When I began watching stuff roll in for Dying Light I began to have flashback, deja vu even. Of what you may ask? Dead Island. You all remember that game I am sure. The one with really good trailers, a lot of hype, and who could forget the incredible lack of visual/technical polish that would bring everything together. While the game was fun with others, it was only fun with others for your friendly banter as opposed to the gameplay. There are some serious parallels between Dead Island and Dying Light. This is a bad thing and when I began to start noticing, I could never unsee some of the lazy game design. Is Dying Light better than Dead Island? Yes.
You play as Kyle Crane, a mercenary hired by the Global Relief Effort to infiltrate the quarantined city of Harran to obtain a sensitive document stolen from GRE by a man names Kadir Suleiman. Kadir is blackmailing the company into sending supplies to the city and temps the company with going public with the document if they do not do what he says. Crane is airdropped into the city and is soon ambushed by bandits and a mob of zombies. A group of survivors that made refuge in a place called, The Tower save Crane. Crane must then assimilate himself to becoming one of the survivors to fulfill his objective. However, GRE is a company with a one track mind and Crane begins to struggle with the choices of either saving the people who saved him, or following orders for the company that got him into this mess in the first place.
That’s the basic rundown of Act 1 and I would like to keep this review spoiler free. Now, the premise is not too bad for a story. The zombie’s aren’t really the focus of the story but the inter-community fighting between the bandits, survivors, and the company known as GRE. My problem with the story is actually the characters. I understand the concept of doing errands for people allows you to gain trust with the parties involved. But everyone in this game is so damn trustworthy of a character who literally fell from the sky. The choices Crane has to make are pretty stereotypical as well. The first instance of this is SPOILER Crane finds a supply drop of the anti-zombie vaccine known as Antizin. GRE notifies GRE that he found the drop before the bandits. But the company tells him to destroy the vaccine because it will require the survivors in The Tower to rely on him more. This would have been a more powerful scene if it wasn’t in the first hour of the game.
The story isn’t bad, but it is severely lacking in a gripping hook that keeps you playing.
Dying Light does have some redeeming qualities when it comes to gameplay. Because every game needs RPG elements, Dying Light has three ways to develop Crane. Survivalist, Power, and Agility are the three ways to make Crane a force to be reckoned with. I do like how there are multiple things to take into consideration when traversing the city of Harran. Agility helps with your parkour and drastically makes jumping along rooftops and escaping Volatiles (night super-zombies) easier. Power obviously helps you fight better, allowing for more powerful attacks or new moves entirely. Survivalist allows Crane to carry more items, create more and better items from the materials he finds throughout the city. They all level individually and depending on what you are doing, you will probably end up favoring one skill tree over the other. It is like having a more practical skill tree compared to other games that attempt this kind of game mechanic.
Thanks to zombie games like Dead Rising, we must now have a Day/Night cycle when it comes to zombies, so in Dying Light, you are racing against the clock to get as much as you can done during the day before night comes. Why? Because super-powered zombies that are basically vampires come out at night. They are fast, they are powerful, and I still really don’t care. I found it very rare to get stuck somewhere at night. Safe houses are everywhere in the city and odds are, when it gets to becoming night, you are a short jog away from the nearest bed to sleep the night away. I appreciate the added ambiance, the whole, EXP is also doubled at night is a nice inclusion to tempt the player into staying past their bedtime, but the game is pretty forgiving as is.
You rank up the survivalist skill tree by retrieving various supply drops that GRE drops in the city as well as completing quests of all types. These skill points will usually be used to increase your capacity to create things, and the crafting system is incredibly simple, and very familiar. It is almost exactly like how Dead Island’s crafting system worked. The main difference is that you aren’t paying a workbench to make the items for you. Many of the weapon modifications are simple and self explanatory. However, they do lack in variety when it comes to visuals.
The city of Harran is rich and detailed with plenty of places to explore, and I do like that. There are plenty of easter eggs to hunt down that seem rather odd. There is a place when you can jump around the first level of the first Mario game. People are still finding new gaming related references in the game and for people that like that kind of thing, it is a nice touch.
I would have to say Dying Light’s biggest drawback are the controls. Especially when you start getting new moves from your power tree and agility tree. There aren’t enough buttons to do everything the game wants you to do. Combat controls are too condensed. I don’t really care about all the things Crane can do because when it comes down to fighting, I always resort to bludgeoning someone in the head with a hammer that sets them on fire.
This brings me to my second problem, the parkour. This was the game’s massive selling point. Now I know that every game cannot bring the same level of great game design as Mirror’s Edge did when it comes to jumping mechanics, but I really hate them in Dying Light. Especially the grappling hook. This is an item that feels totally out of place, which is odd considering this is a game about a zombie apocalypse. It doesn’t feel finished, it feels too much like a gimmick.
I wanted to like Dying Light more. But I really just felt like playing Dead Island with bad jumping mechanics. At least this game didn’t start off with a bad musical number. There is quite a bit to do in Dying Light, you can even play with a friend. However, the dull story and frustrating control scheme was very off putting and it couldn’t keep my interest.
I would wait for this game to drop to about 40 bucks before getting it. It’s fun, but not full price fun. You can pick it up for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC.