Dying Light Review – Beware of the Night and Play With Friends

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We just spent a week in Harran battling zombies, crafting weapons, and slicing and dicing both day and night in developer Techland’s Dying Light. Is this game a standout from the other Zombie games on the market, or is it just another dead tale of woe?

Read our review to find out.

Zombie games are everywhere these days and anytime there’s a new IP announced one immediately wonders where exactly the new game will fall. Is it a first person shooter, an RPG, a hack and slash, maybe a platformer? We found Dying Light to be a successful combination of just about everything. Techland was the first developer for the Dead Island series and created that and Dead Island: Riptide as well so we had our fears that Dying Light would be just a DI clone. Due to creative differences between them and publisher Deep Silver (who owns the DI name), the DI franchise went to another developer and Techland was able to not only pursue a better publishing deal with Warner Brothers Interactive, but create a game that was true to their own vision.

The story opens up as you, an agent named Kyle Crane who is working for the Global Relief Effort (GRE), are flying high above the fictional city of Harran preparing to parachute into this quarantined zone. Harran has been infected with a virus that slowly turns normal people into zombies, but the virus can be abated with a known drug called Antisin. The GRE routinely drops air support packages containing this medicine so the remaining survivors can remain alive until a cure can be obtained. Crane’s mission, given to him by the GRE, is to retrieve a file that was stolen by Kadir Suleiman who is now using the contents of that file to blackmail the GRE. Suleiman is going by the name of Rais and it’s up to Crane to infiltrate Rais’ group of bandits and somehow gain access to the stolen file.

Upon landing in Harran, Crane is immediately attacked by a group of bandits who zeroed in on his parachute as he came down, and then by a pack of zombies that were zeroing in on his warm blooded body that was being pummeled by the bandits. Once bitten, twice beaten, and then saved by a friendly face by the name of Jade, Crane is finally whisked away to safety, unconscious but alive. Upon waking he finds that someone gave their life to save him and he realizes that GRE’s mission won’t be his only task in Harran.

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The story is pretty well written with a great sense of story telling, albeit a little hard to follow at times. The problem with the story is that there is so much to do with side quests, that the main story goes by the wayside if you let it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the side quests take the game’s play time and multiplies it exponentially. You could just rush through the story, only completing the needed tasks to finish said story, and then be done with the game withing 14 or so hours (even quicker if you really rush through it) but then you would be missing out on another 25 or so hours of side quests and collectibles that really makes the game great.

Gameplay is where this game sets itself apart from any other zombie killer on the market. Early on in the story, Crane is introduced to Jade’s brother Rahim who was a parkour instructor prior to the zombie outbreak. He teaches Crane how to run through the city, dodging, ducking, diving and dodging, and how to use buildings and other obstacles like cars and vans to get around the slow moving day zombies. With the exception of the few and far between viral zombies, zombies move slow and are easily avoided unless you run into the middle of a pack, and if that happens, you better hope you have a friend nearby or a weapon of mass beheading at your finger tips.

City of Harron  PH# 1 661 320 4146

City of Harron
PH# 1 661 320 4146

The parkour aspects of the game are very reminiscent of the Mirror’s Edge series. Free running is fairly fluid if you are pressing the shoulder button accordingly. For a quick jump, you’ll just tap the right shoulder button, but if you need to climb up an obstacle, holding the button down will allow you to grab said obstacle and then go up and over it. Once you get used to the controls, the free running can get you from point A to point B pretty quickly.

How fast, and how far, you can run in one sprint is dependent upon your Agility Level skillset. There are three upgradeable skill trees, Survivor, Agility and Power. As you play through the game you’ll experience points for each skill separately, depending on what you are doing. As you reach new levels for each skill, you’ll then earn a skill point that can be used for upgrading that skill tree. Reaching level 25 is your goal, but getting there will take some serious game time.

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Dying Light is really is a tale of two cities, Harran by day and Harran by night. By day, the zombies are sluggish and slow (except those pesky virals), with little to no brains and senses that allow you to sneak by them fairly easily. Once the sun goes down, though, that’s when the game takes a turn for the deadly. While Agility and Power points are doubled, another type of zombie comes out to play that has a heightened sense of awareness and can bum rush you like a line backer if you end up in his line of sight, and kill you in the blink of an eye. These guys are fast and furious and want to eat you like a cop wants a doughnut. Noise is almost always your enemy, but at night it becomes your archenemy.

The weapons in the game aren’t nearly creative as the DI series, but they still get the job done just as effectively. The higher your rank, the better the weapons become and the more damage they’ll do. Slicing and dicing feels great and having a premium katana, fully upgraded with a couple of boosters, is the perfect item for that random encounter when you run into the middle of a pack of zombies. Add in a spinning slicing move and heads will roll, along with arms, legs, hands, feet. Each weapon can have up to three booster slots with a wide array of boosters to choose from. These can make a weapon do more damage, easier to handle, or be able to be used more times without being destroyed.

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Techland has always been pretty good at creating a co-op experience and Dying Light shows that they listen to their fans and made the co-op for this game better than any previous title they worked on. Before, if you joined up with a friend online, you ran the risk of losing your player’s progress, items in your possession, weapons, and it might even mess up your game save. Now joining up with up to three other friends no longer has those worries. You may have to replay some missions you’ve already completed, or you may have to backwards to do some missions that were before the point where your friend is, but your weapons and skills will always be there wherever you last left off. Other titles did a great job of pissing off fans by taking things away from them due to where you were in your own story, but Dying Light makes sure that doesn’t happen.

The multiplayer mode Be The Zombie is a PVP addition that will pit players against each other. As you play through the story mode you can turn on Invasion and allow other players to invade your game or you can become the night zombie yourself and invade someone else’s game. If someone invades you. you’ll haver to hunt down their nest and destroy it before the player’s zombie finds you and attacks you. being the zombie is a little tricky but the tutorial goes a long ways towards teaching you how to be one successfully. Either way, this is an awesome mode that can be fast paced and lethal.

Techland has done a great job in making this not only a fun game, but an incredibly detailed and beautiful game as well. We encountered no stutters, frame rate drops, or crashes and we have 30+ hours into it. Gameplay is fluid, fast and flawless with enough varied zombie types and awesome parkour action to give the game a new IP feel.

Great job Techland. You just set the zombie bar even higher.