"Take the script, they said, it'll be fun, they said." Voice lines in Dead by Daylight aren't a common find, least of all once you've loaded into a match, but Nicolas Cage is the exception to the Entity's rules in more ways than one.
As I instruct the actor-turned-DbD star to crouch down and mend a generator, carefully minding his snappy red suit in the process, I tilt my camera up by accident. Nic Cage is face to face with The Onryo, and what does he do? He screams. I hit the A button while running, hoping to get a speed buff, and after half a second of high-knee jogging, what does he do? He screams. Dead by Daylight's newest Survivor and his meme-able perks are already shaping up to be a fan favorite on day-one of his public test build debut, and not only because it's hilarious to watch him fake his own death. I didn't have it on my 2023 bingo card at the start of the year, but Nicolas Cage has just rescued Dead by Daylight from its sophomore slump, and it's an absolute relief to see.
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Ask anyone what they think about Nicolas Cage, and the first thing they'll likely do is smile. He's one of Hollywood's best-loved leading gentlemen for good reason, known not only for his on-screen performances but an enigmatic personality too. That meta-level mystique carries over perfectly when it comes to his presence in Dead by Daylight, where his three unique Survivor perks will always keep you guessing.
'Dramaturgy' has the legendary performer enact half a second of high-knee jogging before you get one of four randomized "rewards". 'Scene Partner' makes him scream whenever he looks at the Killer while in close proximity. And 'Plot Twist'? It's certainly a twist, because you can make an injured Nic essentially fake his own death in utter silence before fully healing up and getting to your feet like nothing happened.
After weathering the long queue times and elbowing my way into five PTB matches, I found most people were there for the same reason: to see Mr Cage doing his thing in The Entity's realm.
With all of us Survivors taking Nic's requisite perks for a spin, it made for some truly hilarious moments: Scene Partner ensured that we were all screaming in terror whenever the Killer was near, which, in a game about being chased around by one, happens a lot. I also held myself back from rushing over to heal my fellow Nicolas Cages when I found them strewn dramatically on the ground, since Plot Twist only works when you perform a self-heal solo whilst in the dying state. A good few times, Dramaturgy flipped the script on me and I found myself inflicted with the Exposed status as well as Haste, opening me up to a one-hit down should the Killer catch up within 12 seconds.
Unlike more basic perks that offer little in the way of real consequence, Nic's signature skills are a fine blend of risk and reward. Not only that, but they actually have a chance of shaking up the Survivor meta builds of yore that have seen little change over the last few years, despite numerous new chapters, characters, and perks being added to the mix.
Out of all three Nic Cage perks, Dramaturgy is the one I had most fun with. Consequently, it's also the one that's least reliable. That in itself is what has the potential to make it meta-worthy, but also punish the player for using it too liberally.
Dead by Daylight's Survivor meta has long relied upon so-called "second chance" or Exhaustion perks as a bit of a crutch. Behaviour Interactive has made numerous attempts at nerfing repeat offenders, trying to force players into diversifying their loadouts, but many still hold tight to the classics. An obvious example is Dead Hard, a perk that previously let injured Survivors dash ahead mid-chase and avoid being downed. Since it now only activates after successfully unhooking a fellow Survivor, and the distance you cover has been cut short, players have been on the lookout for a new Dead Hard to fill the void.
Dramaturgy has the potential to be one such perk, since the Haste status effect results in your Survivor becoming exhausted after successfully making a speedy getaway. It can also only be used while totally healthy, with the trade-off of possibly leaving you Exposed to a one-hit down. Similarly, Plot Twist could serve as a clever trade-off for the nerfed medkits, which now only guarantee one full self-heal as the developers push us toward altruism.
Swap a medkit out for Plot Twist, and you can quietly and quickly get a full self-heal not once, but twice in a single match. Not only that, but it has the potential for some very funny trickery if you're a fan of bullying the Killer. There's still a degree of risk involved, as the Killer might decide to pick you up before you do.
And so, it's official: the Nicolas Cage chapter has well and truly saved Dead by Daylight from a barrage of comparable flops and predictable meta builds. It's great to see the DBD community rallying behind a new character so passionately, something I haven't seen since the Resident Evil chapters united us in Raccoon City, and the fact that Cage's appearance is earning it some outside interest is no small feat either. He doesn't properly set foot into The Fog until July 25th, but if my experience playing the test build is anything to go on, it'll be more than worth a standing ovation.
This year is a huge one for horror fans – check out our list of new games for 2023 if you don't believe me.