Dying Light Review: It’s Getting Dark

February 4th, 2015 -

After several years of anticipation, Techland’s newest zombie game has finally released. With an open world, a day-night cycle that changes gameplay, and parkour mixed together, what could possibly go wrong?

Crane Here

Dying Light is a game that, like many other AAA titles, takes ideas from other games and does its best to incorporate them. There’s nothing wrong with doing that – after all, Picasso said “good artists copy, but great artists steal.” And it’s hard not to see the inspiration from other games, such as Mirror’s Edge, Far Cry, or Assassin’s Creed. It also takes a lot from RPGs, especially with the selling point of the dark bringing danger. Sadly, the implementation of so many ideas feels as though the original idea was lost in translation.

As you begin the game, you’ll realize your parkour abilities are rather substandard. Not to worry, as this is one of the three skill trees you’ll be upgrading throughout, and you’ll do so by using your abilities. Running along buildings, narrowly avoiding zombies, and using your unlocked skills will add experience to your Agility tree, which contains abilities like vaulting off zombies, sliding while sprinting (opposed to breaking sprint to crouch), and forward rolls to negate fall damage (amongst many other unlockables). The other two skill trees are Power (fighting) and Survivor (Miscellaneous – boosts, traps, barter, etc).

Dying_Light_Screenshot_09

Experience for Power is acquired by fighting, naturally. While fighting gets to be more fun with the unlocks, getting there can be an annoyance. Fighting seems like a bit of a mess, partially because of the limits from weapons you’ll use. While there is an abundant supply of weaponry to pick up early in the game, there is not only weapon durability, but also stamina while using that weapon. Miss with a few swings, and you have to wait to be able to use that weapon efficiently. Also, in regards to weapon durability, you’re able to repair a broken weapon – however, you’re limited in the amount of repairs you can make. That one-hit kill weapon sure is nice, but you can’t use it indefinitely, because even if you have the materials to repair it, it’ll dissolve into the nether after enough use. Does it add to difficulty? I suppose, but it’s more of an annoyance – it’s forcing you to not enjoy something because you’ll lose it if you do.

The Survivor tree is boosted by doing missions, be they collecting supply drops and delivering the supplies, or completing missions for the citizens/progression of story. This is where you will determine if you will carry more items in your backpack, use more traps around the city, create advanced weaponry and more. This is also the section of experience points that will take a hit if you die. To be honest, it’s not as big of a penalty as I would like to see. Of course you can create your own punishment, such as permadeath, but it’d be nice if it at least took your money, or all the items you were carrying. Dying, losing some experience, and waking up in a safe house with all your stuff just seems… too easy. What’s the point of having a stash at each safe house if you don’t lose your belongings for being reckless?

Going Down

So boiled down, the game consists of parkour, fighting, and crafting. The story is mediocre at best, being overly predictable and attempting to force twists/emotions from something that was never there. I never felt invested in any of the characters, their motives, or the “relationships” that are built. While the voice acting never pulled me in, neither did the performances of the character models. The “bad guy” feels like he wants to be over-the-top like Vaas from Far Cry 3, but instead you get a performance that looks like the villain in a 2010 Saturday morning cartoon. It’s not believable, and he projects early on what will be happening with the story development. Luckily, the humans aren’t what matter – this is a zombie game, and there are plenty of those loveable bastards to go around. Not only that, but as you progress through the story, different types are introduced to force new methods of playing the game. It breaks up the monotony of killing the undead.

So let’s talk about the night time section of the game. After your first encounter with it in the story, you’ll come across the night section around 9pm in game, and you’ll be given fair warning its coming (or you can just sleep during the day until it’s night). During this time, you’re abilities are doubled in strength and you get large bonuses for surviving the encounters with volatiles (the scarier looking zombies). While the initial encounters with them may seem terrifying, hearing them howl and seeing them chase you, it’s hardly something to worry about. Sure, they can kill you instantly if they catch you, but the AI of them is lacking quite a bit. While it’s more or less a janky stealth mission, the AI is non-threatening to the point of you trying to get their attention to boost your overall gains in experience, and nighttime becomes another way to farm experience. It’s kind of sad, as the premise for the day/night cycle was very promising. Leading up to release, it looked as though it’d be more horror filled than it actually was – even my first time going through I had trouble feeling scared with the minimap showing the volatiles aimlessly wandering when they were supposed to be in pursuit.

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The game also has drop-in/out co-op in the story, which allows for three other people to join and do… well, whatever you were doing. This works well enough, though it doesn’t add a whole lot to the game – but if you wanted to wander the city and bust some zombies up with friends, this is a nice addition. Another addition that was originally pre-order only is the Be the Zombie mode, which pits up to four players against one super zombie. While this mode is fun as the zombie, lunging around the map and one-shotting everyone, it’s not quite as magical being a human. It’s also quite abrupt when your game is set to public – unlike the co-op, this takes you out of whatever you were doing to complete a much less dire task. It’s like playing an arcade match of Street Fighter, and as you’re about to land the finishing blow, a new challenger approaches from online, forcing you to play the original match again. While you can set this to off (it was off to begin with for me), it feels tacked on and almost as if it was added solely to compete with Evolve. Again, this game takes many ideas from other big titles that are out there (or coming), but doesn’t specialize in any of them.

The funny thing is that while I’ve talked down about the game for the majority of this review, I find myself going back to just run about the city. I want to like the game, and it’s definitely fun in spurts. The challenge of the game dissolves once you’ve upgraded your character, but that’s always been a draw of games that incorporate leveling in some manner. You go from a weakling to a zombie whooping mother trucker. And while the game doesn’t do a whole lot to make the elements taken from other games unique, they’re still enjoyable (assuming you liked stuff like picking locks in Bethesda titles). It’s a fun game, but when I look at what keeps drawing me in, it’s nothing unique. Perhaps this is what it was always meant to be, but I can’t help but feel like it lost its way through development and began adding on parts that other successful games had, just because it could.

RENT

Pros

  • First Person Parkour in an Open World
  • Skill Trees
  • Zombie Types

Cons

  • Story/Repetitious Missions
  • Wonky Combat
  • Volatile AI is Lacking

Dying Light was created and published by Techland. The game is available on the PS4 ($59.99), X1 ($59.99), and PC ($49.99) as of January 27, 2015. The PC copy reviewed was provided for us. If you’d like to see more of Techland’s Dying Light, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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