Dying Light Review


Dying Light Review

Good Night, Good Luck

Dying Light is the latest creation from the team behind Dead Island/Riptide, game developer Techland. The game combines two elements; combating the undead with a wide range of melee-focused weaponry and using your parkour skills to traverse the two playable areas in the fictional city of Harran and the hordes of infected within them.

The player takes control of Kyle Crane; an undercover operative working for an organisation known as The Global Relief Effort. Crane is sent to infiltrate the quarantine zone in the city of Harran to retrieve a sensitive file in the possession of a political figure turned slum warlord; Rais. The game is arguably spread rather thin in terms of narrative with many characters owning their own story arcs. This creates depth in the world, showing how multiple characters have their own agendas and motivations, and adds to the games immersion and realism.

However this multitude of story arcs is also a distraction from the main narrative, striving more for gameplay hours over one fully explored and developed narrative focusing on a single character. Additionally, the absence of any actual likeable characters makes it difficult to invest in these story arcs, and they instead feel like another pass-time for the player until Rais pops up again and reminds you what you're actually there for. On the other hand, the moments where Rais is on-screen are fairly exciting, and after failing to kill him off multiple times, the game does quite well in building up to the final encounter in which you expect to murder the antagonist with epic hand-to-hand combat.

The combat in the game has a strong emphasis on melee weapons, which you'll use to fend off the stereotypical zombie types (spitters, runners etc). The undead aren't the only enemies the player will face within Harran, there are also militia-type enemies that are under Rais' control, and random encounter hostile survivor attacks. You can buy and scavenge an interestingly large variety - from machetes to hammers to medieval long swords.

The start of the game is slightly grueling, beating even the weakest zombies to death takes two recharges of a stamina bar - hardly what you'd expect from a trained freerunning agent. The melee weapons can be customized in a variety of ways. This may sound interesting to begin with, but wait until it detaches you from reality and you start to question how exactly duck-taping a battery to the end of a hammer turns you into Thor, Norse God of thunder. However, despite the break in immersion, decapitating a zombie with a flaming hatchet is fun and so it gets let off, if that is all Dying Light is trying to be. 

The parkour is well-integrated within the combat, being able to unlock skills from three individual trees which provides you with new weapons in your arsenal, for example vaulting over the infected, and tackling your way through crowds. These upgrades were fairly well executed and when remembered, could be made good use of. However, I was disappointed to learn that I couldn't unlock the best upgrade of each tree until I had first gained enough experience to gain the abilities on each individual branch, even if I didn't see myself making much use of them.

Additionally, I found myself raising my eye multiple times due to the parkour, when I'd fall short of the ledge I was jumping to and be teleported atop it moments after, when the game realised what I was actually trying to do. Apart from that, it felt good to run, jump, and climb my way through playable areas that lent themselves well to the game mechanic. After a few hours of playtime and becoming adept and recognising what I could and couldn't do, I almost reached a point in which I became elegant or graceful in my performance.

Dying Light adds another layer to the world by having a day-night cycle. It adheres to the trope of more powerful enemies spawning at night, and advises players to sleep in one of the many safe zones dotted throughout Harran. If you find yourself unable to get to one of those safe zones, you may be spotted by a powerful infected and activate a pursuit. When this happens, you'll be chased by the undead throughout the city until you lose them, having to make use of your parkour practice and the multiple "traps" that have been set up in the environment.

Finally, Dying Light offers a multiplayer experience called "Be the Zombie" in which you'll either invade someone's single player campaign as a Hunter or join other humans to co-operate in destroying Volatile nests marked on your mini-map. I found playing as the zombie wildly unbalanced, having your energy easily drained by UV flashlights and being slaughtered in only a few hits. What I came to realise was that you'd have to have played as the zombie for a considerable amount of time and unlocked almost your entire set of skills before even being able to put up a fight against two humans, let alone four at one time.

Despite this, the multiplayer is actually enjoyable and unique in it's presentation. The speed and addition of tentacles that work like a grappling hook allow you to become even more adept at traversing the city than your average human and it brought me joy to zip around overhead and if I got lucky, pounce on unsuspecting players.

Overall, Dying Light is lacking in the story department but provides a refreshing experience for the zombie genre. The versatility that the customisation of both character and weapons provides makes for a more personal experience that will leave you wanting to come back and dismember the undead even when the main campaign is long finished.
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