Dying Light is a zombie survival horror title which borrows heavily from other games to create a unique identity for itself. It borrows Dead Island’s weapon and combat system, and adds a dash of S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s emphasis on the day-and-night cycle, a pinch of Mirror’s Edge parkour and seasons it all with a healthy dose of flesh-eating “biters”. It then sprinkles some Sniper Elite V2 bone-crunching goodness and serves it all on a post-apocalyptic platter. With such a mix of approaches and styles, Dying Light tries its best to appeal to as many people as possible – perhaps losing some of its own identity in the process – but the end result is still a game that is most certainly a hit.
Dying Light’s main attraction is undoubtedly its parkour moves and the fictional city of Harran that serves as the stage of said moves. It stands on-par with other beautiful current-gen games to deliver a captivating visual experience and an impressive attention to detail, all the while pushing you to experience as much of it as possible through both random and fixed events.
Those events are what really drives Dying Light – as the story is rather uninspired and the backdrop, while beautiful, is still a generic “city in ruins”. You’re dropped into the city Harran after a viral outbreak turned people into flesh-eating zombies, with the objective of finding a stolen file that could end the outbreak. It’s all very banal and the first few story missions take the expected turns before the plot comes into its own, with the usual “greet and meet” missions to set the scene before events really pick up.
Dying Light’s side-missions are a whole different story. Between airdrops, random story NPCs, an unexpected encounter with men fighting for their lives and a whole lot of side-missions ranging from fetch quests to a night-time-only missions which are some of the most tense, heart-pounding missions in the game, Harran delivers a massive experience that never feels empty. And that’s before the scavenging element which quietly but surely pushes you to explore every nook, cranny and rooftop for valuable materials to transform into weapon upgrades, tools and utilities.
Dying Light’s day-and-night cycle basically boils down to this: at night, no matter how badass you feel, you run and you hide because that’s when the Volatiles come out to play. These monstrosities are unlike the regular biters; they’re fast, agile and extremely durable, and they will hunt you down mercilessly. If during the day you can mostly wade through a pack of biters, whacking left and right with a flaming cricket bat and coming out mostly unharmed, during the night the same approach will most likely get you killed. Nighttime is when Dying Light really feels like a survival horror title, a thought which occurred to me as I was hiding in a broken piece of sewage pipe afraid to step aside due to several Volatiles sniffing around the area.
But if you find it within you to face the horrors, you’ll be greatly rewarded. Dying Light has not one, not two but three experience bars, each independent from the others. You have your “Survival” rating, which is your generic experience for completing tasks and objectives. Ranking up the Survival ladder unlocks mostly utility upgrades like bigger inventory or a grappling hook you can use to speed up your traversal of Harran. The second rating is your “Agility” rating, which you improve by parkouring around Harran as creatively as possible. Run, climb, jump, drop and generally do what Dying Light expects you to do, and you’ll rack up your agility points in no time. Last but not least is the “Power” category, which is the game’s way of rewarding you for cracking skulls. Kills and other combat moves add points to this pool and the upgrades it unlocks are all combat-oriented, from stronger power attacks to being tougher and more durable.
The best part to this system is that your experience pools are always at different states of progress which means you’re never far from an upgrade of some kind. Better yet, to reward nocturnal excursions, power and agility point gains are doubled at night – Dying Light’s way of encouraging you to run to an abandoned park in the dead of night to gather some glowing plants.
Dying Light also has some multiplayer offerings if you’d like to play with a friend or two online. With a competitive “Be The Zombie” mode you can even invade other people’s games and try to kill them. You can set the frequency and type of invasions you want to experience (and yes, “none at all” is also an option). The cooperative mode is fairly simplistic, but it does provide you additional rewards and challenges players to compete one against the other. Overall, the multiplayer mode didn’t really catch my interest – but your mileage may vary.
If I had to sum up Dying Light I would equate it to a giant puzzle made from the pieces originally belonging to other puzzles. Despite that, the game manages to assemble everything into a unique picture that has as much potential (if not more so) than the originals. If you can look past the somewhat dull story and the initial confusion ,and come to terms with the confounding controls, you’ll find yourself an adventure worth having.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.