Not many would have called the impact 2015’s release of Dying Light would have on the gaming industry. You see, whilst Techland were already beginning to make a name for themselves, it wasn’t exactly for the creation of stellar gaming experiences. In fact, up until that time, it was probably their Dead Island franchise that they were most well known for – bugs and all.
But Dying Light changed things. It didn’t rock up and immediately blow the world away, and those Techland glitches were most definitely still in place, but as a game to show a ton of promise, it hit home hard. And since that time it’s a game that has gone from strength to strength. Techland have continued to get behind their open world adventure with fixes, patches and a whole ton of DLC; both in the big with the likes of The Following expansion, and multiple content drops that would add in new skins. The combination of rock solid base game, developer backing and community love very much turned that original Dying Light experience into one of the finest zombie-fuelled games of all time.
There’s a time to move on though and that time is now, with Dying Light 2 Stay Human; a game that looks to build on all that Techland has learnt, providing a similar open world daylight romp mixed with dark night time scares. With new technology behind them and anticipation at fever pitch, surely Dying Light 2 cannot go wrong?
Well, you’re right, it can’t, for there are some seriously great standout moments found in what Techland has delivered with Dying Light 2. But old habits die hard and initial issues hold it back from the utter greatness that it deserves. Sitting here right now though, we’d not be at all surprised to see the game and its developers build on what is present to once more take the genre to all new heights.
As with any story-driven affair, it’s tricky to go too in-depth into matters in a written review, for fear of spoiling the twists and turns that play out. You can be sure that Dying Light 2 Stay Human has a ton of those, with the main quest that unfolds flipping and flopping this way and that, all as you attempt to understand how the world works, how the various communities come together as one, fighting for prevalence at the same time. When you then include a huge number of world events that play out, with multiple side missions and quests present, and well, going into the narratives isn’t something that should be done. Even more so when you consider that Techland have mentioned that you may need to throw in upwards of 500 hours in order to fully appreciate what is in hand. Disclaimer: We haven’t put in half a thousand hours. Not yet anyways.
What we can say is that it focuses on the life and times of a pilgrim, one Aiden Caldwell, as he heads to The City – one of the last standing settlements of humanity – in order to try and understand more about the life that he is currently leading, where that is going and exactly where he has been prior to this. Flashbacks to childhood times are a regular occurrence (especially in the early hours of this adventure), with progress the only real way for the player to begin to understand what is actually occurring. With a choice and consequences system at hand throughout, nearly every action you take, every conversation you partake in and every confirmed decision (some of which sit behind a timer) will have some kind of impact on the narratives that sit behind the action of Dying Light 2. It certainly all comes together well, even if at times it’s a tricky beast to follow; something that isn’t helped by a few dodgy pieces of voicework. The more you play though, the more things give further understanding and belief.
This all plays out in a first person fashion, via one of the finest open worlds you could imagine. Aiden is a bit of a warrior, hugely adept at traversing the environment he finds himself in. That’s a bit of luck too, as much like the first game, Dying Light 2 is a parkouring playground, with verticality a huge appeal. Whether you find yourself running the streets, climbing lamp posts or drain pipes, utilising the height of dumper trucks or shimmying along windowsills, there’s not a hint of a problem with how it performs.
It gets better when taking to the rooftops, with gardens freely accessible and able to provide the resources you need in order to help Aiden survive the world: honey, flowers, scrap and the like. Squeezing through narrow gaps, leaping from rooftop to rooftop and nailing safe landings on well positioned old mattresses is a joy. And that’s without mentioning plenty of other mechanics to help you get around too; like the repurposed pipes that work as monkey bars, letting you fling yourself through the areas with the greatest of ease.
The outside world is a stunner and it certainly works along the lines of a Far Cry epic, switching out the need to establish outposts with those of controlling hideouts and windmills. There’s plenty to enjoy internally too and whilst it’s obvious that Techland haven’t fully detailed the inside of every building – this is a big world and really there’s little need to do so – only letting you enter and explore when there is a need, what is allowed is good, well detailed and a joy to explore.
Dark corners are worth hunting through (albeit with a flashlight pointing out the best bits), but thankfully you won’t need to struggle in the darkness, able to scan the areas with a sixth sense; you can easily pick out scavenge spots; bins, luggage bags, backpacks. The material and cash spoils of these can then be used to craft medicines, boosters, weapon upgrades and more. With an overriding arc that centralises on your immunity to the goings on in the world, you’ll need to scavenge like there is no tomorrow.
It wouldn’t however be Dying Light if there wasn’t an even deeper, darker side to things and that is where the brilliant day and night cycle. Constantly connected via a clock that allows instant knowledge of the time of day, moving between the bright lights and relatively safe expanses of the daytime world, all as you head into the darkness of night is nothing but brilliant. And when that sun sets, all hell breaks loose.
With certain missions and activities fully locked away until dusk falls – if only so stores and the like are stripped of the usual undead biters as they go on the hunt – switching up how you play Dying Light 2 is a necessity. And in a nice touch, to ensure that you’re making the most of everything Techland are providing, skill and XP points are distributed as the cycle changes. Yep, taking to your bed and hoping that you can pass the time and see out an undead invasion won’t be a tactic you’ll look to use too much here.
You see, these skills are important as it’s where a bit of personalisation and strategy comes in. Split across two unique sectors – parkour and combat – piling points into the skills you wish to run is simple. And believe me, being able to jump and climb further with every step is something you’ll be crying out for after the initial traversal throes. As will toughening Aiden up so that he can go toe-to-toe with the various foes that are found across the land.
Your weaponry will be just as important, although you probably won’t find yourself ever using one unique piece of kit that you hone and love. See, weapons in Dying Light 2 degrade and whilst the variety is huge – nailed bats, scythes, axes and more – smashing zombies, the undead, infected biters, bandits and the likes of the PeaceKeepers time and time again will see them break and become useless. Switching up your attacks, blocking, parrying, countering and dodging will help, but a quick flick of the D-Pad is something that is required multiple times; sometimes during the heat of the battle. Combining all the available skills where you can is where Dying Light 2 Stay Human really allows you to show off.
You won’t always need to go in all blades spinning. Stealth is a primary tactic in Dying Light 2, working the environments and staying safe where you can, distracting foes before jumping out and taking down an unsuspecting opponent with a swift neck break or backstab. Occasionally it’s here where a little button mashing comes about – in fact, there are a few moments when hammering a face button or making the most of the precision of a lockpick is required – but on the whole this is a well defined and configured adventure that lets you work through it as you see fit. Keeping an eye on stamina, health and immunity levels is also essential, with skills and resources combining to ensure these stay topped up. And when all else fails, heading to the safety of UV light is always a good call.
Dying Light 2 is also a supremely gorgeous looking game. Played out in the first person, aside from a couple of small stutters in cutscenes – and some weird lag of certain structures – the game itself is super smooth. There’s rarely a hiccup as you roam the streets at speed, hopping and clambering over obstacles, whilst taking to the rooftops, climbing structures, buildings and more is seamless.
There’s the chance to take in some brilliant vistas from the heights as well, scanning the areas around you with your binoculars – admittedly slightly clumsily dragged into use via button presses – in order to not just get a heads up on where you’re heading but also to uncover intel on a variety of events. If you fancy a little detour and map discovery, Dying Light 2 allows for it in spades.
There’s rarely a time when Dying Light 2 doesn’t look brilliant, although some of the conversational cutscenes can feel a bit stilted. Still, taking in the gore of the combat, with claret spilling this way and that as you chop up foes with your weaponry never fails to look good; twitching corpses and all.
Complimenting the visual delights is some really well-worked sound. The integration of backing music is nothing short of a delight, with tunes ramping up as the action gets interesting. The screams of combat also help keep the immersion high. Listening out from the rooftops for survivors in need of help is always a good call too. Again though, it’s let down ever so slightly when the action slows and the chatter gets flowing. Whilst some of the voice work and acting is right on point, a few characters do feel a little staid and simple. It’s something that’s not helped by slight delays and lengthy stares as conversation options eventually pop into view.
As the world of Dying Light 2 opens up, the opportunities that arise are near limitless. There are obviously the main mission structures to follow, but this is a world that is alive with the undead, with various factions fighting for survival. And that means multiple side quests will open up as you progress, as do a host of world events, whether you are looking to save citizens, fight back against bandits, take down the hordes that are populating resource heavy areas or as you go on the chase.
There’s more in the form of parkour challenges too, with a variety of times associated with these. Do well and you’ll be rewarded with additional parkour skill points that will then help further down the line. Fail and you’ll discover that learning pathways and the most optimum of tracks will forever be etched in your mind.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is not perfect and even though we’ve found ourselves having a great time with multiple tens of hours invested so far (we’ll admit that the claimed 500+ hours that Techland spoke of has so far eluded us), there are issues. Thankfully none of these are big enough to have too much of a hit on enjoyment.
Mostly these problems are centred around cutscenes and as previously mentioned, some do feel a bit old hat. There’s no doubt that Techland have bossed what is needed to tell a supremely in-depth story, with tons of choice in dialogue, but occasionally things go wrong; characters staring blankly into the abyss, subtitles not matching up with voices and the like. You know, minor things that are pretty much expected of an open world romp, but still manage to take a little immersion away.
We’re not sure we’re totally sold on the way the narrative moves along either and it’s disappointing that even though certain mission markers pop up from time to time, some of these are inaccessible until the main tale has progressed. Admittedly this is something that has happened less and less as the hours have been pumped in, but we’re not really sure of the reasoning to show these if they are unobtainable; just keep them hidden until they are needed.
There are also the usual bugs, glitches and little oddities that seemingly follow Techland around. Again, floating undead biters are commonplace, as are the smallest of invisible walls and steps that stop the progress of a free flowing parkour expert. Again, these would probably be present in 99% of open world adventures, but it’s just a tad annoying when it hits you – particularly when everything else flows so well. Throw in the odd audio drop or stuck moment of sound – something that has seen us need to totally close the game down a couple of times – dodgy mission markers and the odd interactible that’s not actually interactive, and pre-launch teething issues come in.
We’d wholey expect Techland to sort any weirdness like this out fairly soon after full launch. If they support this like they have the original game, there’s a high chance they’ve got a ton of fixes already planned.
Ever since Dying Light 2 Stay Human was announced, the anticipation for what Techland would be able to create has been extremely high. They very nearly hit every single bit of that too and it goes without saying that if you loved the original Dying Light, you’re going to have a huge amount of fun with Dying Light 2. It’s not without issues, but the brilliance of the parkour and deepness of the combat easily outweigh the various bugs and glitches which pop up. Perhaps it’s not able to revolutionise the genre like the first game did, but Dying Light 2 Stay Human is still more than worthy of your time, patience and hope of staying human.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is available to download from the Xbox Store