As you’re probably well-aware, based on the lack of reviews, codes for Dying Light went out a little late. To that end, the game’s release today has been met with some skepticism, and rightfully so considering the mixed reviews of Techland’s other zombie-centric, action FPS Dead Island. But where Dead Island failed, for me at least, Dying Light seems to fix.
Keep in mind, this is a Review in Progress. My thoughts here are just initial impressions based on the early portions of the game I’ve played. Check back later this week for a full review.
There’s kind of a story, but it doesn’t really matter
Dying Light is a post-apocalyptic zombie game. In it, you play as an undercover operative named Kyle Crane who’s dropped into the middle of Harran, a city in Turkey that’s been put under quarantine due to a virus outbreak that has turned most of the population into zombie-like monsters.
I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, but Crane is sent in specifically to locate a terrorist hidden somewhere in the city. The reason we’re given for wanting to find this guy is because he’s in possession of a file that contains information pertinent to the outbreak and he’s threatening to leak it. Based on what I’ve played so far, I think there’s a deeper reason I don’t yet know about.
Honestly though, the story is kind of bland at this point. It’s really just an excuse to send Crane on constant fetch missions. I guess it’s cool to have this whole undercover agent approach to a zombie game, but some of the dialogue is painfully brutal and the music sometimes feels like something out of a cheesy 80s sci-fi flick.
It’s very much like Dead Island, but not as clunky
There’s no skirting around this one, you can tell that Dying Light is a Techland game. The similarities to Dead Island are uncanny. From the open-world nature of the game to the fetch missions I’m constantly having to do, the game borrows a lot.
It also improves on a lot too, mainly the overall gameplay experience. I’m not talking about a design decision either; I’m referring to the feel of the game. I haven’t acquired any guns yet, but the melee combat is practically identical to Dead Island with one key difference: it’s much better. The weapon animations in particular are much smoother, resulting in combat that’s fun instead of clunky. A stamina system sometimes results in attacks that are reminiscent to its predecessors which can be a bit frustrating since it’s so easy to run out of stamina; but, for the most part combat has been enjoyable and difficult at the same time.
Parkour is my favorite part so far
The one major difference that sets Dying Light apart from Dead Island, or any other zombie game for that matter, is the parkour element. And honestly, this has been my favorite part of the game so far. I don’t know how, but Crane is graced with superhuman athletic ability that lets him jump between rooftops, quickly scale buildings, and balance on things that would make even the best tightrope walkers sweat. He does it all with relative ease.
The world is built to be your playground. If a surface looks like it can be jumped to or climbed on, it probably can. The openness of the parkour system does create some awkward animations, but I’ll gladly put up with weird-moving body parts if it makes for a fun mechanic.
Unfortunately, learning the basic parkour mechanics means putting up with a rather boring and lengthy tutorial.
Nighttime is both awesome and terrifying!
During the daytime, Dying Light is fairly tame. Sure, there are plenty of zombies roaming the streets, but you can take them out with relative ease.
However, once the Sun goes down, sh*t gets real. The zombies transform into stronger, more aggressive creatures. Whereas most zombie games want you to experience the gore of melee combat, Dying Light wants you to run from it. At my current level, attempting to fight these creatures at night almost immediately results in my death. Because of this, nighttime is much more intense experience.
During night, Dying Light becomes less of a hack-n-slash and more of a stealth game. Super-zombies are displayed on your mini-map with vision cones that I highly recommend you avoid. If you step into one, you’re pretty much a sitting duck and must run like hell until you escape into the shadows or find a safe place.
Whereas most games of this nature tend to emphasize fight, Dying Light is more about flight — especially at night. It's cool to see the game emphasize the parkour element in a way that's about more than just quick traversal through the city.
Side quests, crafting, and skills!
Other fun features that I’ve only just begun to explore are crafting and skills. Crafting is pretty straight-forward. You scavenge the streets and dead zombies for supplies, and then use those supplies to create items that can be used for survival. So far I’ve discovered advanced weaponry like a Welder that adds a fire effect to my attacks, throwing weapons like a throwing star, and utility items that can boost Crane’s stamina.
There’s also a pretty in-depth skill system. There are three main trees that can be leveled: Agility which improves your parkour capabilities; Power which is for combat; and Survivor which isn’t focused on a specific gameplay mechanic but Crane’s overall ability to interact with the world (bartering, carrying more items, etc.). What’s neat is how you level each of these. Experience to increase your Agility rank is earned by traversing through the city (jumping on buildings, navigating rooftops, etc.). You get double experience at night. Power rank is increased by simply fighting the zombies, which I don’t recommend you do at night. And lastly, Survivor rank is increase by simply completing missions.
I’ve only put a few hours into Dying Light, but already I’m overwhelmed with the amount there is to do. Dying Light is an open-world game which, of course, translates into tons of side quests. I don’t know if that’s a good thing yet as I tend to get bored with the repetition that side quests often bring with them. I’m worried that the seemingly grand scope of Dying Light might result in some boredom, but we’ll see.
That’s all for now!
Again, these impressions are based solely on the limited time I’ve had with the game. Check back later this week for our full review.