For the past few years I have kept my eye Techland as they have been developing Dying Light. What started out as an interesting Alpha build with intriguing new mechanics for exploring the world around you soon transformed into this vast experience that takes the medium and changes it up. But now that Dying Light is available for all of us to enjoy, how does it stand against our expectations?
The story of the game is based around the character Crane. As an operative for the organisation responsible for supplying air drops to the infected city of Harran, your job is to track down a man who has some very valuable information. All you have to do is simply find him and get this information back into the hands of the right people. But doing this is harder said than done. The game does a great job of immediately showing how bad Crane is kitted out for this operation. Your air drop results in you falling and hurting yourself, showing that early on your will take a lot of damage from not so high falls. Your approached by three gang members and immediately get swamped by them, showing your inefficiency at combat. Your only way to deal with this threat is to use a gun which alerts the zombies nearby, showing your inexperience with the big threat of the game. Lastly you are helped out only to see one of your assistants killed in front of your eyes, putting the final nail in the coffin for how bad and unreliable you are. This is a fantastic set up for your character progression as your weaknesses will soon turn into strengths.
Crane’s abilities and skills are defined by three different skill trees that you can go down in any way you wish. Survival gives you more health, stamina and skills to help barter for better items from traders. Agility effects your ability to get around the city, giving you abilities that can help traverse around the hordes of zombies and even give you extra leeway when falling from great heights. Combat gives you the skills necessary to destroy anyone that’s in your way, whether that be with more durable weapons, new crafting combinations or dropkicks. These skill trees are designed really well as they are upgrading by using those select skills. More running, jumping and climbing will give you more agility points. More fighting, kicking and dominating in battle gives you more combat points and simply completing quests or helping out those around you will reward you with survival points. This also backs up with your character progression allowing you to construct Crane into your ultimate survivor.
Battling badass or Free Running expert. Which route would you go down?
Moving around the world is one of the most fun experiences I have had of late. Parkour has been tried before in games such as Mirror’s Edge and showed that games can take this form of movement and turn it into something really interesting. Now in Dying Light, parkour plays not just a major role in traversal but also in combat. A simple button press whilst running around and jumping will allow you to climb and leap to anywhere you can potentially get to. It is a little bit awkward early on as your need to learn how to aim the camera in order to climb certain obstacles and even then, see what you can and can’t climb. But this is relatively easy to get used to, especially with the controls feeling very solid. Having combat based around precise presses or holds in order to pull off maximum damage and using the momentum of your opponents to push them into environmental hazards helps make the control set up feel natural and less stressful on your hands.
There is a big variety of enemies to take on whilst running around Harran. The most common are your standard ‘let me take a bite out of you’ zombies that you can easily manipulate into traps and easier environments. A harder type to deal with are these big behemoths with rebar clubs which early on will be challenging to take down and may even take a few weapons to get the job done. But the goodpart is that this is only the icing on the cake. As the storyline progresses you bump into new and more ferocious volatiles, with one of my personal favourites being the night hunters. These scary and intimidating beasts will be on the prowl throughout the night time. One false move and you will be chased down by one, two, maybe even five of these guys. This puts you on the edge as you truly test your might to either battle it out with the toughest of foes or run for your life on the rooftops. You will also have to deal with other humans throughout your adventures but think of this as a chance to acquire more valuable loot, weapons and even firearms. All this variety makes for more diverse combat scenarios as you will have to deploy different tactics to survive against different foes.
Speaking of diversity, the game also has a large amount of quests to go on. One of the most fun parts of this are quests that will randomly pop up on your map as you are running around. These can vary from saving citizens from zombie or gang attacks to picking up valuable air drops that will come throughout the day and night. These can get very repetitive at times but the fact that these are optional and can be done whilst on your way to a more important quest means that you can do them at your leisure. You really don’t have anything to lose here, only gain.
Be warned about this bridge in the game. You have a monster fight on your hands.
The world is complimented by the variety of different characters and their individual reasons for doing what they wish to do. It is very interesting to see those who have families who are simply trying to get by whilst there are those who are slowly going crazy as the world around them crumbles. However, as much as I like the personality in the game, the character models are very similar to one another. I even had a moment when filling out a side quest where there were two characters that looked exactly like one another in the same safe zone, with only different coloured shirt to tell the difference. With a great emphasis on character development and plot development in the game, it is a true shame to see that some of the characters look very generic.
With the single player experience being fun, there is nothing quite like going on quests and killing zombies with friends. Luckily in Dying Light you can do just that, as you can join up with three other players to explore Harran. The added bonus to this is that there will special multiplayer that can happen as the game progresses, where you can race each other to a designated checkpoint or see who can dispose more foes. But if you truly want the best multiplayer experience, then you need to try ‘Be The Zombie’ mode. This mode puts you in the role of a night hunter with the simple goal of killing off human players whilst they try to destroy your nests. The game completely changes when you are the zombie as now you have skills that can help you traverse a lot easier and find your targets. These can vary from longer jump periods, longer distances between grab kills and even using the zombies around you as a distraction.The only thing to be careful of is that you must be in range in order to kill them and you are very weak to UV light which every player has at their disposal. Now it becomes a cunning cat and mouse game where strategy and communication is the way to win.
Have a look at Dying Light yourself in our livestreamed highlights.
Dying Light, although it does have some repetition and occasional moments of lack lustre variety, is a very enjoyable experience, being one of the ‘must own’ titles of this year. With the sheer amount of content, fun and variety in the game you will spend hours either on your own or with friends. If you love the zombie survival genre then do yourself a favour and get ready to survive the night, in a game which has a lot of love from a great team of developers that are continuing to support Dying Light with free DLC post launch.
So what are your thoughts on Dying Light? Is it the survival title you have been waiting for? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.