Review: Dying Light

Techland has brought out some great gaming titles in the past, with the inclusion of some not so great titles. Some of the more notable titles would be Dead Island, Dead Island: Riptide, as well as Call of Juarez: Bound By Blood. Fast forward to 2015 and developer Techland, along with publisher Warner Bros. have now released Dying Light.

Dying Light puts you in the shoes of Kyle Crane – an operative sent to the Middle Eastern city of Harran, where an unknown infection triggers aggressive and cannibalistic behavior in its victims, turning them into flesh-hungry monsters. Your objective: infiltrate the quarantine zone and locate Kadir Suleiman, a high-ranking military officer gone missing. However, from the very start your mission goes sour, and you soon find yourself in the midst of a desperate fight for survival.

When diving into Dying Light’s single-player campaign, the storyline is well worth experiencing; however, it does tend to become slightly stale at points – especially when you are tasked with mediocre fetch quests that become tiresome. On the upside, there are quite a few interesting side-quests that you can complete, which ultimately turn into something more entertaining more often than not. For example, you may be tasked to track down a missing person only to be ambushed by gun wielding psychopaths.

Dying Light Review

To add to this, you get to meet some rather interesting characters along the way. One of the most memorable characters that I had the pleasure of coming across was Gazi. Gazi, according to Techland, is mentally challenged; however, he had a set routine where he would pick up epilepsy medication for his mother. Crane is then tasked to retrieve said medication, but in order to retrieve it, Gazi first needs Crane to go out and pick up a movie and chocolates for his mother.

What makes the quest so memorable is the fact that Gazi is aware of the situation around him, but he still strives to make his mother happy as well as forces the issue that it is his special day with mom. This allows Dying Light to additionally pull off one of the game’s best quotes: “If mamma ain’t happy, nobody happy. So you’d better make mamma happy.” It is quests like these that make Dying Light all the more enjoyable. During the course of the campaign I also enjoyed how conflicted Crane becomes. In the beginning he seems dead set to complete his mission, but ultimately starts to feel that he owes a debt to those who are now depending on him as well as those who gave their lives in order to save his.

Dying Light Review

There is also quite a fair amount to do in Dying Light. Along with the main quest as well as side-quests there are a host of collectibles scattered around the city of Harran that you can hunt down as well as herbs to collect. Additionally, there are quite a few Safe Zones that you particularly need to unlock, which ultimately keep you safe from the game’s vicious enemies. To add to this supply drops come in quite often, which are beneficial to the survivors you are trying to help.

When looking at past zombie themed titles, there always seemed to be a trend where the main protagonist would be very limited when it came to his/her movements. Yes sprinting was always included, but when cornered you would find yourself burning through weapons as well as unsuccessfully jumping into walls in an attempt to escape a horde of flesh eating zombies. Thankfully, Techland has seen this trend and made a move to address it with one of the title’s biggest draws – the art of Parkour.

Instead of just having the ability to sprint through hordes of the infected Crane is skilled in the art of Parkour and can pretty much scale buildings with ease, leap over zombies, as well as slide tackle through anything that gets in his way. To add to this, he also has the ability to leap off buildings as well as grab onto ledges seamlessly. This is where Techland’s latest title excels far beyond any other zombie-themed title released to date.

Dying Light Review

On the downside however, getting used the controls is another monster all on its own. During the first 2-3 hours of Dying Light you may find yourself stumbling around the fictional city of Harran trying to get a grip on the control scheme. Granted, Techland didn’t do a bad job with the button mapping; however, allowing the player to fully customise button mapping would have been welcomed on the PlayStation 4 as well as the Xbox One.

While playing Dying Light, I would often find myself wasting valuable items during altercations with the in-game enemies – due to the confusing layout of the controller. This would lead to scenarios where I would attempt to kick an enemy and instead accidentally waste a much needed Molotov cocktail. There were also times where I would find myself sprinting away from Volatiles, a much faster breed of zombie, and attempt to Parkour my way up a wall only to find myself swinging my primary weapon at said wall. While the control scheme can be frustrating to begin with, it does tend to grow on you. Once mastered, there is no better experience that sprinting, climbing and vaulting your way across the beautifully crafted and picturesque city of Harran.

With Parkour introduced, Techland has done something that I would have never expected – which is remove the ability to fast travel in a title filled with ruthless zombies and creatures of the night. As much as this was a bit of a curse during the first few hours of Dying Light’s campaign, the removal of the fast travel system actually adds to the overall experience of Dying Light.

If fast travel were to be included, there would be no use for the game’s highly addictive Parkour movement mechanic. Additionally, you would essentially  be missing out on some rather picturesque scenery featured throughout the game. It is great to see that Techland wants people to explore the city, rather than allowing them to fast travel from point A to point B.

Additionally, not having the ability to fast travel adds in a greater sense of danger as you can’t skip a few miles of zombie infested terrain to get to where you going. If you think about it, the city of Harran has been infested by flesh eating zombies… there are limited supplies, waring factions, and a deadly threat to face once the sun sets. By including the option to fast travel, you essentially lose the core focus of Dying Light – which is to survive all of this while still trying to complete Crane’s initial objectives.

Dying Light Review

Speaking about survival, let’s shift the focus to combat. As stated above, the control scheme for Dying Light can be a bit tricky to master; however, once you get the hang of things you will find yourself laying into Zombies in no time. While Dying Light is more about avoiding zombies, rather than facing them head on, it doesn’t hurt to throw yourself into a pack of zombies in order to see how you fair every once and a while. During the first few hours of Dying Light you may find yourself being mauled more often than not due to the game’s rather high difficulty curve; however, Techland has included a levelling system as well as a skill tree which allows players to obtain better skills as well as some much needed perks.

Just be warned, levelling up can be a bit tedious at times as Dying Light will punish you, by removing a percentage of your earned experience points, for dying. While removing a percentage of your experience points may seem a bit drastic, as stated above, Dying Light’s main focus in essentially survival. Thankfully, you will only lose a small amount of experience points if you are mauled to death by a pack of zombies, but it does not go as far as actually taking away levels that you have already obtained.

Combat in Dying Light can be awkward and clunky at times, but you tend to get used to it. On the plus side the city of Harran is not entirely short on weapons. You can find anything from planks fitted with nails, hammers, wrenches, water pipes, knives, Molotov cocktails, as well as a variety of firearms scattered throughout the city. Firearms can be hard to get your hands on, but do prove useful when facing off against human enemies. Weapons do degrade over time; however they can be repaired on the fly if you have the necessary parts available.

If things get to tough you can also equip weapons with elemental attributes by using blueprints scattered across the open-world. If you are still having a hard time you can resort to using Boosters. Boosters are makeshift brews made of plants that you can find in the quarantine zone. They give you temporary stat boosts or ability boost, including infinite stamina or enhanced night vision.

Dying Light Review

One thing that I genuinely liked about Dying Light is the fact that firearms as well as explosive weaponry come with a price. Now, if you have ever watched a feature film that includes zombies you will know that noise attracts zombies. When using firearms you tend to attract unwanted attention from Virals. Virals possess the ability to climb, much like Crane, and can chase him across the terrain as well as through obstacles and on rooftops. While one Viral is pretty easy to dispose of… things become extremely tense when three or four of them come to the party.

What also adds to the overall experience of Dying Light is the fact that the game not only features dynamic weather patterns, but it also features a well-implemented day and night cycle. During the day the run of the mill zombies tend to stick to the usual routine of being slow, sluggish and pretty much uninterested in anything that is not breathing… Well that’s if you don’t come across any Demolishers, Toads, Bombers, Bolters, Screamers, or Virals; however, once night time hits you will be introduced to a new breed of monsters which come in the form of Volatiles and Night Hunters.

Volatiles possess extraordinary strength and agility, which allows them run much faster and climb a variety of surfaces in order to chase down Crane. If pinned down by a Volatile, you are pretty much zombie chow; however, they are vulnerable to ultra-violet light, which means that there is still hope in taking them down. Night Hunters are player controlled enemies that can invade your game. This adds a dynamic aspect to Dying Light as you are no longer facing an AI controlled enemy.

Dying Light Review

When it comes to graphics, Dying Light is absolutely stunning. The city of Harran is extremely well designed. There were times I would look around an abandoned building and notice the finer details. Often you can see pipes that actually look functional. When stepping into survivor camps, you can see torn fabric on makeshift stalls blowing in the wind, or even barrels that have been packed with wood in or order to keep the residents warm during the nights. It is little touches like this that make Dying Light worth looking at and experiencing.

Another graphical highlight would be standing on top of high rise buildings while looking out over the city of Harran. When doing so you can see smoke billowing through the air as well as bridges, abandoned buildings, and streets full of abandoned vehicles. Even when looking at the sky Techland has gone as far as to include cloud formations as well as birds that fly around the city. It’s exceptionally beautiful, even though Harran has been essentially wiped out by a virus.

While the city of Harran has benefited from the vast amount of creativity shown from Techland’s side, I cannot help but to critise the actual zombies featured within the game. Dying Light looks amazing, but the development team should have placed a bit more time and effort into the appearance of each and every zombie. There were times when I would come across four or five zombies who looked identical. Granted, the open-world is huge, but it’s the little things that count at the end of the day.

When it comes to audio, Techland has done a great job overall. I found it quite pleasurable to stand near the docks and listen to the variety of sounds that accompany it. When standing on top of telecommunications towers you can literally hear the wind howling in your ears (especially while wearing headphones). The voice cast has also done a fine job, most of the characters are voiced rather well, which also adds to the overall experience of Dying Light.

Dying Light Review

Dying Light is an exceptional piece of work from the team at Techland. Yes the game has its ups and downs, but it is still a great title. The addition of Parkour really brings a unique style of gameplay to the mix; however, the control scheme still needs work.

While Techland has built a beautiful fictional city, I still can’t help but think that the development team should have placed more work into the zombies featured in the game. Granted, Dying Light is massive, but to find five duplicate zombies in the same area that is just not something that I can let slide.

While Dying Light can be played solo the game does support co-op play, which is an additional bonus… especially if you are not to keen to face the zombie apocalypse alone. The single-player campaign is well worth checking out, but some of the side-quests tend to shine a lot more than some of the mediocre fetch quests included in the main storyline. To add to this, Dying Light has a steep difficulty curve and will punish you for dying by taking away experience points. As the game is essentially about survival, this is a welcomed addition to the the game along with the removal of the fast travel option.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with this title, and hope to see Techland bring out more titles like this in the future. If you are looking for a fantastic zombie themed title don’t skip out on Dying Light as it is extremely fun and well worth picking up even though it has a few issues here and there. beautiful

Reviewed by Darryl Linington

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