I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Techland, the team behind the Call of Juarez series and Dead Island, as I find that they go between “This is best thing I’ve played recently” to “This is a god awful piece of crap!”
Dying Light is the second attempt at a Zombie brawler from the studio, taking place in Harran, a city located assumingly in South America. You play as Kyle Crane, an undercover operative and free-runner who is hired by the Global Relief Effort (GRE) to infiltrate a quarantined Harran to find a dictator who had stolen a file relating to the zombie outbreak. Shortly after dropping into the city, Crane is bitten and is forced to work with a crew of runners lead by a Parkour instructor in hopes of keeping as many people as possible alive.
Like most Zombie stories, the story is completely predictable. From every twist and turn, every guilt tripped fetch quest, every side character is someone that we’ve all seen before, and while when done right you can easily ignore such a cliche attempt, but Dying Light doesn’t do this right and it makes for an uninteresting and generally unlikable characters.
Playing Dying Light is very similar to playing Techland’s Dead Island with the exception of the new Free-Running (Parkour) gameplay. Taking cues from EA’s Mirrors Edge, Dying Light maps your jumping to the bumpers, making it easy to jump and climb, which is essential to escaping zombies and traversing the city’s relatively small map. Parkour is a big selling feature in the game and it works near perfectly and is easily where one can get the most fun out of the game.
Combat against the Zombies and bandits are another story, taking the combat mechanic from Dead Island, players have to pace themselves and watch their stamina in order to survive, while normally this would be a decent feature that adds some challenge to the game like say Demon/Dark Souls, the big problem is with the weapons. Firearms are rare and feel extremely under power, melee weapons are all over the place but tend to break extremely easily, forcing you to switch weapons constantly or find parts to repair it as long as it has some repair tokens left on it. While it’s a system that is supposed to puts priority on flight over fight, however when missions require you to fight it becomes a frustrating mess. The lack of a block button also causes problems when fighting human characters, who can defend against your attacks, causing you to stagger, lose stamina and get hit all in the same process.
Another big feature is the game’s day and night cycle. Doing missions out in the daytime will just give you your basic zombie types, however when night falls a new class opens which can run faster, stalk and kill you fairly easily. These Zombies is where the game gets it’s horror thanks to a dark city, claustrophobic environments and horrible zombie creatures with night vision that look like they came from a Guillermo Del Toro movie. These sections of the game are frustrating and terrifying which should be exactly what we want from a horror game. At night you gain double the experience points for everything you do.
While it does seem like a re-hash of Dead Island with a new running element, it does seam that the team did fix some of the bigger crimes that their last zombie brawler committed. Giving players only one character instead of choices, and by separating the stats to level up as you get better beating Zombies, doing missions or just running.
Techland has never failed to deliver graphically and Dying Light’s Harran is no exception, the city is gorgeous to look at and the zombies are disgusting. Sound design however, could have used some work.
Dying Light has its fair share of problems, an unoriginal story, missions that become nothing more than annoying fetch quest, unlikable characters, but its Free-Running gameplay is actually enough to pull you in and still have a blast, but there isn’t enough to keep you coming back.