After taking trips to the world of cowboys, six shooters and saloon fights, Techland decided to change things up by mixing thousands of shambling zombies with an idyllic island. The result — titled Dead Island, of course — was a fun and addicting game that was held back by technical issues and middling production values. It was the type of experience you’d enjoy but wouldn’t be able to wholeheartedly recommend to others, and the same was true of its budget-priced expansion.
Now, the Polish developer is back with another undead-filled game, but one that doesn’t bear the Dead Island name. Instead, this effort exists as a brand new IP dubbed Dying Light – a title that plays on the game’s difficulty-altering day and night cycle. However, though it bears a different name, this isn’t a completely new experience. In fact, it borrows quite a bit from its predecessor, while still putting a new spin on things.
What’s most notably different about Dying Light is that it places more emphasis on being a zombie survival game than a murder simulation. This means that, instead of ploughing through hordes upon hordes of the undead, you’ll want to try to avoid them whenever possible. Combat is still a fun and visceral thing to partake in, and something you’ll do a lot of, but it’s certainly not the emphasis, as these zombies are rather tough in groups. That’s especially true of the ones you’ll come across after the 15-20 hour game’s half-way mark, as that’s when they start to mutate and become tougher.
So, how will you be trying to avoid the brain-eaters? By doing parkour, of course! It’s something you’ll need to get good at quickly, too.
Parkour — for those who aren’t into athletics — is a new sport where people test their agility by trying to run along and/or jump onto pieces of our real-world environment. In simpler terminology, they attempt to jump from rooftop to rooftop, or from one side of a staircase to another, and tend to mix in other things as well. Tricks are also a big part of the elite ones’ repertoires, but that’s not true of Dying Light’s protagonist. He’s quite good at climbing buildings like an Assassin’s Creed hero, and jumping from ledge to ledge, but not the more extravagant stuff. Granted, it’s not like he starts off as a pro, since he continually gets better with practice, which leads to statistical upgrades.
The problem with this approach is that it’s not perfect, or even nearly perfect. The main character, whose name is Kyle Crane, is able to go upwards well, but he sucks at going downwards. As a result, you can expect a lot of unintentional falls, most of which will force you to restart from a nearby safe house. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if dying wasn’t designed to take experience points away from you each time, but it is. The good news is that it only takes survival points (leaving power and agility alone), but it’s still a pain in the ass when cheap deaths occur either at the hands of an instant-kill blow-up zombie or a bad fall.
Since the majority of the game’s climbing revolves around grabbing onto exposed brick, window frames and other types of ledges, you’d think that it’d be easy to do so in reverse. It’s not, though, and nor is dropping down and trying to grab something before hitting the ground. When you do, you get hurt (even if you don’t really hit anything), and most of the time it flat out doesn’t work. That said, the shoulder button jumping/grabbing controls are imperfect overall, and simply fail to respond properly from time to time.
For the most part, though, Dying Light‘s parkour is pretty fun. It does get repetitive and become old hat after a while, but there’s nothing like it on the market right now.
Combat, which I briefly glossed over earlier, is handled as you’d expect. You’ll find items, like knives, scythes, planks, pipes and axes, then use them to bash or cut zombies to death. Mods can be added, and so can upgrades, but weapons only last for so long. They come with limited health to begin with, then have a certain amount of repairs. After that, they’re done for.
Don’t even bother hoarding weapons at the beginning, either, because it won’t help you. Through regular progression, you’ll find loads of things to use and won’t even think about returning to your stash to get an old nailed 2×4 or kitchen knife, especially once you start to find guns. Truthfully, the whole stash idea is a bit unnecessary in and of itself, because there’s very little to keep. If you have weapon upgrades, you’ll want to use them, and if you have special items like cigarettes or coffee, you’ll sell them for money to put towards new things at barter shops. That really just leaves weapons and crafting items, the latter of which don’t seem to take up inventory spots. You’ll use a lot of them, too, in order to make medkits, throwing stars, molotovs, shields, lockpicks and more.