamentally disagree with). I just don’t think this change is right.
The way that healing works for Survivors is receiving a major overhaul, and it’s another unfortunate change players are going to have to contend with. I don’t know how “OP” healing is, because I don’t play Killer regularly – but I do know that the changes the developers have proposed are, in short, not it. Not only is healing going to take longer than before, but having your teammates heal you is effectively the only reliable option for recovery during a match. For anyone who plays alone, with random survivors they aren’t able to communicate with, this is an absolute nightmare. This makes running a Perk like Bond (which allows you to see the auras of your teammates within a certain distance) or Empathy (which does the same thing, but for injured teammates) feel like a necessity. How am I supposed to heal if I can’t find my teammates? And this is assuming you’ll have teammates willing to heal you at all. Running around injured is a terrible idea, especially now that Dead Hard is no longer an option. And bringing certain items can only help so much.
Med-kits and Circle of Healing
With different add-ons, Med-kits (an item that can be used by Survivors to heal themselves, rather than relying on their teammates) could be modified in a variety of ways to both speed up healing, and afford the user multiple heals from a single kit. According to the patch notes, by default, Med-kits will now have enough charges for a singular heal. With the rebalance of add-ons, it is “now impossible for a Med-kit to fully heal a Survivor more than twice in a match.” I don’t feel like this is inherently bad in and of itself, however, this change comes in conjunction with the Boon: Circle of Healing nerf. Previously, blessing a Totem with Circle of Healing would create a limited area where Survivors could come and heal themselves using the Boon (the Killer could kick the Totem to snuff it out). Now, Circle of Healing only works if you have a Med-kit (which are now, by default, one use items) to slightly increase your speed while healing another Survivor. This effectively makes Circle of Healing completely useless. These changes force you to rely on your teammates for healing almost exclusively.
Not only are Med-kits and the meta’s most popular healing Perk being nerfed into the ground, but healing is now going to take even longer. Previously, healing from the Injured state to the Healthy state took 16 seconds. It will now take 24 seconds. At surface level, this may not seem like a big deal. But there’s one major problem here, and it’s only going to be compounded by an extremely popular Killer Perk: Sloppy Butcher. With Sloppy Butcher, Killers can inflict Survivors with the Hemorrhage and Mangled status – this increases their healing time, and if their heal is interrupted before it’s complete, it not only alerts the Killer to their location, but resets their healing progress to zero. In the framework of this new update, a Survivor hit by a Killer running Sloppy Butcher will now take (potentially) more than 30 seconds to heal. We’re not even going to talk about how long it would take to heal with a Perk like Self Care. Okay – so what?
Let’s talk numbers for a bit – when a Survivor is on a hook, they remain in that stage of the hook, either first or second, for 60 seconds (this is also assuming said Survivor hits all their skill checks in the second hook phase). You can probably see where I’m going with this now. Picture this: you’re in the end game – all the generators are done, and the gates need to be opened (or maybe you’ve already got them to 99% and are ready to escape). But there’s one problem. One of your teammates is on a hook. Of course you don’t want to leave without them, but chances are, at least one of the remaining Survivors is injured. The Killer is camping the hook (which is fair, they want to secure the kill). In order to successfully unhook that Survivor and get everyone out alive, all the Survivors have to be healthy. So for this example, let’s say there’s 2 Survivors injured, and they want to save their third teammate on the hook (the fourth is already dead, god rest them). Best case scenario, there’s no Sloppy Butcher – it takes the first Survivor 24 seconds to heal the second Survivor, and vice versa. That’s a total of 48 seconds. The Survivors now have a grand total of 12 SECONDS to get to their teammate before they either enter their second hook phase, or as is more likely given the end game scenario, just die because this is already their second hook.
The “collapse” time frame once the gates are open is already limited – assuming the Killer isn’t running No Way Out or Blood Warden, which can temporarily prevent your escape anyway. This puts a huge crunch on Survivors for time, and makes a ton of potential scenarios feel futile. Imagine Survivors being forced to group up and heal constantly against a Killer like Bubba, that can instantly down multiple Survivors with his chainsaw. I think it’s much more likely that Survivors being hooked at the end of the game are left behind – it’s already difficult enough to stage those kinds of rescues, let alone now with even more restrictions being placed on Survivors. Imagine playing the game of your life, taking the Killer on a legendary chase while all 5 generators are completed, and your reward is being left behind on a hook to die. What larks.
Teamwork ain’t making the dream work
If we, as Survivors, have to rely on our teammates to heal us, this effectively makes scenarios like the above completely impossible. Even more so with Killer Perks that increase Survivor healing times. If BHVR is committed to having Survivors work as a team, then they should be rewarded for doing so – if you’re able to rally together and successfully unhook a teammate being camped in the end-game, you deserve to make that escape together (controversial opinion, I know). While healing may need some kind of nerf, it certainly isn’t to this extent. Circle of Healing could be limited use (for example, each Survivor could use the Boon once to heal and then it would disappear) and only allow for a single Boon to be up at a time. There are tons of alternatives I believe should be considered before almost entirely removing the ability of Survivors to heal themselves. I can’t even imagine how games against a Killer like Legion – with a power based upon injuring Survivors constantly – are going to go with these new changes. And this isn’t even considering the add-ons that certain Killers like the Trapper can utilize to keep Survivors injured (he has one that injures you each time you disarm one of his traps) to slow the pace of a match.
Time will tell
Anyone who has ever been forced to do a group project in their life can relate to the utter dread of knowing that you have to rely on others in order to succeed. Definitely looking to Feng, Bill, and Claudette to lower my coffin into my grave after I die, so they can let me down one last time. Thanks team. With the nature of these updates, I foresee a future where being a regular solo queue Survivor is nigh on impossible – good luck getting that Dwight who’s been hiding in a locker all game to heal you. I guess what I’m getting at is this: I’m starting to see a potential future where Survivors are forced to either run healing builds, or gen-rushing builds to have a shot at making it out of a match. And we all know how much Killers love gen-rushers. So what happens then? No toolboxes or Brand New Parts? Do they nerf all the gen related perks? Do we also get rid of Sprint Burst and Lithe when those inevitably take the place of Dead Hard, and Killers start complaining that those are overpowered? Should we #NerfPallets? Should Survivors start spawning into the game on hooks? Okay, I’m being dramatic, but seriously.
I feel like the competitive nature of Dead by Daylight is beginning to take over the – wait for it – fun elements of the game. I know, having fun playing games is a wild concept, but stick with me. Part of what makes DbD so fun for me personally is the “troll” things you can do – running perks like Power Struggle and Any Means Necessary, for example. You can drop a pallet and then immediately reset it. Perks like Deception can be hilarious when you trick the Killer into checking a locker as you breeze by. There are so many niche Perks that you can use to create unique builds. You can still take the game (somewhat) seriously, and be an asset to your team. The direction the game seems to be moving, especially with these new possible changes, feels like it’s sacrificing the fun along the way; I think it might be worth asking the question: are we willing to sacrifice fun in favour of trying to reach a competitive balance that, let’s be honest, may be impossible?
It’s the nature of a competitive game that both sides want to win – and ideally, the game itself is as balanced as possible, of course. However, it’s worth acknowledging that some things are never going to be perfectly balanced. Not all Killers are going to get a 4K every match, and not all Survivors are going to survive every match either. Killers are going to camp, tunnel, and slug, and certain Survivors are going to rush gens, and t-bag at the exit gates. That’s just how it is. Some Killers are going to struggle, while some are adept at chases and pressuring gens to control a game with an iron fist. Certain groups of Survivors are going to be skilled 4 stacks that are communicating with each other throughout, while some are going to be disorganized and won’t complete a single generator. It’s pointless to try and cater the game towards the most skilled, and I do believe there’s a happy medium to be reached for both sides.
Ultimately, I believe changes should be gradual and measured, rather than the drastic shift we’ve seen proposed. I know BHVR is a developer that is committed to improving their game, and I’m sure they want to see it thrive along with the community that has grown to love it with them. Hopefully this PTB, and the feedback they receive from players, is constructive and well-reasoned – nothing positive is going to come from vitriol and hateful words, so I do hope the players reporting their thoughts and experiences are… behaving. I’ve loved this game since I first tried it (back in the day when I was fast vaulting everywhere, and making every mistake under the sun) and I hope it continues to evolve in a way that allows for both fun and relative equality between Killers and Survivors. While I’m fearful of these potential changes, I can only hope for the best, and cross my fingers that the Entity is feeling benevolent at the end of the day.