Dying Light Hands-On Preview [E3 2014]


Techland chose to forego setting up shop within the hustle and bustle of E3 2014’s two main halls, in favour of a quiet, low-key meeting room on an above level. It was there that we took a break from the chaos, and had the opportunity to play through two separate sections of Dying Light, the studio’s next, zombie-filled adventure.

Our time with the game followed a short, vocal introduction from one of the Polish developer’s main men, and began with a guided walkthrough of one of its earliest parts. Then, once that demo came to an end, a proverbial fast-forward button was hit, before our second hands-on opportunity arrived. The idea was to show two sides of the experience: the beginning, where our hero is weak and still learning how to get around using parkour, and something later on, where he’s levelled himself up quite a bit. It was an interesting juxtaposition, which highlighted the difference that invested time can make, given the fact that the game’s skill system is effort-based.


At first, I struggled to get around and had to avoid conflict if I wished to survive. That changed in the second part, however, as I was a genuine badass who could easily take on small groups of zombies and even human foes. I wasn’t invincible, though, because, as the developer showed, nighttime brings forth beings who are much more intelligent and ten times more dangerous than traditional brain-eaters. I came, I saw and I met those baddies, who ended up taking my life at one point, after following me over shantytown rooftops with ease. Throwing firecrackers to distract them was a bit of a crapshoot, as their focus was tough to break, unlike that of previous foes.

When my abilities were levelled up and improved, I was able to move around with ease, by jumping from one building to another and grabbing onto both edges and footholds. Plus, being up high was a distinct advantage as it provided great vantage points and allowed me to get from one point to another without much trouble. Telephone lines were a great asset here as well. They provided a way to move across large distances, but weren’t always available for usage. As such, strategy — and a neat grappling hook — both played large roles in my success, as I attempted to get to my objective at a distant radio tower.


These demos were set up so as to force movement. Objectives were always placed off in the distance, enemies were found around every corner, and things never felt safe as a result. I give Techland credit, though, because they did a phenomenal job of highlighting the key mechanics that will make Dying Light a force to be reckoned with. That includes its great parkour, ferocious combat (complete with guns, environmental explosives and badass melee weapons that can be charged for added effect), and an overall sense of dread. Surviving the game’s post-apocalyptic wares won’t be easy, it seems, but it’ll surely be a heck of a lot of fun.

Dying Light will bring its undead to digitized life next February, and will surely make quite the impact when it does so. Even though I saw a lot of great-looking games at this year’s E3 expo, this one stood above the crowd for multiple reasons.

“Good Night. Good Luck.”