Home | Reviews | Dying Light

Dying Light

About This Game:

Systems: PC, XO, PS4
Release Date: 1/27/15 (NA), 2/27/17 (WW)
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
ESRB Rating: M
Length: 20 - 40 hours (has New Game+)

Disclosure 1/2: I haven’t gotten a chance to play co-op or the “Be the Zombie mode” in Dying Light at the time of writing this review. If, when I do try them, it changes my opinion of the game in any way, I will update the review accordingly. Until then, consider this my full opinion on Dying Light.

 

Dying Light is a game that I wasn’t too excited about. For starters, I hated Dead Island, Techland’s first zombie franchise, and just after its announcement this game didn’t seem to differ too much from its predecessor. Dead Island had a horrible story, as well as a clunky crafting system and a claustrophobic¬† combat system that constantly made you feel like you were at a disadvantage. Some people enjoyed that, my own brother loves Dead Island, but it just wasn’t for me. Couple that with a huge delay from 2014 to early 2015, and needless to say my hopes weren’t very high for Dying Light. Thankfully, Techland used that extra time to really polish the game and get it to feel just right. They added a parkour system that makes the game stand out from Dead Island and even surpass it. On top of that, Techland corrected most of my gripes about their old franchise and improved as much as they could.

Presentationj

Considering the games huge emphasis on daytime and nighttime survival, it was essential that Techland not only get the lighting right, but also the mood and atmosphere. They managed to achieve all of those aspects, and to an even greater degree than I was expecting. Harran (the game’s setting) has an interesting “lived-in” feel to it. You feel as though the city would have actually functioned before the zombies hit. You can go through multiple buildings and apartments and see the remnants of the lives that used to be living there. This amount of care and attention to detail is something that speaks volumes towards the quality of the game. Most of the tiny details in the game may never be seen or noticed, but they are there and that’s what makes it feel so alive. The two maps that the games provide, “slums” and “old town”, each have their own characteristics and ways to traverse them. The Slums are red and brown huts that hint to the poverty that may have stricken the region before the infection hit. Old Town, on the other hand, was clearly where the wealthy spent most of their time and is filled with beautiful buildings and churches. The bright and colorful areas of Old Town contrast the Slums well and the commentary on society is definitely felt.

Harran is surprisingly detailed and beautiful.

The zombies and monsters you fight are creepy and also heavily detailed, but unfortunately they reoccur frequently. The same could be said for human enemies, who seem to take on one of five different variations when it comes to appearance. Even friendly NPC’s all tend to look the same, making the intended emotional impact of certain side-quests disappear. The voice acting is a mixed bag as well. Troy Baker lends his talents to the main character, Crane, and he is the shining light in the cast. I touch on it below, but Baker helps make Crane a believable and likable character and makes him stand out from the rest of the cast. The other voice actors vary wildly from impressive to just cheesy, which is interesting because Dead Island had the exact same problem…

Gameplay

The meat of Dying Light comes from its gameplay. Once again, my least favorite aspect of Dead Island was how slow it felt and how cumbersome it was to move around the world and dodge zombies. Techland, once again, surprised me by not only making traversal incredibly fun, but combat as well. Honestly the parkour system, as well as the general faster pace of the game, is the main thing that sets it apart from its predecessor. This game is so damn fun to play. I haven’t had this much fun moving around in a game since Titanfall, or even Crackdown. The parkour system is introduced gradually, and it is hard to get used to at first. I found myself questioning, “why the hell is the right bumper the jump button?” and then getting frustrated over the fact that I couldn’t change the jump button to the A button. But after playing the game for a few hours and growing accustomed to how the system works, I now understand why Techland made this decision. I now understand why so many people swear by the “bumper-jumper” control scheme in other first-person shoots. It feels so nice and makes you feel like you are in total control. Once you reach the later sections of the game you will have mastered the parkour system and will be able to reach any rooftop, crevice, or crumbled bridge you want.

Movement is fast and fluid thanks to the game’s well done parkour system.

The combat has been improved by the increased movement speed as well. In Dead Island, I constantly felt as though I was at a disadvantage to even a single zombie, and quickly became overwhelmed when I was surrounded. Dying Light fixes this by allowing you to get out of any situation quickly, if necessary. The parkour system allows you to flow from movement to combat and back again swiftly and easily, and man does it feel nice. Honestly, as far as actually fighting zombies goes, the game hasn’t really changed much. You still rely on a stamina bar in combat that dictates how fast and frequently you swing your weapon. The change comes from the overall faster pace of the game, encouraging you to get through a fight as fast as possible. I haven’t even mentioned how much the game changes at night either. As soon as the sun goes down, you instantly go from being the predator to being the prey. Volatile zombies can run, jump, and do just as much damage as you can, and the landscape is littered with them at night. This forces you to watch what you do carefully and stealthily, or else you’ll be running for your life to the nearest safe house. Playing at night is the most intense thing in this game, and honestly a little too intense for me. I was a little bitch when it came to this, so I avoided the night like the plague. Even then, the game tries to tempt you by giving double XP for playing at night, as well as forcing you to finish certain side-quests at night. But that wasn’t enough for me because, once again, I’m a little bitch. The game only rarely forces you to play at night, which is nice and provides a nice change of pace during the campaign and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Essentially, if you’re a bitch like me, you can go through most of the game during the daytime.

Drop kicking zombies never gets old.

The crafting system in the game has also been given a much needed overhaul. There are no more crafting benches in the game, meaning that you can craft/repair whatever you want, wherever and whenever you want. This is another contributing factor to the games improved pacing, because it makes the game feel “on-the-go” and dynamic. It removes the necessary forethought from the first games and allows you to just play and enjoy yourself. In Dead Island, I kept my favorite weapons close and never used them, for I was worried that they would break just when I needed them and would lose them forever. I would end up never using them because I never really knew when the next repair bench was coming up. Dying Light eliminates that problem entirely and allows you to play however you want. There are guns in the game once again, but they are never really encouraged, and even when they are, they are surprisingly unwieldy, dangerous, and scary to use. I would say that the last fourth of the game does push firearms a little too much, but other than that, they are never in the same kind of spotlight as they were in Dead Island.

Combat is intense and satisfying, especially when you are surrounded.

Even with all of Techland’s improvements, though, remnants of Dead Island still occasionally rear their ugly heads. For starters, every single mission in this game is a fetch quest. I shit you not, I struggle to remember any quest I was sent on that wasn’t “go here, do/kill that, come back.” It, like many other open world games that suffer the same fate, begs the question, how the hell can these people survive if they can do nothing for themselves? It’s unfortunate that Techland didn’t think outside the box or risk more outlandish quests. The only thing that helps the game is the fact that the world is incredibly fun to traverse through, but after a while the fetch quests start to weigh on you and take a toll on your enjoyment. The circumstances and characters surrounding each quest are interesting enough, but almost every result is the same. The only missions that do push the boundaries are main missions, and even then you are forced to do side missions after the main campaign is finished. An unfortunate end note to an otherwise masterfully designed game.

Story

The last ghost of Dead Island’s-past that plagues Dying Light is its story. Don’t get me wrong, it is much better and more enjoyable than anything Dead Island had to offer, but that isn’t saying much. The game at least tries this time by having a voiced protagonist, Crane, who has his own set of realizations and motives throughout. Crane is a very interesting character and his arc is satisfying, but he is one of few characters who actually develop throughout the story. Early on you meet Brechen, a parkour instructor turned leader, as well as Rahim and Jade, a brother and sister team that are bitter towards you for the death of their brother (who dies saving you at the beginning of the game). Brechen, the second most interesting character in the game, unfortunately gets no screen time. I find it so interesting that he started as a regular parkour instructor who just wanted to help people learn how to survive. This naturally made everyone look up to him as a leader, and even though he is reluctant, he tries his best to lead the people of the Tower. Brechen’s story is incredibly real and you can feel the weight behind the decisions he made in the beginning and how they have had an effect on him, but the game barely ever focuses on him. All we get is unwarranted controversy between two siblings and the main character, as well as a main villain that is trying way, way too hard to be Vaas from Far Cry 3.

Now that I mention it, Dying Light’s biggest fault is the fact that it tries too hard to be a different game without trying to distinguish itself. Far Cry 3 was a great game, we loved it here, and the story was at least interesting at the time thanks to its villain, Vaas. But since then it seems that too many games, even Ubisoft’s own Far Cry 4, have been trying to replicate the success that was Vaas by having their own crazy, bat-shit insane antagonists. Here, Rais just feels so unnatural, and his over-the-top character doesn’t fit in with the more grounded characters like Crane and Brechen. I really wish Techland risked a little more and didn’t just go with the safe choice for the villain. Even the last boss fight, which was a big QTE-fest similar to Shadow of Mordor, left me unsatisfied and wanting more. The main antagonist and the game spends so much time mocking the player for never making choices themselves (kind of funny, considering every mission is a fetch quest), but they never actually give you the opportunity to make any choices. Herein lies the biggest disappointment I had with Dying Light: the game constantly teases you with choice, and even comes up with an ending that might have more than one outcome, but it never actually allows you to change anything, making the whole story seem on rails, a stark contrast to its gameplay. In the end, I just wanted more of something new from Dying Light, not just more of the same from the past couple of years.

The game is no slouch when it comes to length, though. It took me about 20 hours to beat the main campaign, and that was after I had rushed through the second half of the game to do this review. The abundance of side quests, as well as the New game+ mode (thank god! more games need this!), you could easily spend 40+ hours on this game. That doesn’t even take into account the Co-op and Be the Zombie modes, which I honestly haven’t tried yet, which could also add to that length.

Overall

Dying Light is one of those games that eats away at your thoughts¬†(ha! pun…) whenever you aren’t playing it. I found myself wanting to rush home from class just to get a couple more hours of gametime. Even as I’m writing this all I want to do is go back and play some more. The game does borrow some unsavory aspects from its predecessor, but what Dying Light does right far outweighs what it does wrong. The game is just fun to play, and it’s refreshing to play a game that is all about you just having fun. If you’re tired of zombie games, this won’t persuade you or convince you to change your mind. But if you’re a Dead Island fan or just a fan of fun games in general, you owe it to yourself to at least try out Dying Light.

 

Disclosure 2/2: We have since changed back to our old review scale. Therefore, instead of “recommended” our score for Dying Light is an 8 out of 10.

Pros:
  • SO. DAMN. FUN.
  • Crafting, combat, and movement improvements
  • Great atmosphere
  • Chock-full of great easter eggs
Cons:
  • Disappointing story
  • Mixed-bag voice acting
  • Boring side-quests/characters
  • Rehashed villain
Dying Light
avatar

About the Reviewer: Cooper

I'm a college student who's passionate about video games.


Leave a Comment

  • GRUCooper

    Don’t be afraid to tell us what you think!

Back to Top