When we covered Dying Light‘s initial announcement back in 2013, John-Paul asked the following question: “Will it be as clunky and bug-ridden as the Dead Island games, but still manage to scrape through on ‘guilty pleasure’ points alone?” Now, having had plenty of time to get to know the world of Harran, I can confidently say yes. Everything about the question is answered with an affirmative.
Dying Light is certainly as fun as Dead Island and its half-sequel Riptide, some might argue moreso; however it laments me to say it is just as buggy as well. It is still thoroughly enjoyable and can be played with fairly minimal technical frustrations (as evidenced by the fact that my wife only experienced one bug while I had more than half a dozen), but the glitches and hiccups are still prevalent enough to get on your nerves.
The similarities to Dead Island don’t end there. Developer Techland has brought over many mechanics from DI, but enhanced them and made them better, for what that’s worth. For example, you still collect random bits of rubbish that can be used to upgrade and enhance your weapons, but this time you don’t need to find a crafting bench in order to create new weapons. You just need to necessary parts, and boom; craft away.
Plus there are the two obvious and most frequently advertised differences from Dead Island to Dying Light: the nighttime mechanic, and the parkour elements. Like every other aspect of the game, both of these have their high and low points.
Throughout every trailer and tease, every event and every glimpse into the game, it has been ingrained for us to fear the night. The name, Dying Light, and the tagline, “Good Night. Good Luck.” both reinforce this. Techland and Warner Bros. wouldn’t even allow a nighttime demo level for public to play at most events, allegedly to give the players a fresh experience with it upon the game’s release. On top of all that, they remind you about every 5 minutes in-game not to stay out after dark.
Truth be told? I’m underwhelmed by the night terrors.
The only time the night is frightening or distressing is during the first couple hours of gameplay. You’re still uncovering Harran’s map, capturing safe zones, and trying to grab some semi-decent weapons, and all of that is much easier when you can see what’s happening around you. Pretty soon you’ve leveled up a bit and can craft boosters that make you faster, sustain more damage, and see in the dark. Sure, the enemies at night can still overwhelm you if you’re careless, but the only reason most people are scared of the night is because they’ve been told to be. It’s really nothing so terrifying.
The parkour is pretty satisfying, and the game rightfully puts heavy emphasis on being able to move anywhere and everywhere. There is no quick travel option so if your objective is 600m away, you’d better get moving. It’s definitely fun to explore and see just how far up you can climb, finding new outposts and helping plenty of people along the way with their various fetch and escort quests. Another perk is that whether you’re scaling a tower, hopping over a car on the road, or jump-kicking a zombie in the face, everything athletic you do in the game nets you some amount of experience in that area. The more you move, the faster you level up.
Speaking of, I’ve got a bone to pick with the level-up system as well. Well not the level-up system, per se, more the lack of variety in skills. While Dead Island featured multiple characters with varying skill sets and areas of expertise, Dying Light takes a step backward and instead gives you generic action hero protagonist number 1. Bor-ing.
Now I know, I’m constantly comparing Dying Light to Dead Island, when Dead Island 2 proper is still set to release later this year. Surely that’s the title to compare, right? Well Dead Island’s developer went on to Dying Light, while the publisher, Deep Silver, carried on with Dead Island 2 alongside the dev team at Yager Development. So really, I expect Dead Island 2 to be the more different and new and exciting beast.
I’m honestly so torn while writing this. Just like Dead Island, I’ve had good fun with Dying Light. It’s another hack-and-slash zombie-slaying party, and just like Dead Island, it’s more fun with friends, but can still be enjoyed plenty running solo. The difficulty is pretty well set, and you can get caught off guard and taken down more easily than you would anticipate, requiring you to pay constant attention. It’s solid.
There’s also a variety of special zombies, just like the ones in Dead Island. There’s the one that spits goo from afar, the one that explodes and instantly kills you if you get too close, the big, slow, hulking one with that deals massive damage, and the one that charges at you like a linebacker. The designs may have been altered, but there’s no originality. A couple of the nighttime beasts are different and deadly, but it’s not enough. The entire game just gives me that feeling: not enough.
Killing zombies is fun, but killing the same zombies we’ve seen for years is lazy. Finding new blueprints and creating new weapons is exciting, but fetch and escort quests to earn those blueprints are boring and tedious. The world is expansive and fantastically detailed, and Harran is awe-inspiring in its destructive beauty from atop a skyscraper; but frequent bugs make this world feel more than destroyed – it makes it feel broken.
Once more: Dying Light is, without a doubt, a fun game. It’s just not enough.
Dying Light was developed by Techland and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It is currently available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
A digital copy of the game for Xbox One was provided to Save/Continue by the publisher for review purposes.