A Fun but Flawed Game
Dying Light is an open-world post-apocalyptic game, with a first-person perspective and parkour-like movement. You play as Kyle Crane, from Chicago, who is sort of an agent for the GRE (Global Relief Effort). You’re deployed in the city of Harran, where you have a mission, which is to recover stolen files from a man named Suleiman, files which he stole from the GRE after they refused to help his crippled brother be evacuated during the outbreak.
When you’re deployed, you quickly learn that the city of Harran is divided into two groups of survivors. One group lives in what they call “The Tower”, and they’re clearly presented as the good guys – since you get attacked the moment you land from the parachute and they save you – while the other group Is known to rule with an iron fist and have a crazy leader, named Rais – that very early you’ll see that he’s Suleiman – a very over the top crazy villain, that’s mostly well done.
One of the different takes from this game compared to other post-apocalyptic settings, is that when a zombie bites a person, you can take doses of a medicine that prevent you from turning. You’ll still be forever infected, but you just won’t turn. That medicine is called Antizine, and that’s the main reason for the warfare between the two groups, they have to gather enough Antizine to keep their infected from turning. The way that’s done, is through planes flying over the city to drop supplies, those planes are sent by the GRE and the government. Some of them will have food, some overall medicine and some will have Antizine.
The intro of the game is pretty exaggerated and blend, story-wise. As I mentioned, you’ll get attacked right as you land, and be saved by some people, they don’t even know you, you just dropped 10 seconds ago and they’re already sacrificing themselves to save you. That just doesn’t make any sense. As well as how you start working with the survivors, it has no development, it just changes all the relationships between you and the NPCs, all of a sudden. And that’s my biggest problem with the game, it has no defined personality. What I mean by that is: they go full-on video game ass video game in some parts of the game, and then, at the same time, they try to implement realistic mechanics to blend in with all of that. And it all comes out as two good games mashed together into something that had potential but didn’t work.
You’ll quickly be free to roam around the city as you want, it’ll be a wasteland, full of zombies, of diverse types (borrowing heavy from games like Left 4 Dead). The city design is basically a favela, a lot of small houses with more than one level so you can go jumping from roof to roof most of the time. The game has a cool day/night system, where after a certain time, the game changes, a new type of zombie starts to roam around, they’re more aggressive, more resistant, and they can simply outrun you. So it becomes much more of a stealth game, which you can see their cones of vision on the mini-map. But you have to be smart on how to use your flashlight because you can’t see anything during the night, as well as trying to not make much noise, so they don’t get to you. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by a group of them.
And it becomes even easier, considering the fact that you’re straight up garbage during the early parts of the game. The game has a skill tree, and to make the skill tree important and valuable, your character is horrible at the beginning. The combat in this game is heavily melee focused. Both your running and your melee attacking has stamina that you have to pay attention to (the mix of things I mentioned before), and even though your character is the strongest and fittest man alive when it comes to jumping high/far and holding himself on ledges and roofs, he gets tired really, I mean, REALLY fast. You can go for about 4 melee hits before zeroing your stamina bar, and that’s not enough to kill a zombie, at least in the beginning. Then your character will start to breathe heavily and you have to wait for some time before attacking again. The combat becomes just a chore in the earlier parts. It would be best to just avoid as much as possible.
I said “it would” but, it isn’t, because the way you level up your skills is by performing them, you have 3 basic skill trees through the main game: Survival, Agility, and Power. You upgrade your Survival tree by earning points, through missions and side tasks, you upgrade your agility tree by performing parkour moves, and you upgrade your power tree by hitting enemies. So, you have to go through the bad fighting so you can get rid of it as time goes. Another problem is, not only you need to hit the zombies 4+ times and your character gets tired if you do so, but also, your weapon will break in like 15 hits. And the more its durability decreases, the less damage you do. At least, later in the game, the combat becomes much better, and the shooting is surprisingly well done, I wish they moved to you having fire weapons in more situations, and earlier since it feels pretty good, what I didn’t expect. It also puts you in danger if you use it in the middle of the city, because of the noise. But most of the missions will be in a closed environment.
So, from the jump, the games present you with a map full of icons, the traditional open-world of this era of games. You’ll have a bunch of things marked down, that number will increase as you go through the game. It has safe houses, where you can sleep in case the night comes, or change your gear – if in fact you decide to take the place, because most of the safe houses start as a hostile place that you have to clean up – you’ll also see random encounters, where it gives you a blue icon and it can be either an NPC being attacked that you can save, or someone having a crises and wanting to tell a story about life, or even someone selling some goods on a roof. Very simple things that give one more cool thing for you to do in the game.
The exploration in the game is ok, you’ll find items through your “parkour adventures”. You can search on trash cans, or abandoned houses for supplies, that you can either sell or make something off of it. Yes, the game has Crafting, a lot of it, it’s not bad, it gives you a nice variety of things, and most of them will be needed and/or useful. Some bigger crates, or locked doors, have a lock picking mini-game. Most people don’t like those, but I don’t have a problem with them, some are very fun, this one is ok, different from other games that have it, at least. Inside those crates or rooms, that you have to unlock, you’ll probably find better items. That’s something the game has, colored-based rarity items. Yes, just like Diablo, going for the full gray-green-blue-purple-orange sequence of rarity. Like I said, the game is all over the place, just like its story, if I may. Not being sure of what it is.
Also, the game does not have fast travel, what I don’t have a problem with it since one of its biggest draws is the parkour movement. Sometimes you’ll wish you had it when you find yourself in a bad spot, but that is a part of the game. Something that can help you in those situations is that the city is filled with traps, either simple ones like spikes on walls that you can make the zombies run into. As well as traps that you can activate, to get their attention so you can get some into the spikes. You’ll also have a survival instinct pulse, where you can press a button that will give you a pulse of everything that’s around you, or at least, the most dangerous enemies and items you can collect, or things you can interact with (doors, switches, etc.). Sooner rather than later, those things will all become kind of repetitive, most of the quests will be presented similarly. You’ll spend a lot of time pressing the pulse button trying to farm everything in a room or almost dying to make to a power switch, that can light some part of the city. But to be fair, with the item variety, the number of ways you can go about each situation is very high, for the player that doesn’t mind spending dozens of hours doing “not so new” side-quest, you can make some deep layers out of enjoyment with this game.
Now the most negative things I have to say: The main character is weird, I’m not sure if he’s really bad or just ok, he’s that time of corny, not relatable guy, that has its moments. He’s kind of slow to realize some things, and that’s where I was wishing the most for a change in this game, the lack of choice. They could simply put some small choices that wouldn’t affect the game overall, but instead, you have to see your character being as dumb as possible. While the consequences could still be the same. The NPCs that are you the good guys' side are all bad, I don’t like any of them. I couldn’t relate to any tragedy that happens through the game. The only exception, I think, are the doctors, that are cool guys with some nice dialogue. The lore and writing around the research for the cure is better than the story and character arc in the rest of the game. The bad guys at least are better, the villain is cool, the GRE people that talk to you will give you some feelings. That’s all that we ask for, that the bad guys make us mad or surprised by their craziness. So that part is good.
The voice over though, my god that’s just horrible. With most of the characters, I couldn’t stand to see them talk. I don’t know if it’s the actors, the face models with the lip-sync, the dialogue, or all of it. But that’s easily the worst part of the game for me. And a close second is a combination of how the game tries to test you in one thing. I’ve already mentioned how the combat sucks at the early game, what it’s also horrible is for you to climb towers, you’ll have to climb a few towers through the game, and doing that in first-person is just horrible. And my god does not try to descend from it without using a zip line, because you’ll 100% die. The controls do not help you when it’s not about just jumping up. So, combining those two things, you’ll probably have some frustrating deaths, especially in the first half of the game. And you want to know what’s the cherry on top of it all? You lose points by dying!!! Yes, this game even tries to pull out a Dark Souls on you, if you die, you’ll lose survival points that you would use on your skill tree. That’s just horrible! Who had that idea and thought it would be a good one!? I cannot believe that would be real in this type of game. I just want to have fun in a parkour exaggerated post-apocalyptic world and they want to have some full realistic/hardcore elements (I’m criticizing this mash of things for the third time, I know).
Wrapping up the negatives: I started the game with subtitles on, and the game defaulted to Portuguese, and my god that translation is awful, half the sentences in the game translate to something different of what the character said, that really frustrated me, I had to turn it off asap. And I’m a person that enjoys having subtitles in case I missed a sound bite. The game has some roughness around the edges, but I can give it a pass for that by the size it has, and the verticality it tries to pull off. It’s not like it’s a Blizzard-size team also. The game has a sequence, inside a pit, that will really try to make you quit it, and just give up right there, but hopefully, you can go through it.
And I mean it, hopefully, people can get through all the negativity I talked about, I know it was a lot, but this game gets a lot better in the second half. I thought about giving it 4-stars, by how much fun I have at the end, but it wouldn’t show the true full experience.
In the second part of the game, you go out of the favela area, into a big city type of area. With big European looking houses, and tons of different parts for you to climb on and jump around. And by that point, you’ll have enough points to unlock the grappling hook, oh my god that’s one of the best grappling hooks in video games, it’s so satisfying, it’s a shame it’s only available later in the game. It truly improves the experience. The area is also more challenging, with harder zombies overall, but at that point, you’re at a level high enough that it’s much more fun the in the beginning. Making it easily the best part of the game. Another thing Dying Light does an interesting job is using light, I think the game looks great, despite some rough around the edges, and some detail problems here or there, it has a great look to it, especially at times like sunset. The thing that surprised me the most, positively speaking, was the sound design, I loved how they chose the music, it has a really good soundtrack, and great use of music, as well as ambient sounds, like screams. It pumps up the adrenaline at some points of the game.
In the end, I think the game was good, I went for a score and review that I think it represents how many flaws it had, for my taste. But it’s one of those games that give you hope for what could’ve been because it has such good concepts in there, that just need to have more personality and more polish (maybe more budget would help). I was having so much fun at the last couple of missions, and suddenly all the zombies were floating in the air, right above me, some were climbing through the ground, on the ledge I was standing. As well as the lack of choice that I mentioned before, for what they were trying to pull off with the story. So my conclusion is basically: Dying Light 2 has so much potential, it can easily be a 5-star game. We just have to hope they can pull it off. One last thing, in this game, when you go to the menu it shows you the exact % you’re at, in the main story, I love that, I wish every game had that.