Released in 2015, the original dying light turned out to be a diamond in the rough with long legs. It’s a weird picture, we admit, so let’s put it this way: dying light was far more enjoyable and inventive than any open-world first-person zombie adventure had a right to be, and it’s been fully supported by developer Techland with DLC, updates, and improvements for more than five years.
Expectations have been set dangerously high for Dying Light 2 Stay Human, with promises from Techland that the weakest facet of the original game – its storyline – would be vastly improved for the sequel. The previews boasted that the player was tasked with making difficult but meaningful choices that would direct the plot while radically altering the world in which it takes place. Marry that with the first game’s free-running influenced movement, liven up its combat and visuals a bit and, bro, you’ve got one hell of a stew.
Do Dying Light 2 live up to these lofty expectations? Not quite, although it’s still a brilliantly fun game with a great open-world parkour playground. Read on to find out what works and what doesn’t.
The bad news? The storyline is only marginally better than the first game, and nothing out of the ordinary, even by the uninspiring standards set by most open-world games.
It starts with a simple and promising premise: our protagonist Aiden, a wandering messenger who carries packages between the few remaining outposts of humanity in a post-apocalyptic 2036, receives a lead on the whereabouts of his sister. long lost. He sneaks into Villedor, the last remaining city on earth, to meet a contact promising the information, but the plan soon goes awry. He finds himself alone in a hectic and deadly urban jungle with only a new bite of zombie for company.
From there, you’ll be introduced to members of the two main factions that control the city – one a ragtag group of anarchists seeking to avoid the mistakes of the past, the other a regimented militia vowing to restore law and power. order – undertaking jobs for both up to a point where you have to choose who to side with. This happens several times throughout the story, and each time you reactivate one of the water towers or power plants in the city, you will have the option to give control of it to one of the two factions. This will unlock some sort of perk for you (like extra ziplines to get you around faster, or time-saving traps against wandering hordes), but that doesn’t really seem to bother either factions if you repeatedly side by side with each other.
We only played the main story once (it’s a very long game, which I’ll get to later), but we got the strong impression that those decisions don’t matter that much. : It could mean that a character doesn’t appear in a later cutscene, or your decision could be mentioned by another character, but we suspect the story will end up in roughly the same place at the end. The developers claimed that choices made during each play will cause “at least 25%” of the content to be closed, but we’ll need another full read to find out.
We also felt like the narrative was rewritten and remixed several times during development. Its rhythm seems offbeat; seemingly vitally important characters, themes, or concepts appear and then drift out of the story never to be heard from again; there’s a whole third faction that we barely see or interact with until the very end of the game; and the whole climactic sequence, which should feel like a satisfying climax to the story, just left us a little confused and a little bored.
That said, yes – the story is indeed better than the first game, with more choice and agency given to the player. It’s just spotty and somewhat unsatisfying (at least in our game), so don’t get into that expectation of being taken on an emotional journey for the ages in the vein of The last of us.
A strong core
Disappointing narrative aside, there’s a lot to admire here; Dying Light 2 is built around a gameplay core that is fundamentally enjoyable. Aiden moves through the decaying urban sprawl of Villedor like a two-legged gazelle, leaping across rooftops, swinging on monkey bars, climbing handholds and, uh, hurtling down ziplines — and that’s just it. early in the game, before you unlock more advanced parkour skills (such as wall running and the ability to slide under obstacles) and new gear like a glider and grappling hook.
There’s a simple but vital joy to overcoming obstacles, dodging the undead, and moving around the city, finding the optimal paths to travel with minimal friction. You’ll encounter random events as you go – people in need of help, bandits to kill – and spot places to loot. As with the first game, there’s so much to do and so many points to climb that you don’t really need to worry about the story. If you’re bored, take a break for a while to explore a new area, tackle side quests (many of which are fairly large, multi-step affairs) or loot a dangerous dark area for better gear or permanent stat boosts .
Villedor isn’t the most visually varied open world we’ve seen, but its two areas (one mostly made up of old, low-rise buildings, the other of towering skyscrapers and highways) make for a huge area to explore, especially given the verticality of the map.
All of this content makes for a lot of gameplay. Techland claimed there’s potentially 500 hours of stuff here, but that seems to be with multiple playthroughs where you make different decisions each time. We definitely spent 40-50 hours in our single playthrough, and in order to get the game finished in time to write this review, we had to remove our natural inclination to check off all available side quests and activities in order to focus primarily on the story assignments. So yeah, if you’re looking for a game that offers plenty to do, this is the one.
Parkour also plays its part in combat. Techland has largely removed guns from the game (good move – they never felt fun to use or battle in the first one), so other than a few thrown weapons and bows, you’ll mostly find yourself engaging the enemy in clinch bust-ups. Stun an enemy by perfectly timing a dodge or block and you’ll have a window you can jump over them, delivering a powerful two-footed kick to one of their buddies, potentially sending them flying. a high roof or in a convenient location. -located rack of rusty spikes.
Combat is brutal and fast-paced, with more moves added to your repertoire as you level up your character’s combat side (which works much the same as the parkour side: you gain experience by completing quests and activities or simply by combat and/or free running).
The day/night cycle returns, but with slightly different mechanics. During the day, you only encounter slow, shuffling zombies outside on the streets – the faster and more dangerous types sleep inside. This not only means you have to explore inside buildings at night, when its undead inhabitants are out to hunt, but being outside at night is more dangerous: encounter a screaming zombie and it alerts all the other ghouls in the proximity, triggering a chase that will involve faster-moving zombies and only end with you hiding from sight, protecting yourself by finding a UV-lit safe spot, or being chewed up by a horde of fast-moving viruses.
As you contracted the zombie infection yourself, you also need regular doses of UV light to stop the progress of the virus. Go to a dark area or outdoors at night and a countdown begins: if you can’t find UV light or boost your immunity with consumables before it expires, you’ll succumb to your infection and join the ranks of the flesh eaters. Stay human, indeed.
In reality, you’ll rarely find yourself in any real danger of spinning (I’ve played the whole game hard and this has happened to me a couple of times, usually because I foolishly wandered into an area sprayed with speed-accelerating chemicals). ‘infection), but it’s a good mechanism to keep you on your toes and make the night and day cycle more meaningful.
We encountered a few bugs during our playthrough, the worst of which was resolved via a hotfix. Techland’s PR reps are promising a huge day-one patch that should fix the other (more minor) issues, of which there are several – so if you’re worried, we’d suggest waiting a few days before to buy. Hopefully all glaring issues and bugs will have been squashed by then.
Visually, the game is often stunning, sometimes a bit long and usually somewhere in the middle – much like the original Dying Light, in fact. The visual style is vibrant and colorful for the most part (who says the end of the world must be dull and dreary), with good lighting at times, while nighttime exploration can be a scary affair, especially when the purplish glow of your UV torch illuminates a charging viral right in front of you.
The PS5 version we reviewed has three visual modes: Performance (which offers a consistent 60fps, and which we mostly used), Resolution (which offers native 4K), and Quality (which offers ray tracing, but at the cost of frame rate and resolution), and all seemed to do what they promised as far as we could tell.
The audio is also impressive, with solid vocals throughout (including a round from Rosario Dawson) and a seemingly context-sensitive musical score that kicks in when you’re in a long parkour session.
Despite our disappointment with the story (mainly because the hype had raised hopes), we had so much fun with Dying Light 2 that we can only recommend. It improves on virtually every aspect of the first game and provides many, many hours of fun. The open world is a joy to explore, the parkour mechanics are well-honed, and the combat is exhilarating and engaging.
All that and we haven’t even touched multiplayer yet. Look for an update on that in a few weeks, when we also hear more about Techland’s future plans for the game – which they say will be supported for the same five years as the original. dying light.