The video games industry which was dominated by new titles back on the era of exclusives, which takes us back to the good old PlayStation 2, has changed quite a lot. In today’s times, developers are focusing on established IPs in order to secure sales even though the game might be a little lacklustre. New IPs then have to really convince the audience that the game is the real deal, something never experienced before. While many studios make exaggerated claims about their new game which turn out to be just a pile of talk upon release, Dying Light is a lucky exception which keeps all its promises.
Dying Light’s premise is already good enough to capture you in. The game is a mixture of DICE’s classic Mirror’s Edge’s parkour system and Dead Island’s zombies and melee combat. Basically, the game is situated in Harran, a fictitious city which was heavily inspired by Turkey, as the developers said. In Harran, a viral outbreak has spread and is turning everyone into zombies. You take control of Kyle Crane, an insider who is tasked initially to carry out a mission for the GRE, an organisation which seems to treat Crane as a puppet and order him around, letting morality out the window. Your landing is unfortunate, and you are saved from the bite of, well, a biter, from a couple of runners, which later take you to their base and reveal you the Tower, a community which was created upon the ruins of what was once Harran and is now a playground for the undead.
The game’s initial feeling is a dull one, and since all you see in your first few minutes is grey, I personally was a bit scared about where this is going. Upon going out for the first time, this opinion totally changed, because of the beauty of Harran. The city is beautiful, and even though the majority of its inhabitants does not have any, Harran bursts with colour. There are tons of things to do, even just climbing and exploring is rewarding due to the scale of the map, which is not enormous, but is large enough to permit all the free running one can. The city itself tells the sad tale of its unfortunate situation, with empty cars littering all the streets and broken houses everywhere, and some walls also feature the occasional HELP graffiti. While not having the most famous composers writing the music for the game, it still makes a huge impact on it. Honestly the soundtrack is quite bland, but it is this vagueness which gives it such power on the gameplay. A couple of high notes in an otherwise calm or slow tune can make you shiver without there even being an enemy within miles, and having experienced this exact feeling, I cannot not praise the implementation of such music in the game.
Dying Light focuses on two key buttons, being jump and strike, since in the game running and killing is essential. The core concept of the game is to reach places high enough that the undead cannot reach you there, thus giving the game an element of verticality which is more a need than a want. The levelling system is a very neat one as well, having three separate skill trees, being Agility, Strength, and Survivor, and all of these have their own XP bars as well as methods of earning said XP. Agility XP is earned by doing anything related to parkour, being vaulting over walls, jumping, climbing and the like. Strength XP is earned by damaging and killing enemies, with bonus points for creative kills. You kill enemies with weapons, which are scattered all over the place, but can also be crafted or bought from vendors either in the Tower or in survivors’ houses. Crafting is very varied, permitting the creation of electrifying or flaming weapons such as an electric knife or a flamethrowing police baton, which deal a chunk of additional damage when their element is procced. There are also environmental hazards such as electric cables lying in lakes of water, only waiting for you to switch on the voltage and fry those zombies with the minimal effort. Killing in Dying Light is very creative, and the more creative one is, the more XP he gets. There are also tons of structures covered in nails or barbed wires and such which can impale enemies if they touch these, yet awkwardly enough do not deal damage to you even if you jump on them. Only barbed wire fences have dealt damage to me while the nails or steel stakes lying around every corner never harmed me. Survivor is levelled up by completing quests from randoms as well as helping civilians who are attacked by zombies, which pop up randomly while exploring. The skill trees contain abilities which one unlocked become vital for the progression in the game, two of which are the dropkick and jumping over enemies. The former sees you jumping and kicking with both legs while in mid-air and dealing considerable damage to enemies, if not outright killing them. Jumping over enemies is as simple as it sounds, and it will enable you to escape from zombies when facing them. All the skills in the game are worth having, so there is a bit of a dilemma when choosing which to level up, but given that the game does not follow a levelling system which is attached to progress in the story, one can just spend hours killing and climbing to get a bunch of abilities before the game even starts.
Having explored where you play and how you play, only one question remains: against whom do you play? As mentioned above, the viral outbreak in Harran has turned most of the civilisation into zombies who want to take a gnarly bite of fresh human, but this is not a typical zombie game where enemies are all the same. Dying Light follows a real day-night system, and the enemies vary accordingly. During the day, one may encounter either normal zombies or virals, which are like normal zombies, but can climb just like you and are a real pest to get rid of since they try to evade your strikes. Luckily, these are only attracted if there is a huge noise caused by you such as a falling roof or an explosion, so staying away from these is a good idea. Dying Light embraces the concept of “zombie infestation” perfectly since the streets are literally flooded with zombies, meaning that a one on one confrontation can soon become a mugging if one is not careful. Jumping on cars or other high platforms will keep them at bay, though, so if you get caught up, escaping is not that hard. When the clock strikes 9 though, players better be ready to run for their lives because when night comes, zombies evolve into Volatiles, an elite class of undead who are just as fast as you and do more damage than normal zombies, as well as have a much bigger detection radius which luckily is shown on the map and can thus be avoided. During night time all XP gains are doubled, so those adventurous enough to go hiking while the moon is up have an extra motivation to do so. Another advantage for being courageous enough is the chance to go for supply drops. These supply drops are chased down just as the sun rises and thus the only chance one has to get their hands on them is at night. Exchanging these drops at the quartermaster will earn you a ton of XP which is very useful in levelling up your abilities. For those who are not so fond of the darkness, beds can be used to skip the current phase of the day, thus turning from night to day or vice versa.
One neat feature in Dying Light is the ability to look back when sprinting. This will turn you round to show you what is behind you, and is very useful when you are being chased by volatiles or other agile hunters. The skill is not that easy to master since a lot of the times I tried it, I ended up disoriented and running against a wall or obstacle, but with time one will no doubt learn to use it in the most critical of situations.
Dying Light is a brilliant game and all, but it does have some flaws which a game of this calibre should not have, especially considering its quality. First and foremost, windows and other items are unbreakable which is extremely weird given that whole rooftops can collapse. I tried swinging a sledgehammer at countless cars, television sets, plant pots, but nothing. Even wooden doors do not break, but this would not be intended by the developers so this is forgiven. Also the lack of Throwable items is questionable in the game. You can pick up gas canisters and throw them at enemies to then watch them explode, if you lit it obviously, but taking a page out of other zombie survival games, Techland could have put bricks or pieces of glass, or heck even stones which can be picked up and thrown around to distract zombies. There are of course firecrackers which are very cheap to craft, but these use resources which may well be used somewhere else, thus limiting your options.
The game also features other modes such as co-op multiplayer, where players can join friends’ games and bash zombies twice over, as well as an innovative Be the zombie mode, where players can play as the zombies, as the name unmistakably implies, and fight against other players playing as humans. It all comes up nicely and being able to play as the predator is satisfying, after all the times where being the prey has felt incredibly underpowering.
All in all, Dying Light is a brilliant game, with an exceptionally well written story and excellent gameplay, which will hook players for quite a long time. The multiplayer component does not steal the show, but it makes for a complement to a game which is very addicting, not only because of the slick parkour moves, but also because of a gripping story and a protagonist who for once is not the superman we are accustomed to, even though his abilities are a little larger than life. The day, night cycle is the crucial feature of the game and it shows, with the gameplay, making a complete turn, and not in your favour, when night time comes. After all, the motto of the game is Good Night, Good Luck, and you will need that luck once the dreaded night comes and brings its friends with it.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.