Zombies used to be exciting analogies for humanity and society. But they’re now little more than an excuse for a slowly shuffling adversary, in most games and films. Dying Light does not go against the tide of popular fiction and the zombies present are slow, stupid obstacles to be avoided and killed.
Dying Light is the latest game from Dead Island developers Techland and continues their theme of first person open world zombie survival games. Set in a fictitious Middle Eastern city the game sees you play as a covert agent parachuted in from a secretive organisation to secure intel from a group of survivors left in a quarantined city (quarantined due to a zombie outbreak obviously).
With little set up you are thrust into this world and with the aid of an overly long tutorial section are taught the basics of the game’s mechanics. The key mechanic here, and what separates Dying Light from Dead Island and other first person games is the reliance on Parkour to traverse the city and avoid zombies. As was proved by Mirror’s Edge, first person Parkour and platforming can work quite well and the same is true here.
The ability to avoid the zombies by jumping between ledges and sticking to the rooftops gives the game another dimension and appeal that the normal combination of stealth and violence couldn’t. The game obviously wants you to take advantage of the rooftops, ledges and walls as there are constant boxes and ramps to give you access, and while the platforming can feel great when you are jumping from ledge to ledge at full speed, the inevitable missed jump can be very jarring and frustrating.
The other key component to this game is the day and night cycle present. During the day you are for the most part safe running between rooftops and if you do encounter a zombie they can be relatively simply dispatched. However at night the zombies change and are much more powerful and quick which requires the player to really up their game and can really add a considerably level of difficulty to the game. Luckily the game makes it worth the risk to go out at night as your experience points are earned at twice their normal rate.
Dying Light: in pictures
I played the PC version and the visuals looked great, not the best you will have seen but very respectable considering the draw distance and number of zombies on screen. The frame-rate was pretty solid throughout with dips during encounters with large numbers of zombies. Frustratingly there appeared to be some problems during cutscenes which skipped out a couple of seconds.
While traversing the city is undoubtedly fun and many of the missions genuinely tense and scary there is a bit of the open world syndrome on display here. While there is a good variety to the missions to start with, due to the length of the game and the size of the world these do, after a while, become quite repetitive.
The developers have implemented some interesting ideas with this game, unfortunately they don’t seem to have developed any enough to make this a really great game. The parkour elements are entertaining and at times can feel like a puzzle, the day night cycle really adds tension, but the loot system doesn’t really seem to reward exploration or skilled play and repetitive story and side missions can make the game feel like a bit of a grind. I had a good time with this game and if you are interested in another zombie survival game then you could do a lot worse than Dying Light.