Review: Dying Light
January has been a strange month for games. Even though January is a month that represent the birth of a new year, games release have been morbidly themed around death, including Grim Fandango Remastered, Resident Evil Remastered and Saints Row IV: Gat Out of Hell (read their reviews here). I do recall that Día de Muertos is set in October, nevertheless, Techland decided to launch Dying Light this month as well, adding to the roster of Zombie and Death themed releases.
After Call of Juarez, Dead Island, Techland have earned quite the experience doing open-world games and aims to prove it once more with Dying Light. Set in a city that is under quarantine zone due to a virus infection, GRE’s Kyle Crane (the game’s main protagonist) is sent to recover a key Intel file, that could ruin the reputation of his agency. Air dropped into the city, Crane finds himself attacked by human faction, saved by another and gets bitten by a zombie at the same time. So much drama just in the opening scene, Cage now must learn to survive the city of Haran (based off a Turkish city) and fight his virus infection as well as creatures hungry for human flesh. If all of this is not enough, Cage’s main goal is to find the traitor of the GRE agency that stole the virus, Kadir “Rais” Sulaiman, and will very quickly be faced with decisions asking him to choose between his undercover mission and help survivors. In short, beyond the cliché scenario involving characters lacking charisma, Dying Light based on a concept perfectly oiled at the center of the first two Dead Island: the survival a zombie infested place and a packet of missions to complete throughout the game.
In comparison to all previous Dead Island title, Techland has opted for a quicker way for players to move around the huge open world available. One of the key points that sells Dying Light is Parkour, allowing you using the urban environment to move with ease in big cities. It’s like Parkour meets World War Z, but is it really an original idea? Well, without reaching the fluidity and flexibility of Mirror’s Edge system, the free run performs very well in Dying Light’s world by allowing us to quickly cover long distances. The slums very quickly become a giant playground for our stunts even if you should be careful and don’t end up overwhelmed by hordes of zombies “patrolling” the city day and night.
If the streets of Haran are quite populated during thef day, you will have a hefty job getting out alive as the night comes, unleashing in the streets a groups of particularly vicious creatures, very inspired by the movie Blade II Reapers, known as Night Hunters. The latter, more sensitive to noise and having a much better vision than the basic zombie, won’t stop chasing you death. Suffice to say that it will in this case be discreet or run very fast for a chance to survive. If something should be praised highly, it would be the night change of gameplay, adding real tension with emphasis on a speedy chase, in comparison to their daytime counterparts oriented toward action.
If something should be praised highly, it would be the night change of gameplay
Of course, in addition to these hunters, you will meet other types of infected like the brutes, sprinters and more. I should note that there’s also human enemies, usually well armed and very dangerous, making you quickly understand the value of the four player cooperative built in the game, or you can play alone and find enough materials needed to create powerful mods for your weapons.
Speaking of weapons and mods, fans of Dead Island will rejoice to know that weapon craft is a big thing in the game. Bullet based weapons in Dying Light are scarce, and you will most often fight with what you find in the slums. Wrenches, pipes, baseball bats, simple arms at first. Yet, rummaging around, you will come across items that combined with mods, will allow you to use terrifying weapons. Electrified hammer? A flaming machete? It will be up to you to take the time to dig deep to find all treasures! Though in comparison to Dead Island, things were made easier to find these loot, through a kind of sixth sense that allows us to see at a glance all the items to collect in a defined area. It’s a handy power especially as it helps us also to know the precise location of our goals or location of the Night Hunters in the scenery. For the lazy ones, it is also possible to buy items in camps or at the Tower, a gigantic HQ that give us every day some loot free of charge. One more reason to pass by these HQ and camps is the option to sleep, which has the effect, the ability to speed up time, quickly switching between day and night.
Techland did not take risks with Dying Light
Dying Light being at the crossroads of survival horror and RPG, has various experience tree for you to level up through. Basically, depending on how you play, you will be able to activate branches and nodes of three different skill trees: Survivor, Agility and Power. By performing specific actions (combat, free running, challenges, help out survivors, etc), you get experience that will activate skill points, needed to unlock new moves and skills, gaining strength, barter prices in the shops and more.
It is very important to note that you can skim all challenges and side quests available (main and secondaries) to garner a maximum amount of experience, but beware! If you die during your activity, every respawn will cost you a some of your experience. A good and vicious way forcing you to pay more attention to your actions and your choice to play at night, since it boosts your experience.
After several hours of play, making my way halfway through the story and hefty amount of zombie killed alone and with friends, you realize that Techland did not take risks with Dying Light. The Polish developers have recovered what made the success of their exotic survival horror – Dead Island – transposing it into an urban environment. However, inn comparison to the other franchise, many improvements were made, and the graphical step is amazing. And even if the game is still as close to its relatives, when it comes to bugs as well, (weird lip sync, unbalanced enemy AI, cliché scenario, few framerate problems), there’s still this amazing freedom, topped with a balanced and dynamic gameplay, a 4-player co-op and that Be the Zombie multiplayer mode is hilariously fun. Well, at least Dying Light will keep you busy as you wait for the upcoming Dead Island 2.
Dying Light was reviewed using an Xbox One copy of the game purchased by the reviewer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• A vast playground
• Good mix between flight and action
• The thoughtful day and night cycle
• Your death can cost you experience
• Good and fun Parkour make up this dynamic gameplay
• Quite a long game
• Really fun co-op game
• Play a Zombie... Period!
• Not that great of a story
• Irregular dosage of difficulty
• Small bugs that forces you sometimes to reload a checkpoit