Dying Light takes zombie games to new heights.
Zombies and open world games seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly; most turn out fun, if not a bit messy. Techland has returned to what it knows best, and gives a new vision for their zombie apocalypse in Dying Light. Open world, first person gameplay combine with parkour mobility, climbing, verticality and zombies make for me, a dream come true.
Dying Light is all about survival in a broken world with vulnerable characters and a world torn apart. Players control Kyle Crane, an operative sent into the quarantined city of Harran. A deadly outbreak of mutated rabies has turned the citizens into zombies or worse. Since the outbreak has already occurred, the player gets to see the after effects of the epidemic and how it affects the folks stuck there. Kyle himself is sent there for one mission: to obtain important data from a criminal figure, because if he doesn’t, things could take a turn for the worse.
Time to Beat: 15 +
Multiplayer: 1-4 players online
Price you would pay: $59.99
First person gameplay is no stranger to video games. Players with experience in zombie games or the open world genre will feel right at home. The one huge difference that completely makes the game stand out is the parkour and mobility of Kyle. He starts off with a limited move set and rather weak fighting skills. He starts taking on jobs to earn his keep as the new guy in the city, and before long the player starts coming into their own as they unlock various abilities in the three different skills trees. The more players fight, explore, jump, climb, and complete quests, the more points they earn in those particular skills. This enforces the fact that players must do more than just fight in order to get a taste of every ability. Kyle also has survivor sense, a move that lets him see everything in the environment that can be picked up. It’s a great feature that allows you optimum searching without being super intrusive.
If Kyle needs company, the entire campaign can be played co-op with up to three other players, a feature that has been sorely lacking or limited in a lot of recent games but is extremely welcomed here and encouraged. While playing co-op, everyone gets their own loot, can level their stats up, find new blue prints and even progress their own story. The game offers challenges that players can compete with each other on the fly like “killing the most zombies” or “finding the most items” Then there’s the “be a zombie mode” which allows a player to take over a zombie and try to take down the survivors before they destroy all the nests. A limited yet very nice concept for multiplayer session.
There is a sense of accomplishment and reward as Kyle levels up and gains abilities that let him move faster, jump quicker, learn special attacks and more. Dying Light is one of the few games that actually gets better and better as players level up and progress, as new gameplay mechanics get added into the mix. Hours later, Kyle gets the grappling hook, which is a total game changer that allows players to zip across the rooftops with relative ease and almost Spiderman-like reflexes. A few more hours later, a second map opens that’s even better designed than the first, all the while combat is improving and the story ramps up the stakes.
Another huge aspect to the core mechanics is the night time. Gameplay progresses via real time, with the sun setting and rising. During the daytime, Kyle has to deal with the regular slow zombies, some fast runners and later some special infected. At night time, players are surrounded by complete darkness, with only a flashlight to see the horrors that await. The sheer amount of anxiety driven tension that occurs is fantastic. Now you have to deal with the volatile zombies. These enemies, once they see Kyle, chase him relentlessly and for much of the game, with the only defense being a UV light or flares as these zombies take a beating otherwise. This leads to some of the most frantic and dynamic moments in the game while running for life or for the nearest safe house. Safe houses can be taken over through the day and night, but they serve one purpose; to sleep until night or day and to grab anything put in the personal weapon bag. Players might ask themselves why they would want to do anything at night then. Experience earned is doubled, thus providing the ultimate risk versus reward scenario.
Dealing with all the zombies in the game wouldn’t be as exciting if the ways to take then out were dull or unfulfilling. Luckily, players can fully expect to get a meaty experience out of it, which is mostly focused on melee weapons. Players will find an overabundance of weapons, upgrade them and create new weapons with blue prints. Not only can Kyle build weapons from blue prints, but med kits, lock picks, and Molotov cocktails are some of the other very useful tools at his disposal, and luckily all this can be done via the players menu and on the go. Granted Kyle’s fighting abilities are only as good as his weapons durability and stamina bar, so best to keep an eye on both. Players do obtain guns as well, but are limited in their inventory of bullets, making guns extremely precious but also satisfying when they finally do use them.
There is a lot to love with Dying Light and I could go on even more about it, yet some of the core issues of open world games are still relevant here. Textures load in or pop up, grass can fade in, and zombies can have extreme yet hilarious physics. The typical errand boy complexity of most open world games filled with quests is still here, granted it makes a bit more sense with the story and that seems to change a little over time, but those looking for some new and improved ways of questing will walk away feeling a sense of déjà vu. I’ve also heard about a major bug that some folks have run into which includes turning off your game immediately after you sleep and coming back to a game with no skills or weapons. It’s going to be patched according to the devs, but it’s always unfortunate when a bug of this magnitude is discovered.
I came into Dying Light feeling very neutral. Anyone that knows me can tell you I have a huge love for zombie games, but this one wasn’t grabbing me in the slightest. Having played it for a few hours I thought perhaps I was walking into a game I was just going to subtly enjoy. Now, taking a step back, I see the 16 + hours I currently have in the game, swinging around with the grapple hook, running for my life in the dark on rooftops, playing single player and co-op and totally loving the synthesized soundtrack and superb sound design.
The game just continues to get better and better the more I play. It’s dark, gritty, 80’s style vibe goes extremely well with the parkour elements and questing. All these elements add up to take the zombie genre to a new level, one I just can’t seem to get enough of. Techland has improved upon their own zombie genre in every way possible. I could go on further about all the reasons why I love Dying Light, but I’ll leave you on this note. I can say, without a doubt in my mind, Dying Light is one of the best zombie games ever made.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.