The Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short, just finished this past Thursday, and as always, it brought a lot of good news with it. Landmark franchises like The Elder Scrolls and Super Smash Bros. announced new games, as well as newcomers who made a big splash with their trailers like Ghost of Tsushima. But in all this excitement, some of the games in the middle got lost: those who have recognition to their names, but without any of the major clout that a franchise like Fallout can pull. And here’s where I start talking about Dying Light.
Released during the parkour craze of 2015, Dying Light looked like just a zombie game that was conveniently located in the slums where you can jump off all sorts of buildings. Of course, I immediately bought it. Zombies and parkour? Who wouldn’t love that? Then, once I’d bought a graphics card that could actually run a current-gen game, I fell in love with Dying Light. The game was beautiful, the world was vibrant and alive at a level I’d never experienced before, and the zombies were scary enough that I threw my mouse more than once. It had a beautiful open-world feel that still lends itself to exploration and unique playthrough styles almost a hundred hours into the game. Dying Light had no right to be as good as it was, and it’s my third most-played game in my Steam library, after Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Civilization V.
Now it’s 2018. Dying Light has fallen to the wayside, especially after the unsatisfying DLC that left most people wanting a return to the original mechanics and others scratching their heads at the vague ending to the story. And that was still two years ago. But at E3 this year, Techland dropped a bomb on us. Dying Light 2 is coming. And it looks awesome.
Let’s run down what they’ve shown us. The trailer looked cool enough on its own, but it teased one very important thing: choices. The developers expand this in the gameplay trailer, but here’s the gist: the game will regularly offer you choices to make. These won’t just be dialogue options that lead you to the same place at the end of the conversation. Chris Avellone, one of the writers behind narrative-rich games like KOTOR II and Fallout: New Vegas, is taking the helm as Narrative Designer for Dying Light 2. In the example aired at E3, making the choice between killing survivors for their resources and striking trade deals with them has consequences to the greater world, not just your relationship with these characters. This evolving narrative provides a larger “world” feel that the first Dying Light seemed to lack. You were rarely given real choices, and the linear storyline made it feel like the only people living in Harran were you, the enemy survivor groups, and the poor bastards that you run into during random encounters. While Dying Light made every building feel lived-in with magazines on the couch and shoes tossed in the closet, tiny little details that just made me feel like I was actually walking through an abandoned house, I never really felt like anyone was still there. The map assets that the Dying Light 2 trailer showed off give the city a residential feel, with banners, posters, and all sorts of little bits and pieces that make everything feel a touch more post-apocalyptic. That brings me to the crafting system.
I loved the crafting system in Dying Light. It was intuitive, easy, and didn’t draw unnecessary attention away from the exploration and zombie killing. What annoyed me was the scavenging. Sometimes I’ll go ten minutes or longer without being able to find Household Supplies or Electronics or something like that. It was frustrating, but I understood it. It’s the apocalypse; you’re not supposed to be able to find a cell phone whenever you need one. The thing that really didn’t make sense was the weapons. At first, you pick up rusty old pipes and floorboards from trash piles. Then you find some knives, crowbars, and meat cleavers. All these things make enough sense for the beginning of the end of the world, but as you progress in levels, things make less and less sense. You go from swinging around garden variety hatchets to finding perfectly forged swords and katanas and baseball bats that hurt more than a rifle. It feels strange to keep picking up countless beautiful weapons that keep getting better and better, especially when the repair system is lenient enough that you’re never in need of more weapons. It looks like Dying Light 2 fixes at least some of those problems. In the gameplay example that they showed at E3, around the 1:00 mark, you’ll notice that the protagonist has a strange-looking weapon. It’s not a traditional weapon like a hatchet or a baseball bat from the original game. It’s a stick with a bit of metal pipe on one end, lashed together with a pair of ethernet cords.
There’s another example of one of these makeshift weapons a little later: someone cut down a street sign, tore the sign in half, and filed it down to make a makeshift axe. Given that Dying Light 2 is supposed to be set fifteen years after the events of the first game, placing the world into the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, these are welcome changes. There aren’t random fire axes and swords sitting around anymore. You have to scrounge together what you can and stick a can filled with cement at the end of a chain and make the coolest meteor hammer that the end of the world has to offer. It’s much more interesting cobbling together weapons than just adding fire and lightning to existing weapons, although I still have a soft spot for my Angel Sword.
Now for the other things that Dying Light 2 revealed. The parkour looks a little more comprehensive, with a few cool new moves that also can be used in combat. There’s a section where the protagonist runs along a wall and then jumps off to take down a mercenary, which is pretty cool. They’re adding rope swings to the game, which means, as a Redditor said on the announcement thread, “I get to be the Spider-Man of some second-world country.” This is a nice addition, because while the parkour was awesome when the game came out, it got kind of repetitive, and Techland can do so much more with this next game. The focus looks like it’s going to mostly be on human interaction, but by no means will the zombies not be threatening. Techland hasn’t revealed anything about the night yet, but they’ve mentioned that there won’t be zombies roaming the street during the daytime. They’ll keep to the insides of the buildings and get really creepy when you happen to stumble into one. There appear to be working vehicles in the city, which gets my hopes up for a drivable vehicle for the protagonist. That was one of the bright spots in the Following DLC, so I’d love for that to make a comeback, especially considering the size of the map. Techland stated that the map was four times bigger than all the original game’s maps combined. I’m not sure if that includes the massive countryside map from the Following, but if it does, we better have a car to navigate it. I’d lose my mind if I had to run across a giant-ass map without any sort of speed, stopping every minute to catch my breath. And finally, factions. I’m extremely excited to see that there’s going to be multiple factions. In the original game, it seemed like everyone was either with Rais or teaming up against him. It made for a smaller-feeling war, especially when you left to go to Old Town and the Embers basically acted as the Tower 2.0. Nothing set any of the groups apart except for Rais, so seeing the Peacekeepers looking unique visually and ideologically, as well as them being mentioned to be “only one of the many factions” that the city holds. I’m looking forward to seeing multiple groups of ideologically and stylistically different survivors, as well as more of the personalities that made the side missions so interesting.
Dying Light 2 is rumored to release January 2019, and you can find Dying Light and Dying Light: The Following on Steam.