Techland, the developers of the Dead Island series have launched their first next-generation zombie infested experience on the masses in the form of Dying Light. With this latest outing the seasoned team of interactive creators have taken their experience with the undead theme and transported gamers into an immersive world of desperation and survival. While the zombie theme has been expressed in great measure across video games and TV, Techland has managaed to once again brave this genre with undeniable results.
Introducing a refreshing traversal system with enjoyable gameplay elments, an empowering leveling system alonside a solid story and entertaining voice acting, Dying Light becomes hard to put down, pressing you to brave objectives which can seem impossible during the night.
If you’ve played Dead Island you immediately see the influence. The open world canvas of Harran is completely yours to explore, celebrated and supported by the best first-person parkour travel system in gaming and I say this with no hesitation. Dying Light places players in the shoes of Kyle Crane, an undercover G.R.E. (Global Relief Effort) operative who is dropped into the quarantine zone of Harran, a fictional city based off ancient Turkey. As Crane touchdowns in Harran he immediately finds himself surrounded by the goons of the games main perpetrator and eventually the games undead host of aggressively approaching bitters (zombies). Cranes mission is to retrieve a file which was stolen from the GRE which is now being used as a tool of blackmail – however this is not your simple snatch and grab scenario. As Crane finds out there are more lives at stakes, painting a bigger picture of the real concerns which begin to clash against Crane’s predetermined objectives.
Running alongside the main story campaign, players become entrenched in the lives of the people of the tower and throughout Harran who are in need of aid and support and many times at the expense of using your own valuable resources. For the completionist these additional side quests have a unique way of quickly adding endless hours to your overall play time. Our playtime of 51 enjoyable hours was complimented with testing our ever increasing dexterity against a variety of zombie types which kept the experience fresh and dangerous.
Heading out into the world of Harran players are introduced to a jungle gym of traversal possibilities. The visually impressive level design of Harran invites players to master their parkour abilities across roof tops and those tight walkways below where the bitters spend much of their their time anxiously vying for a delicious chance to overwhelm you with their numbers.
Throughout the map of Harran and from the outset Crane is encouraged to clear out the bitters from potential safe havens which become safe houses. Safe houses become your best refuge of safety, especially at night. A sort of home away from home. Here players can choose to sleep until the morning and vice versa, as well as add more survival tool to their backpack inventory or keep unneeded items in storage for later. Upon the completion of objectives and side-missions in addition to selling unwanted items, player gain currency. Like the tower where trades can be made, some safe houses will have on-site shops where players can buy, sell or buyback items. If players are in need of making more currency, periodic GRE airdrops are randomly performed throughout the map.
Airdrops can be intercepted by the local goons, so racing to them as fast as possible when you can is rewarding and risky. Oftentimes you will run into goons who also have great need for the airdrops plentiful supplies, leading to a harsh stand-off. In almost all cases you will be outnumbered unless you take to Harran in cooperative fashion which I’ll shed light on later. Upon retrieving airdrops, returning the supply stash to the closest quartermaster adds to your currency increase.
Early on attempting to retrieve as many airdrops as possible might be a tall task as confrontations with goons can be brutal, resulting in you licking your wounds having to decide on strengthening Crane’s abilities and using more effective tactical measures. For example, instead of jumping into a confrontation without more powerful weapons in order to acquire airdrops, tossing a few firecrackers or creating loud noises invites a nearby host of bitters and screamers to come storming in essentially getting the job done for you. However, please don’t assume Techland will continue to make acquiring airdrops this easy. Sometimes airdrops find their way in the most dangerous locales on the map where even goons wont dare tread.
Simple yet entertaining, Dying Light’s combat system is complimented with an intuitive evasive maneuvering ability allowing Crane to quickly avoid unpredictable and lunging attack advances from all enemy types before delivering his own swift and deadly killer blows. During much of the ride players will find themselves relying heavily on one and two-handed melee weapons, while guns in the form of hand guns, military and police rifles and the devastating shotgun always gets the job done…but at the cost of oftentimes inviting neighboring bitters, screamers and Gas Tank zombies within your proximity due to the loud noises, so guns are to be used sparingly if possible.
I’ve never had this much fun dispathcing zombies!
Supported by the games three pillars of durability; survival, agility and power, Crane’s abilities are gradually increased. Taking out bitters and whatever else comes your way as you become stronger, faster and more powerful becomes intoxicating. Dispatching two or three bitters with one swipe of your modified superior heavy splitting axe reveals an exhilarating slo-motion dismembering experience. After becoming more than capable of handling a few bitters and screamers with one or two blows, you sometimes feel compelled to test your might across a courtyard of zombies coming at you from all angles. Though Techland decided to add a fatigue meter for the sake of believability, acquiring the handy grapple hook certainly aids you escaping those near brushes with death.
Dying Light does a brilliant job of making your stay in Harran seem very real as the day is eventually and consistently overcome by the night, introducing the games formidable Volatiles. Volatiles only come out at night, taking on the similar behavior of the night stalkers from the movie ‘I Am Legend’. Fast and
powerful, Volatiles add a layer of freight that is more thrilling than terrifying. Traversing Harran at night brings about a different way of converging the playing field. Carefully approaching objectives during the night as Volatiles frequently stalk for any form of human life naturally changes the pace of the experience, while roof running becomes even more dangerous with the blanket of darkness lowering your parkour bravado. Though your handy flashlight aids quite well, you are naturally compelled to play it safe. Upon being spotted by Volatiles players are quickly engaged as more Volatiles seem to cry out loud alarming other hunting parties and before you know it six or more Volatiles are in hot pursuit of viciously ending your life. The thrill of having to make those split-second decisions on the fly while Volatiles are breathing down your neck is always intense.
Crane’s resource UI which consists of your Map, Quest, Inventory and Skills list also maintains the Blueprints option. Here is where all of your crafting needs take place. Upon acquiring new weapon blueprints players can equip their weapons with all sort of death dealing options. Some of my favorites were the 230V, Sticky Edge and the Zombie Classic. Of course as players spend more time thoroughly exploring all of their Harran surroundings, the list of weapon options greatly increases.
Playing Dying Light cooperatively is close to becoming the best shared experience I can remember. Whether you’ve spent 40 hours or 2 hours playing, friends can seamlessly join each others story world and tackle the experience together. While playing through the game as a lone wolf is especially fun, playing with
friends has no end to how much fun you can have. The excitement of playing together leaving a countless carnage of bitters in your wake only to be met by goons and heavies as you attempt to complete your next objective offers an unforgettable time in Harran. Cooperatively there are many ways to engage the enemy or actually compete against one another through the randomly generated prompts. Maybe you and your friends want to race through Harran to see who can arrive at the next objective the fastest or maybe you choose to fight and draw the bitters away so your friend can test out their lockpicking skills, regardless, playing together with friends increases the games fun factor even more.
Session options allow players to set their games visibility to (friends only), (anyone), (private), (public) and (LAN), with Zombie Invasion mode set to (anytime), (at night) or (never). This allows gamers who want to be the monsters the ability to invade your game and begin hunting you and your friends. Zombie Invasion is a great addition to the experience naturally encouraging player to stick together where they are more likely to succeed in taking out the invading enemy player and their blood drenched nest.
It is clear Dying Light is influenced from other celebrated open world titles in certain areas, yet Dying Light has an irresistible pulse all its own, offering a unique zombie survival sophistication. Even borrowing from the popular TV series of ‘The Walking Dead’, Techland allows players to smear
themselves with the guts and blood of the fallen zombies, letting them blend in and walk beside the zombie infestation without being detected.
It would have been an added bonus if an extension of player choice and varied consequences were present and not so linear at times when taking jobs from survivors around Harran. Though objectives were oftentimes straight forward, many objectives resulted in interesting conclusions.
While some NPC’s did share very similar appearances, Dying Light showcases a well balanced and compelling cast of voice acting with dramatic cut-scene story bridges, driving the story forward until its satisfying ending.
In conclusion, we had an absolute blast becoming more empowered while playing Dying Light. Techland has certainly outdone themselves and we can’t wait to see how they decide to move this entertaining new franchise forward.
Dying Light is the best interactive zombie survival thriller in years.