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Dying Light Game review

Game review 06 February 2015, 14:17

author: Luc

Dying Light Review: Leaving Dead Island behind

For many people killing zombies never gets old, and developers from Techland are fully aware of that. Dying Light is another solid addition to the zombie games genre from makers of Dead Island.

The review is based on the PC version.

  • a well executed parkour system;
  • a bit chaotic, yet still satisfying combat;
  • an absurd amount of sidequests and collectibles;
  • „Be the Zombie” mode;
  • a night and day cycle that ups the tension;
  • the way the game looks and sounds;
  • painfully cliché plot;
  • the restrictive city design;
  • improper optimization of the PC version and issues with the online modes;
  • identical structure of the missions;
  • balance of the weapon destruction system.

You all probably remember Dead Island – despite the fact that in the end it wasn’t what everyone had expected. Nevertheless, the uncompromising slaughter found quite a fandom. Along with Riptide, the series has sold a few million copies, which put it on pair with Poland’s another proud export product, the splendid Witcher. In spite of series good fortune, a chance to produce the next installment has skipped Techland. Not going into much detail of this surprising decision, one thing is certain – the polish developer is no longer involved in the ‘island of the dead’.

That doesn’t however mean that the ideas that the Wroclaw-based studio had in store for the next game were lost completely – on the contrary! The best concepts were layered with a new story and a new setting, along with enhancing it with elements that have worked already well for the competitors. What is the end result? Dying Light is an entirely new franchise, and probably one of the most interesting games for the fans of the genre in recent memory… while still being a title with some faults.

A zombie-unforsaken place

The story we are experiencing in Dying Light starts off typically enough, yet with a hint of intrigue. A mysterious virus of unknown origin has spread over an entire peaceful city of Harran in a matter of days. In the face of a threat the world’s leaders and heads of the military are slowly reading themselves to wipe the city off the face of the earth, along with the poor souls that happen to be trapped in it. The Global Relief Effort (GRE for short) which is working hard on a serum seems to be the only party interested in resolving the crisis. Their plans are foiled however, as some documents vital to the research are stolen. The mysteriously lost documents fall into the hands of a local warlord, causing a greater threat than a virus that is turning the inhabitants of Harran into the undead – as the documents can be published, or yet worse, sold. Our hero, Kyle Crane – a special agent working for the aforementioned GRE, enters the scene to save the day. While our task is pretty simple at first, everything gets complicated the second we enter the quarantine zone.

While trying to complete his quest, the main hero must also try to win over a local faction, which he hopes will help him in reaching his destination. Completing further feats we experience a few plot twists, naturally, and it quickly becomes obvious that the intentions of some of the supporting cast aren’t what they seem. The only problem in that matter is the fact that from the very beginning to the end of the story the script is painfully predictable. A plot infested with clichés isn’t that much of a reason to be appalled, but it isn’t Academy Award nod-worthy material either. Presumably, it would be easier for us to digest, if not for the fact that most of the tasks we are given are based on the same model – ‘go there, something goes wrong, go somewhere else’. No matter if we are currently tackling a sidequest, or a task regarding the main story – during my visit to Harran I usually felt like a full-time delivery boy. You can find a few gems here and there, but after nearly spending 20 hours with the game (of which 12-13 I’ve spent on completing the main storyline), I couldn’t help the feeling that at any moment I’m going to get a job offer from UPS.

Dying Light has an extensive crafting system. Apart from obvious essentials such as first aid kits or lockpicks, our protagonist is able to craft masterpieces such as shuriken or shields. What is more, we don’t miss out on weapon enhancements which infuse our tools of the trade with additional effects – like setting the undead on fire, or inflicting wounds causing heavy bleeding. However if we want to craft anything at all, we usually need at least a few unique components such as metal pieces, or poisonous plants for example. Acquiring them isn’t usually the easiest thing to do, and it is worth it to keep our eyes in the back of our head and look around every, sometimes literally, dump.

If you are not easily tired by monotony, the sheer quantity comes off as a great advantage – the game has a huge amount of sidequests and various collectibles. Naturally, our discoveries and the completion of the tasks at hand are rewarded properly – with experience points. Those we get to spend on developing our skills in one of the three skill groups, or improving our beloved toys and acquiring new additions to our arsenal.

If a club doesn’t work, use a knife

Although we won’t have a chance to get overly accustomed to the latter in Dying Light. We owe it all to a degradation system of the weapons we are carrying – the more zombies we slaughter with a modified electric shock-emitting hammer, the less time it will take for our little plaything to break. This particular thing can get irritating very quickly. Keeping in mind that everything we swing around can be repaired only a set amount of times, it quickly becomes clear that if we want to survive, we will have to be willing to change our fighting style every 15 minutes. Along with the next levels we do however get skills that extend our usage of various firearms, clubs, crowbars and alike, but that doesn’t change the fact that practically none of them will be around after a dozen or so minutes of exploitation. Well, it’s not quite the same with rifles and pistols – when we do get our hands on them eventually, we can be sure that they will stay for good in our equipment. Not only because they are extremely efficient when encountering certain enemy types (while they still manage to be hellishly loud), but also because the shooting system in Dying Light is quite pleasing. At the same time one can’t complain about swinging an axe around or wreaking havoc with a baseball bat – the fighting can get a bit chaotic every once in a while, but the sight of broken bones or the insides gushing in slow motion are amazingly satisfactory and make up for it.

When we’re currently not indulging in the massacring of the living corpses, it usually means one thing – that we’re probably traversing the rooftops of Harran. From the start the parkour system in Dying Light was supposed to be not only one of the game’s unique features, but also one of its’ best. I must admit whole-heartedly that the developers have achieved their goal. The constant jumping and climbing are crafted exceptionally, and are undoubtedly my favorite element of the gameplay. The entirety of it is not only amazingly fluid, but it’s also effective, despite being quite simple at its’ core. Unfortunately, the locations we run through often hinder our acrobatic stunts. Various huts and towers are aplenty, but every now and then it turns out that just when we are gaining speed, we must stop, take a step back and think how to get to a nearby bridge or rooftop. An approach that favors logic over reflex is bound to find its’ followers, but personally I would prefer gameplay where slowing down is an individual choice, rather than something forced on us because of the design of the city. Nevertheless, the parkour works very well, and Techland should be congratulated on it.

A nightmare that consumes you

We’ll get most out of parkour when nigh falls – it is then when the streets of Harran become infested with the most dangerous types of zombie mutants. They not only surpass us in strength and agility, but also don’t give us a chance in a direct fight, especially when we encounter more of the infected. The concept behind the day and night cycle is also interesting – even though the nighttime is incomparably more dangerous, experience points acquired at that time are doubled. A lot of times the possible reward has pushed me towards exploring Harran at night, even with mutants just behind the corner – and those still manage to scare after a few survived nights. The suspense intensifies especially when we activate the ‘invasion’ mode, which allows other players to torment us as one of the beasts. Similarly fun is the option to fight on the other side, when we get to play as one of the mighty walking dead.

‘Be the Zombie’ mode which makes the gruesome transformation possible was initially supposed to be a pre-order bonus. However Techland, in apology for the delay of the game has made it available to all. And good thing they did! Even though the matches themselves aren’t too complicated (we must hunt down the humans, while protecting our pre-determined lair) they offer an unique experience, and a new perspective of the city. Our zombie has their own unique abilities, which we unlock gradually with the acquired points. Almost all of them guarantee a good time, as soon as we master the mid-air controls. The co-op mode doesn’t come off as strong though, mainly focusing on adding three additional players with whom we do the same things. What is more, we all look identical. So, if you’ve ever dreamt of having your own personal army of clones, feel free to invite all of your friends. I personally would advise to avoid that mode. As a matter of fact, multiplayer struggles are a good idea, but it sadly gets boring too quickly.

What’s the beauty of it?

Another aspect which makes the co-op less desirable is the poor optimization of the PC version. Personally, while playing on medium-high graphic settings I didn’t encounter visible drops of the frame rate, but the people with whom I had a chance to fight for survival were constantly complaining about the lack of stability. 10-15 FPS speaks for itself, and when it happens to users with much greater specs than mine, it’s clear that ‘something went wrong’ in that department. Unfortunately, I had experienced a few critical errors, that have suddenly made the game crush. With a larger amount of zombies on-screen (especially online) Dying Light managed to unpredictably refuse to run and has sent me to my desktop with an evil sound. Let’s hope that this matter, along with the fluidity of the game, will be improved with future patches, because as of now, the game can literally be unplayable for some of the players. It’s quite unfortunate as the graphics in Dying Light look exceptionally good.

I certainly can’t nitpick at the game’s audio. The creeping music fits the atmosphere perfectly, and has an old school horror vibe. Apart from that, one can’t complain about the sounds made by the zombies chasing us. Although some annoying lines are uttered by the characters we meet, the game overall sounds really good. The icing on the cake is the Polish version which sounds on pair with the English one – certainly a treat for the fellow countrymen of the developers. Especially for me, as a Polish person, that was quite a nice surprise.

The end is night

The rumors circulating before the release, regarding the change of some of the zombies’ clothes, have turned out to be true. The controversy concerning the apparel of the undead (hijabu worn by a large portion of the female undead demographic) has intensified by the terrorist attacks in Paris which were apparently the reason for deleting the element from the final product. As in the preview version of the game this unique clothing item could be found, after the release Harran was devoid of any references to the Muslim culture.

It came to me as a surprise that Dying Light simply turned out to be a good title. The previously played preview version has clearly shown that when it comes to gameplay mechanics, Techland’s new game performs perfectly and the only thing that left a reason to be alarmed, was the question whether the concept would work with the entirety of the game and the plot itself. That has been achieved partially. On hand we have fantastic parkour, but on the other the design of the city doesn’t allow that element to reach its’ full potential. While we do encounter many tasks to complete, we soon find out that 99% of them rely on the same pattern. At times the game looks marvelous, but on some of the PCs it’s virtually unplayable. On top of that we get a plot that doesn’t seem that bad at first, only to turn out latter to be filled with clichés and typical plot twists we can predict early on. And while almost every element of Dying Light has a ‘but’, it’s beyond a doubt that in comparison to Dead Island the newest game from Techland bests the original in almost every aspect. Additionally, if you were a fan of the previous zombie games from the developer you can add half a point to our final review score. If not… you should still give this game a chance. Sure, it’s flawed, but that doesn’t stop it from being a decent game for those how fancy themselves a zombie apocalypse every now and then.

Luc | Gamepressure.com

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