Dying Light, the latest survival-adventure game from Dead Island creators, Techland, doesn’t have an original thought in its head. In fact it’s similar in a lot of ways to Shadows of Mordor in the sense that it borrows ideas quite liberally from other successful games and combines them into a well-polished piece that oozes fun. It certainly remains in a realm that Techland is familiar with – zombies! -- but Dying light manages to set itself apart from their previous game (Dead Island) with its polished engine, brilliant approach to travel, and interesting day and night cycles. Day time is play time, remember that folks. If the sun’s up you can travel without problems, beat zombies mercilessly, and scavenge the island. Just remember to horde all the materials you can because when the sun sets the zombies become merciless and survival becomes the top priority. Dying Light does have its flaws. Voice acting is abysmal at points, and the story is rather generic, and the PC port does have a few optimization issues that caused significant framerate stuttering, but Dying Light remains a great concept that manages to overcome its weak points with tons of zombie splattering, gore-filled charm.
Dying light takes place in the fictional town of Harran. Players assume the role of Kyle Crane, an undercover operative sent to find Kadir "Rais" Sulaiman, a rogue agent that went quiet during the outbreak. I won’t go into too much detail about why or how this mission is important, but you should know it’s all relatively generic. Over time the game attempted to tackle issues of morality, but never gave me a true choice which was rather disappointing. The plot mainly serves as a device for the action and though there are times where the story does become intriguing, it never does anything to break the mold. As time goes on the zombies get tougher, and you’ll encounter different classes. Some are aggressive classes we’ve all seen before – think Left4Dead, but there are also a couple that are quite original and won’t try to actively engage you, in fact they’ll run at the sight of you. Uncovering the mystery behind them was one of the highlights of the story and I imagine a lot of players will feel the same.
"Dying light manages to set itself apart from their previous game (Dead Island) with its polished engine, brilliant approach to travel, and interesting day and night cycles."
Dying light does borrow a lot of ideas from other very successful open-world first person adventure games. Obviously it builds upon the framework laid down by Dead Island, but it also utilizes effective elements from other prominent titles. The tower climbing and safe house clearing is very similar to Far Cry 3 and 4. You must climb massive radio towers and tall buildings quite frequently, you’ll also find yourself ridding safe houses of zombies which was rather similar to the base sieging from those games as well. The free-running parkour from Mirror’s Edge and the agility brought on by Brink are also both implemented in this game. People that played and enjoyed either of those titles will find themselves right at home bouncing from rooftop to rooftop while using dexterity and cunning to outwit the countless hordes of zombies plaguing the area. Players will find a rewarding leveling and progression system very similar to Oblivion or Skyrim. The more you use your skills the more they’ll level up, especially during the night. You see, all of your experience is boosted at night, so once you’re capable of venturing into the darkness rather than sleeping through it you’ll be amply rewarded for your endeavors.
"Players will find a rewarding leveling and progression system very similar to Oblivion or Skyrim. The more you use your skills the more they’ll level up, especially during the night."
Dying Light puts its focus on melee combat. Guns and ammunition are precious commodities and any of them that you come across will be reserved specifically for dire situations. Even then, you’ll probably want to think twice about using up your ammunition because the noise will draw more attention than it’s worth. Melee combat is visceral and satisfying. The crunch of metal on zombie cranium is more than rewarding and the bone breaking system is brutal. Depending on whether or not you favor blunt or sharp objects will change the pace of the game play, and make for different approaches. The materials that you collect throughout your adventures can also be used to add elemental effects to your weapons like electricity or fire, but these often come with a downside: you’ll damage yourself quite frequently using them. Because of this I tended to stray from using elemental effects, there’s no sense in electrocuting a zombie if it hurts me in the process. Most weapons are also socketable. By socketing weapons with power-ups you’ll be able to add more durability, damage, or give your weapon better handling. Between this and the various other upgrades you’ll find that you can customize your weaponry to suit your playstyle in no time, just keep an eye on its durability.
"Dying Light is a great game. It will easily suck up dozens of hours of your time, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself totally immersed in the world."
Co-op adds a lot of fun to the game. It’s easy to jump in and out of games with friends either to resume campaigns or just run around wreaking havoc. The system is fantastic and very user-friendly offering each player their own loot and experience as they share the adventure through Harran. This made for some of the most fun I had with the title. There’s nothing quite like throwing Molotov at a zombie and watching your friend drop kick it off a rooftop. Co-op isn’t the only option though, the game’s “Be the Zombie” mode offers players a way to invade games and add their own flare to the zombie menace. I had a lot of problems connecting to online games that weren’t hosted by friends, at least on PC. On PC I couldn’t ever invade someone’s game, but had no problems with it on PS4. When I could play properly I found both of these modes to be incredibly fun and I recommend that everyone gives them a chance, it really compliments the overall package and I hope that Techland expands on this in future games, they just need to fix the matchmaking on PC.
Dying Light is a great game. It will easily suck up dozens of hours of your time, and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself totally immersed in the world. The campaign will run about 15 hours or so, but if you factor in side-quests and randomly generated world events this title will easily take 30 to 40 hours of your time. It’s a fair investment. Techland may not be a trendsetter, but they sure know how to create a game that doesn’t disappoint. Don’t skip on Dying Light, it’s definitely one of the best games I’ve played in this generation.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation 4