Review: Dying Light 2
By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
Publisher/Developer: Techland Publishing
Available on: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X|S
I normally focus on tabletop gaming these days, but of the few video games I’ve been looking forward to this year, Dying Light 2: Stay Human is absolutely one of them. At the time of writing this, the game was released three days ago, and I’ve already sunk about twenty hours into it. I’m still fairly early on in the game in Dying Light terms, but I wanted to share my initial thoughts about it.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a first-person zombie survival RPG where the player takes on the role of a pilgrim named Aiden, a nomadic rendition of the runners from the first game. Twenty years after the first game and fifteen years after an event called “The Fall,” civilization has fallen into deep decay. If you’re not familiar with the first installment, it was based on a middle-eastern setting in a city called Harran. Brief side note - this is a Veteran’s blog about video games, so I’ll share some thoughts here. The original Dying Light was released about three and a half years after my discharge from the Marine Corps infantry. Other military-based shooters aside, I wasn’t very excited to hang out in that setting for “funsies,” even to parkour around slaying zombies. Fast forward seven years, though, and I’ve overcome most of my weird issues and feelings about that part of the world. For any civilian readers, it’s worth pointing out that those types of internal struggles are rooted in prolonged experiences in a threatening environment that conditioned us to associate that region and its people with negative feelings, emotions, and memories - whether we choose it or not. Dying Light didn’t trigger any crazy PTSD panic or the like, but in my case, it came down to preference.
When it comes to zombie killin’, I typically think of a setting more akin to The Walking Dead or something like “Plank Country” in Left 4 Dead 2. One of our favorite pastimes in the service was jiving about what we would do in the zombie apocalypse, so I assume that regional association is because it’s just closer to home and where I’d be if a scenario like that actually played out. I digress. Dying Light 2 isn’t set in the state of Georgia like the aforementioned AMC series, but the surroundings feel more familiar, and just as an honest observation, I appreciate that aspect.
The intro portion takes a similar approach to the first game, with the tutorial bits worked into an opening narrative. The intro did feel like it dragged on a bit this time before handing you the reins to the open-world style of gameplay, taking me around two and a half hours to get through, but they did drop some pretty good references in there if you look close enough. The narrative so far has seemed a bit routine and somewhat more of an excuse to be there parkouring around Villedor, but I wouldn’t say it’s bland. The main quest line has been compelling enough that I’ve fairly evenly split my time between it and other side quests and activities. I have only encountered two parkour challenges and completed one, but they do exist and certainly are challenging. NPCs continue to round out the typical roster, from the edgy, stubbornly ignorant role, to the helpful and quirky to the exceedingly forgettable rabble.
Like many RPGs past, it was advertised with the assurance of in-depth, meaningful choices that matter. There is still much game left for me to play, but be aware that things take some time to ramp up. Twenty hours in and I just took my first steps in influencing faction presence in the first main area of Old Villedor. Without spoilers, the more you support a faction, the more the environment is tailored to certain styles of gameplay; the way it was presented, I'm assuming that will be the main mechanic of "meaningful choice" they were referring to. I'm still fine with it if that's the case, but it wouldn't be quite the mind-blowing innovation they spoke of in advertisement. Choices matter, but the verdict is still out on that front for me. With that said, a decent portion of activities fall into grindy RPG tropes. While others may find those activities to be worn-out time wasters, I personally enjoy having the option to run around and zone out on the grind. Like many open-world titles, it’s up to you how much time you want to spend farting around on side quests versus the main storyline, and I truly enjoy both. However, content aside, the meat and potatoes of the series lie in the gameplay itself.
The gameplay certainly feels like Dying Light. From movement to combat, the mechanics feel very familiar. It’s still not perfect; you’ll occasionally find yourself wondering why the hell you didn’t grab the ledge to which you clearly jumped, but honestly, half of those blunders probably boil down to user error for me. Combat is even more melee-focused than the first, as there aren’t really any firearms in the game. There are some ranged options, but I haven’t yet felt the need to look for those provisions. The franchise continues to hinge on the disparity between day and night. It ups the ante this time around, though, as you regularly have to return to some form of UV light to stave off infection. At first, I was afraid that aspect would get extremely annoying, but so far, it has turned out to be a fun challenge - one that becomes easier to manage the further you progress. The night crew features a returning cast of volatiles, as well as some “howlers” that will alert surrounding undead to your presence if you’re not careful. “GRE Anomalies” will give you opportunities to fight uglier undead and collect that sweet loot.
The crafting system has a nice weight to it with upgradable blueprints for weapons and items, as well as the ability to modify different parts of most weapons. Don’t get too attached to your favorite sluggers, though, as the option to repair them isn’t present like it was in the first game. You can return some durability by adding modifications down the road, but other than that, if it’s broken, it’s broken. Additionally, upgrading your blueprints relies on collecting “infected trophies,” which require a range of rarities; some of these are dropped by those howlers I previously mentioned, so getting good at parkour early on can only be done be beneficial. I tend to prefer running solo in this series, but the option to slay with friends is offered up once again. I haven’t been able to give multiplayer a shot yet, but once my cousin is ready to put down Oldschool Runescape, we’ll give it a go. Until then, I can’t provide any accurate info or opinion on that front. If it’s anything like the first Dying Light, I’m sure it’ll be a blast.
Unpopular opinion: sequels are allowed to be sequels. I don’t blame developers for recycling certain assets and mechanics - especially for a direct sequel in the same series. They do reuse some concepts from the first game, but that’s okay - it has the same title on the cover. That said, the game has predominantly felt familiar enough that I’m not learning a whole new system, yet new enough that it does feel like the natural progression of a sequel. Twenty hours is still quite preliminary in terms of the series, but it’s certainly enough to decide if I’m having fun with it. So far, I’m hooked and having a ton of fun parkouring all over Villedor getting into trouble. There are still plenty of perks to unlock, cool weapons and items to craft and discover, zombies to eradicate, and plot points to uncover. If they continue with great DLC and extras as they did with the first, we’ll be enjoying the upward trajectory of this entry for quite some time. Overall, I give Dying Light 2: Stay Human 7 infected trophies out of 10, with much potential to boost those numbers down the road.