Dark Light

A game is as good as its community and Dying Light wears it on its sleeve where the community is thriving even after 7 years. Hats off to the developers at Techland who have kept the lights running with constant free and paid DLCs (including story DLCs, weapons, outfits etc.) and numerous exciting community events. The most important aspect: they listened to us, modified/upgraded an already awesome game based on our feedback, and as a result, Dying Light currently sits at an Overwhelmingly Positive review on Steam.

Now with the release of Dying Light 2, history is going to repeat itself. That’s right fellow Nightrunners, the hype is real! Whatever improvements  in story and gameplay that Techland had claimed, it’s all in there, packed to the brim with revamped stuffs accessible for both new and veteran players. Before I get ahead of myself let’s take look at a detailed breakdown of Dying Light 2.

Stay Human

15 years have passed since the rabid Harran Virus outbreak and human civilization has fallen into disarray. Save for a few isolated human settlements, the ruling species of the planet are the infected. But that doesn’t stop some humans crazy enough to venture out into the dangerous wastelands. They are called Pilgrims, the only means of communication between the remnant society. And so, our protagonist Aiden, is a pilgrim, out to search for his sister Mia with whom he had lost contact 10 years ago when they escaped a GRE hospital. His journey brings him to humanity’s last bastion, the European city of Villedor, and this is where Dying Light 2 begins. New City, new “friends”, factions, and even new threats. Techland had claimed that there will be a branching storyline because Villedor houses three different factions: the Survivors—common clothed folk just trying to survive, the Peace Keepers—self-proclaimed militarized police with heavy armor and deadly weapons, and finally there’s the bandit faction of Renegades. However mind you: there’s no one you can trust in a world which has already ended. Every faction will be looking out for its own while you need to exhaust all possible routes to find your sister, even if it means siding with the bad guys. Quests with branching storylines are marked with a crossroads icon so you better be prepared for a moral dilemma. The choices I’ve made so far (in both story and side quests), are either filled with regrets or uncertainty, and that is what I love about the narrative. It’s not just an illusion as it will drastically affect the game world including opening new areas (and zombies) or entirely sealing off older areas. That said, your playthrough and story missions can drastically differ from your friend’s as  based on your decisions some missions might be locked entirely while others may open up.

Run boy, Run!

Back in 2015, Dying Light redefined how we look at movement system in gaming with its seamless parkour mechanics. In a time when zombie games involved characters with restricted movements, Dying Light gave us the freedom of traversal similar to Mirror’s Edge and Assassin’s Creed series. And Dying Light 2 builds on an existing strong foundation to give the most fluid zombie smashing parkour experience. To put it simply, it’s like the Assassin’s Creed: Unity of Assassin’s Creed series. What less to expect when the creator of Parkour, David Belle himself, is in the game. Villedor’s roads and rooftops are riddled with ramps, pillows, monkey bars, poles and ziplines to make that momentum flow as you zoom past… well everything! You can wallrun now, use obstacles as springboards while vaulting that give a major boost, sprint, jump and climb further as you upgrade your Parkour skill tree, and can even utilize the grapple hook like the first game. However, it’s more physics based now so don’t think of web-slinging like Spiderman. Wait, did I mention the paraglider yet? Chaining together high-flying glider maneuvers then grappling off the edge of  a building before taking down an enemy below makes you feel like a goddamn superhero! In fact, Dying Light 2 is one of those few non-racing games where I played with Motion Blur On. Parkour challenges make a comeback and my advice is to complete them as they can give a great training experience to negotiate all possible pathways in the shortest time possible.

These parkour mechanics carry over to combat as well and compared to the first game, you encounter human enemies pretty early on. This brings us to the next skill tree — the Combat Tree. Unlocking these perks will allow you to parry enemy attacks slowing down time when executed at the right moment, vault over enemies to kick the guys behind, jump kicks, quick dodges, and all. Hell, even the grapple hook can be used in combat! Weapons do lose their durability after continuous attacks but so far I’ve not seen any option to repair them. But I guess I don’t need to because Dying Light 2 has over 200 melee weapons that can be further modified with fire, poison, electricity and blast power. And unlike the first game where weapons required a number of resources along with a blueprint, in Dying Light 2, you only need a few commonly available resources. Each weapon now has a tip and a shaft modifier and some have an additional grip modifier that makes them extremely devastating. The result? You can combine electricity with flame power, or flame with blast, or electricity with poison and so on! Guns are extremely rare because 15 years have passed and as per lore the military has spent all available ammunitions. This is a major improvement as the presence of guns in the first game kind of made it look like Far Cry.

Dying Light 2 has new NPCs called Craftmasters who can upgrade your weapon blueprints and tools like Medkits, Lockpicks, Stamina/ Immunity Boosters etc. For that they require some “trophies” which can only be obtained by killing the infected (both common and special types). So get that zombie slaying game going!

Good Night Good Luck!

Now I mentioned earlier that Dying Light 2 is accessible for both new and veteran players. This is due to the introduction of a new zombie type called Howler which let’s out a unearthly scream as soon as it sees you. And before you know you’ve got a group of Virals hot on your tail. Chase Level 1 and 2 involves Virals only although their number increases. Shit hits the fan at Chase Level 3 as then the Volatiles come out, now better, faster and stronger. This makes the night both less and more frightening at the same time—those who want to explore the secrets inside forsaken stores, houses and GRE labs, only need to stick to the rooftops to avoid the howlers, and those who want some thrill, well.. run, boy, run! Because in Villedor, everyone is infected and they can only spend a limited amount of time in the dark before turning into a zombie. Better equip yourself with tons of UV shrooms and Immunity Boosters to extend your life warranty at night. Do what you can to stay human.

Also unlike the first game, most of the zombies now have latent dormancy when exposed to UV rays. This means, during the daytime, the dark building indoors will be chocked full of zombies which might make the exploration a tad difficult for new players. Most of them literally spill out into the streets at nightfall and so the indoors are open for exploration. The biggest incentives are rare resources and valuables like chemical crystals, jewelry and money and more importantly Inhibitors that can help upgrade your Health or Stamina.

The City of Villedor

The world of Villedor is a complete overhaul compared to Harran from Dying Light. Four times the size of Harran, it is now filled with living people, thriving in their UV lit wooden settlements atop the abandoned rooftops where they even grow vegetables. The rooftops are a completely different world—green, lively, filled with Chamomile flowers and honey (which can be used to craft medkits)—a stark contrast to the blood covered, gut-filled streets with dead grasses and plastic litters. World building plays a dominant role and therefore you’ll find NPCs in the morning sitting around campfires and sharing stories and can even join them. The game also practices “show-don’t-tell” when it comes to world building. One example I found where a group of survivors were burying a dead and paying homage. On another occasion I found a corpse of a howler and another survivor who was probably escaping it. His legs were torn off and GRE labelled chemicals were scattered about—must’ve been a deadly night chase. The NPCs recognize Aiden and talk to him even though we don’t interact, and although these are all scripted, the sheer randomness is what makes it so immersive. Besides the rooftops, the survivors are hold up inside a church where they have formed their own “bazaar” and it gave me major Bunker D6 vibes from Metro: Last Light. People of all ages just living their lives in their own warmth away from the horrors that roam beyond their UV lit gates. And just like the survivors, the Peace Keepers have also shifted to their own roofs with their HQ inside a subway. Just like the first game, safe-zones can be unlocked however it requires—just like every other open-world AAA game—climbing tall structures, and in this case, windmills. They can act as a sudden relief from a frantic night chase as they also restore your immunity with their warm UV lights. However the best part about these rooftop safe-zones is that they are completely open from all sides and therefore I can lure in Virals and Volatiles and kill them by standing at the border. Great for farming XP.

One new thing that Dying Light 2 brings to the platter is the City Alignment. As you progress in the campaign and based on the choices you make, you can assign certain structures like say a water tower or an electrical substation to certain factions. Apart from changing the storyline, these will add new stuffs to the existing sandbox like ziplines, car-traps, air-vents etc. which will affect your gameplay.

The Downsides

Dying Light 2 ain’t without its flaws though. First, the menu screen, which feels like a stepdown from the first game. It looks very ‘flat’ and generic and same can be said for the in-game brownish UI. Further, the addition of RPG elements like clothing, enemy levels and health bars distract from the immersion (even though you can turn them off from the Settings screen). Half of the time I don’t care for what Aiden is wearing because there are just so many stats to look at when comparing different types of clothing. Major gripe is in terms of the Survivor Sense. Where in the previous game you can see the greyish skeleton of everyone when using the Survivor Sense, now it just shows a red human silhouette. Pretty sure the faint-hearted newb snowflakes had a hand in this because now when you use the survivor sense on volatiles, they look like goddamn red gummy bears! There’s even less gore than Dying Light. I mean enemies do gush out streams of blood but you won’t find blood splashes on the ground. Then there’s the difficulty scaling. Even on Normal difficulty, Dying Light 2 feels less challenging compared to the first game; resources are ample, weapons do major damage etc. However on switching to hard, game becomes punishing, which is expected. What is not expected is for the normal difficulty to be this easy.

Apart from these are the absence of contextual subtitles in NPC chatters and especially in the campfires. It feels weird that even in 2022, there exists a game where the environmental dialogues don’t have subtitles.

The Colors of Apocalypse

Visually, Dying Light 2 is gloriously beautiful to look at: rife with vibrant colors and greenery mingling with a decaying brownish world. I thought the sunset in Dying Light: The Following was the best but Dying Light 2 surpassed the benchmark. The volumetric lighting, facial animations and facial textures are impressive and the addition of common folk living on the rooftops makes everything so lively. This is in contrast to the melancholic menu theme evoking the loss of hope Aiden might be feeling while looking for his sister. The in-game music especially the chase themes will make your adrenaline rush. I would say it’s way better than that of the first game and even though I still prefer the ambient tracks of Dying Light: The Following, the ambient tracks of Dying Light 2 grew on me.

Real Talk

In a world where hyped AAA games are a let down if not a complete disaster (*cough Cyberpunk 2077 *cough Battlefield 2049), Dying Light 2 rises from the ashes delivering every single thing as promised and marketed. No misleading trailers, no misleading mechanics, nothing, and in fact it is really a better version of Dying Light (minus the downsides I mentioned earlier). Techland has already revealed their future roadmap and the first free DLC is going to drop very soon. And judging by their track record, providing content for Dying Light 2 will be Techland’s new labour of love. Not to mention the tons of eccentric uber-powerful weapons and Easter Eggs (like the famous Left for Bread) that the developers might have snuck in. Once the updates roll out to fix a few glitches here and there, I’m gonna drop into coop with my homies just like I did with Dying Light and it’s DLC The Following because Dying Light 2 is going to be a major GOTY Contender of 2022.

Final Rating : Essential

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