Hey gang, Valkor here. I’m not hesitant when it comes to letting folks know about my distaste for zombies; don’t get me wrong, there have been certain mediums where the creatures have proven interesting, but it really takes a lot to get me invested in them – I mean I’m not even a fan of The Walking Dead series, but I liked the game (weird right?). So when the opportunity came around to check out Techland’s “Dying Light”… the concept was what drew me. Whether or not I’d appreciate their hardwork – from a gamers’ standpoint – well that remains to be seen. Zombies are still not my favorite horror creatures, but Techland has something that definitely keeps me interested and I think you guys will enjoy it as well.
Dying Light is a first person survival horror game that places you in the role of Crane – a spec-op sent in by the GRE (Global Effort Relief) to the zombie-ravaged city of Harran to uncover a plot being set by a guy named Suleiman. Upon arrival into Harran, he meets with group of survivors lead by a man named Brecken; Crane initially believes that Brecken could be Suleiman undercover and hell, he had to go through some hoops just to meet the guy, which plays into his suspicions. But turns out Brecken is not our man. And in order to find the real Suleiman, Crane will have to play along with Brecken and his team, helping out whenever and wherever he can. And in doing so, he’ll have to make some pretty harsh decisions – especially with people that go against his better judgment. Either way, in completing his tasks and playing along with whomever, it’ll bring him that much closer to his objective.
If you’ve played the Dead Island series, then you’ll be in familiar territory with Dying Light. Hell Techland is responsible for the original Dead Island so it should feel very familiar. But what separates this game from the aforementioned series, first is the dynamic day and night transitions. The Dead Island series, or at least with Riptide (since that’s the only title I’ve played thru) it did have a day and night instances if I recall, but with Dying Light, the transitioning is part of the experience; the city of Harran is infested with zombies also known as “infected” that will try to impede your progress from either scavenging for items, aiding survivors or completing your main mission – they’re literally everywhere! And if they spot you – day or night – they will come after you. During the day they’re a bit slow, with a few who are quick on their feet. However at night things can get a bit chaotic. Darkness in Dying Light is truly dark and we’re talking “can’t see your hand in front of your face, stumble over your own toes” kind of darkness. This makes it extremely difficult to see what’s around you. Plus you get a new batch of creatures known as Violators that only come out at night and once they spot you, they’ll hunt you down unless you can outrun them or get to a safehouse. You can try to fight them off but running from them is the best choice. You can sleep through either periods of time - especially at night - is a must to play through rather than sleep past them.
And that’s where the game’s second difference comes into play - the freerunning aka parkour. As Crane you can run, jump over cars, climb walls, grab onto rooftops, slide through holes, zipline off of rooftops or grapple your way through the streets of Harran to make it to your objective or to escape a horde of zombies. It’s a refreshing skill to have rather than simply running away; and freerunning makes all the difference, especially when, for example, you need to make a hasty escape but you’re trapped by a wall – you simply vault over it and POOM! You’re safe! Every move or action you make, you earn experience. And once you reach a set level, you earn a point in survival, skill or power. You spend these points to increase your skill set such as the capability to carry more items, add moves to your repertoire or learn new crafting techniques.
You don’t have to completely rely on freerunning to get through the game as you can acquire an assortment of melee and long range weapons as well as items, to aid in your fight, most of which you can find either buy opening boxes or taking them from enemies. But you can also buy weapons and items from traders that are sprinkled throughout Harran. You can also find and/or buyitems to craft into other useful items and weapons. And with weapons you can also apply enhancements to them, which gives them a much needed boost. Turn ninja stars into ones that explode on contact, enhance an axe with electricity or even create exploding grenades! But weapons, especially melee, will wear and break after a certain amount of use. So a good tip is to keep a few weapons handy just in case. Finally completing side missions or just helping a survivor out on the streets will also net you weapons and items; it might seem a tad bit tedious, but the rewards justify the means and believe me, with this game, you’ll need all the help you can get.
My distaste for zombies aside, I was drawn to Dying Light by early gameplay footage because I loved the idea of playing in such darkness. And my biggest worry was that the effect would wear off rather quickly. So does it?
I really enjoyed my time with Dead Island: Riptide; I thought it was a fun game but that was more about being on the offensive side as weapon crafting was front and center and you needed those weapons to survive because escape… well you didn’t have many options other than run away, right? With Dying Light, you’re more on the defensive and the weapons you use are to protect yourself – but you don’t have to use them! Freerunning is your savior and with this ability you can just as easy run for cover, jump onto a building where most of the creatures can’t get to you or simply outrun them by jumping over obstacles that will impede most of your enemy’s progress. And I love it! It adds to the intensity – especially at night when it gets insane and you don’t know where you’re going – I’ll literally be on the edge of my seat when I’m playing around in the dark, it’s so much fun and so far, I haven’t grown tired of the experience. I really love the day/night transitioning; I find it to be very well balanced in both settings and the gradual transitioning from either/or is pretty spot on perfection. The controls work for me as they’re totally responsive and none of the moves are too complicated to pull off (which was another fear I had going in), so you’re focused a lot on the story rather than how to perform any special jumps and such. I like the story, which is very intriguing and really draws you into the craziness of Crane’s predicament. And any story that can evoke an emotion out of me that involves me cheering like a goof or wanting to punch a motherfudger in the face is win with me. The graphics are beautiful with fluid animation and views that are breathtaking – stand at the very top of a building or antenna and tell me you’re not impressed with that view! It’s freakin awesome! Audio wise, be prepared to have your aural senses bombarded with an amazing soundtrack that meshes well with the environment and amps it up when the situation calls for it. Also voices are crisp and clean and don’t get me started on those bloodcurdling screams; I’ve been playing the game for days now and those screams still freak me out! My expectations for Dying Light were very lukewarm at first; thankfully the final product exceeded that and as it turns out, the game was pretty amazing.
This first bit isn’t really a negative, but I wish the game had a decision making feature, where how you respond to a character or certain actions you take might change the game’s dynamic – and at times it feels that way. Prime example was when the GRE ordered Crane to destroy some meds; at that point I really didn’t want to comply because I knew the importance of this medication, not just for Crane but for others. But of course he does it no matter what and I kind of wish I had a say in that. There are also times I felt where Crane responds to certain characters a little too harshly or not harsh enough. Maybe we’ll get this in a Dying Light 2? I can hope. Finally, and this is the negative (or maybe just a nitpick), but the side missions were a little too excessive. At one point I was unknowingly focused on side missions because many were on the way as I was headed towards my main mission objective. And after hours of play in the beginning, I checked I was only done with the main game 22%. Damn! And I thought I was making some serious progress. Or maybe it was just me and I picked up too many missions at once.
Those exploder zombies – woooooooo! Clean up in aisle everywhere!
Dying Light is available now for the Playstation 4, Xbox One and Steam platforms; the game treads familiar grounds, but there’s enough uniquess about it – parkour and dynamic day/night transitions, mixed in with some intense scares that makes this game worth checking out. And out of TOV 5 stars 4.5 stars.