previews\ Sep 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Dying Light Hands-On: When the sun goes down…


For anyone who has been keeping up with our Dying Light coverage, you may have noticed that I’ve constantly made note of a day-and-night cycle. In short, the zombies that wander the streets during the day are more docile, allowing you to play sort of the hunter role – free to roam the city without much worry. You can actually read about the daytime gameplay experience here.

My second demo, behind-closed-doors began during dusk, as I roamed the city, scavenging for supplies and setting traps that would ultimately be used to save my life when the sun set. My goal was to fix a power generator (which I did during the day) and then make it back to the safehouse. It was on my trek back that the sun went down…

As most are probably aware right now, one of the key features of Dying Light is this sort of free-running, parkour gameplay. You are able to leap from rooftop to rooftop with ease, slide under debris, and easily scale walls; the city is your playground. The problem I found during the day is that there didn’t seem to be much point to it, other than being a really cool way to traverse the city. What I found during my playthrough at night, though, is that it does serve a purpose; it’s something that will ultimately keep you alive when the sun goes down and the zombies become much more aggressive.

Dying Light

During the day, it’s easy to take on a group of zombies. A few swings of your machete will easily deal with the slow-moving creatures; however, at night the zombies are stronger, more aggressive, and swarm in larger numbers. Your best bet is to run – and run fast. Gameplay, upon entering nighttime, shifted from me being the hunter to the hunted. The result is an intense experience that left my heart racing.

The free-running parkour ability accentuates the intensity of the chase. When running from the horde of zombies, the ability to quickly scale a wall or leap from rooftops becomes less optional and more necessary for survival. You are literally running for your life. There’s a certain sense of chaos that arose during my playthrough, as I scrambled to find the best route to get to the safehouse. Decisions had to be made quickly, and one wrong choice would result in me coming face-to-face with one of these jacked-up zombies.

While my approach was to run as fast as I can to escape, it was explained to me that there are various ways to approach nighttime. You can choose a more stealthy approach, relying on the shadows and buildings as your cover. Alternatively, you could attempt to run into the swarms guns-blazing, though to me this seems like certain suicide. I could certainly see how this method would provide for some highly entertaining gameplay though.

Dying Light

Speaking of gameplay, my second playthrough eliminated any doubts I originally had about the free-running or combat. Free-running is fast-paced and fluid while combat – swinging your machete or axe – is a lot less clunky than some of Techland’s past games. There were still a few glitches, but that’s to be expected in these early demos; I was told my build was an Alpha version of the game.

Dying Light seems to be a tale of two gameplay experiences – both of which have been extremely positive in my early playthrough sessions. Daytime was certainly a fun play, but it was nighttime that left a lasting impression. If Dying Light isn’t yet on your radar, it should be, as it has easily become one of my more anticipated next-gen games.

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