It is without a doubt that zombies are part of pop culture nowadays and that most things set in the zombie apocalypse world will sell like crazy. Techland’s last outing in this genre was a couple years ago in the form of Dead Island: Riptide. While I thoroughly enjoyed Riptide, it left a little to be desired for me. In an industry that has its fair share of recycled game mechanics and reanimated corpses; how does Dying Light stand out?
If you’ve played the Dead Island series before you can easily tell where Techland brought over a lot of core mechanics from it. The game feels the same in terms of how it plays, while adding a little bit of difference with the ability to parkour over basically anything. Having the option to vault over walls and climb buildings is very cool; especially if you’re being chased (or in some cases just being followed…) by a group of zombies. It certainly adds a unique spin on the whole “run away and better assess the situation” that we often employ in games.
Character progression works the same as it does in most other games that have an RPG-style progression system. Complete quests, side missions, and by just simply playing the game as you normally would in order to earn XP. This makes earning upgrades and skills enjoyable as you don’t seem to be focusing on leveling up specifically. When I first started playing the game, it seemed like I couldn’t kill anything to save my life; which, in the zombie apocalypse we all know is a really bad thing. Now that I have leveled up a bit more, it’s a lot easier to take out a zombie or two. This makes leveling up important to some extent, but it never feels like you’re forced to grind out missions for XP so you can progress the game.
I have yet to finish the story of the game, but it has been rather interesting so far. I’ll try to keep this section as spoiler free as possible. While playing through the game so far I can’t help but notice several similarities to this little graphic novel/TV series The Walking Dead. Of course, I’m sure we could attribute it to the fact that I am a huge TWD geek but if you’ve seen enough of the show or have read the comics you’ll be able to pick up on it as well. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, as if the zombie apocalypse would ever happen I’m sure there would be people who act like that; it just would have been nice to see something different from the characters.
Personally, I’m not someone who gets emotionally attached to characters or events that happen in games, yet Dying Light has done an excellent job of making me feel like a super hero one minute and then feel like the total jerk a few minutes later. It’s also doing a really remarkable job on making me hate certain characters. I could pass this off due to what I said earlier, they share similar traits to characters I don’t like in TWD; however I don’t think that is the case as I’m sure others who play this game would feel the same.
There is a lot to do in the game world, from various side missions to tackle, to random events that pop up every now and then. Having the ability to parkour up (and down) almost everything really opens up the option to explore the city of Harran. The “if you see it, you can go there” term is frequently overused in games but I feel that it is a true statement for Dying Light. See that village or huge bridge in the distance? You can go to that destination if you don’t mind a bit of hiking. The only downside to the large world is the lack of a fast travel feature. While personally I don’t mind doing all the walking, it does get a little boring when you want to simply go from point A to point B.
In short, I wish there was a little more originality behind Dying Light as I see many similarities between it and the Dead Island series. The parkour element is rather neat; I could spend a few hours just jumping from building to building just exploring the massive game world. Character progression feels natural and not something you really have to pay attention to all the time. If you’re looking for a newer game set in the zombie apocalypse world, I would definitely recommend checking this game out.