The Yakut company Fntastic has released its own prop hunt – externally similar to Fortnite, internally – to Dead by Daylight. It is unlikely that fans of both from Propnight will be delighted, but here you can have fun with friends, even if one of them is a ruthless and creepy monster.
The roots of Propnight come from the Garry’s Mod mode for Counter Strike: Source. Like it was with MOBA or Battle Royale, the idea of the independent programmer became the basis of a whole subgenre, and for almost ten years has been bearing modest fruit: from hide-and-seek modes for online shooters (Call of Duty, Fortnite), to full-fledged games (Prop Hunt, Witch It).
Participants of Propnight competitions are divided into two camps: some play as a rule armed hunters, others run away from them or hide, turning into inanimate objects of the environment, just like mimics in Prey.
Fntastic changed the formula a little, borrowing for prop hunt core mechanics from another popular game – the asymmetric horror Dead by Daylight. In Propnight there is only one hunter (aka maniac), and four survivors (we’ll call them so hereafter). The stalker needs to catch them all to win, and the stalked need to escape from the level within the allotted time.
The timer is a very important element of Propnight gameplay. If the pace of DBD is affected by the agility of the maniac, who is a sooner or later will find and eliminate all the enemies, if they do not fulfill the conditions of the match, then Propnight – try to find them.
There are seven minutes per match, but extra seconds are awarded for rescuing a comrade and fixing the Propmachines (the equivalent of generators). In this way, Propnight tries to encourage active players.
Just like in DBD, survivors need to repair five machines in the allotted time, performing reaction checks to avoid attracting the attention of the maniac, who (again, just like in DBD) must find them, wound them and take each of them to the Hypnostool (analog of the hook) three times. Survivors see the auras of their comrades sitting on the chairs and can rescuing them, the maniacs see the auras of the prop machines.
Unlike DBD, heroes (and maniacs too) can jump, but can’t crouch, and everyone plays in first-person view. For survivors, the camera only zooms out when the prop machine is being repaired and when they take the form of an object. As a prop, the survivor gets a double jump, and physics conditions his mobility – if he is, for example, a round cabbage, he will roll, and if a box – slip or roll over.
Players can instantly transform into almost any object in reach – from a huge haystack to a tiny pebble, and remain in this form until they decide to interact with their surroundings. Depending on their size, shape-shifters take on the weight and density of the object of transformation: a bulky steel canister is harder for a maniac to break than, say, breaking a glass bottle, but it’s also a bit harder to escape in this form.
Window openings will no longer save you from your pursuer, but the slamming doors can hold him back or stun a prop that dares to collapse on a maniac’s head. There are props coins scattered throughout the levels, some more of which the game gives out for progress on car repairs and other activities.
Propnight also has chests. They are opened in the blink of an eye and for these very coins. Inside there may be energy for sprinting (in human form, survivors spend stamina to run), a one-time camera or a can of exploding liquid to blind a maniac, antibiotics to restore health, a book for temporary invisibility, and more.
Now there are only five survivors in the game. All are teenage seniors, who differ from each other only in appearance and voice acting. There are also five maniacs, each with three unique powers and a common, familiar to DBD players, “hunting” modifier that increases the maniac’s speed in prolonged pursuit.
Banshee looks like the nun from “The Spell,” curses prop machines and flies; the scrawny Granny wields throwing knives and becomes invisible (who is actually perfectly visible); Igor, dressed up as a tall bunny puppet, chases his victims with a chainsaw; Akasha, who looks like Dimitresca’s daughter, can turn into a shadow and attack the area; and Imposter (the most unusual maniac in the game) can become a prop or pretend to be one of the survivors.
Maniacs have a small terror radius (the heartbeat increases when the villain is nearby), but in Propnight it’s completely useless, because the levels in the game are significantly smaller than the locations from DBD, and if you hear terror, most likely the stalker is already a few meters away from you.
Under lucky circumstances (if the maniac isn’t panting over the chaired victim and the team of players is actually repairing the prop machines) because of the compact levels you have to play catch-up all the time: survivors – to transform on the fly to trick the stalker, maniacs – to practice cunning and sharpness.
But even in the best case, Propnight will get boring after the first ten races. Fntastic admitted in one of their posts that they put a lot of effort into their brainchild, and for some members of the Propnight team it was the very first game. And we have to agree, looking at the magnificent cartoon look of the project, its physics, animation and even great optimization.
And it’s sad that the attractive wrapper still hides very mediocre content. Having taken the DBD-core as a basis, for the release game makers have not worked out such things as the account progression, the system of rewards and punishments for players, the system of training for newcomers. All the heroes and maniacs in Propnight are just beautiful figures with no backstory, and everything that happens is not supported by the story in any way.
In Dead by Daylight, regulars collect pages of additional lore, complete complex tasks in compendiums, subscribe for the sake of collectible customization elements, and try to put themselves out there in matches that reward them with the blood points needed to develop characters and maniacs, buy consumables and gifts.
Looking back at Behavior Interactive’s work, for some reason the Yakutian company has overlooked the most important factor affecting player interest today. Game for game’s sake – not a very profitable scheme for paid, session-based (albeit family-friendly) projects. When there is nothing to motivate the players to win and the characters don’t develop, a team game with randoms runs the risk of turning into a fruitless waste of time, and some Fntastic’s decisions only aggravate this impression.
For example, a Propnight match played to the disadvantage of survivors is usually delayed until the timer expires completely. Because the last survivor can’t do anything to fix the prop machines, and his teammates can’t leave the match, because the game threatens to find them. Dead teammates are forced to watch the rest of the time as their careless partner hides in the bushes in the form of an ear of corn, and the maniac senselessly wanders around the map.
Similar situations happen simply during a match. The player can leave at any moment, leaving his comrades to their fate, can leave the lobby and the system, instead of picking up a new participant, will throw everyone else out. And the player can also turn into a box, lie on a shelf and just fart the whole match (the game has a voice emotion messaging system, and guess which of the nine options is the most popular?). If this “freedom of choice of actions” seems like fun for Fntastic, I think it’s a huge omission.
In the post-release letter, the players promised that progression would be introduced. Already now we get the experience at the end of the match, which is not yet attached to anything. However, judging by what you can see in the customization section, it will only lead to the prospect of getting new, not too original skins for survivors (and so far only for them), banners, slogans and avatar frames.
In principle, it’s clear what kind of audience Fntastic is counting on. Most likely, it will attract players from projects like Among Us and toxic, characters from other games with stricter rules. Since there’s no blood or violence, Propnight can be recommended to high school buddies who want to have fun together, or a family game, but without proper progression experienced hide-and-seekers aren’t likely to stick around for long.
It’s clear that this is another test run for Fntastic before releasing their promising The Day Before, but we really want to believe that the latter will be a lot better thought out than Propnight.
However, as you might remember, Dead by Daylight wasn’t built in a day, either, and it took years to polish it. Propnight has a good basis and a very pleasant look, and the mix of genres can be called a success. It only remains to take the example of older projects and add to the game everything necessary to maintain the interest of the community.