Dying Light was an instant hit when it released in 2015. It provided fun gameplay, a bunch of content to keep you playing (we were told there’s someone who has played for over 5,000 hours), and much more.
That said, there were some areas where it could be improved. It could be a bit clunky, sometimes combat got too repetitive, and the story was relatively average. Dying Light 2 looks to improve on all those things and do so much more.
You play as Aiden Caldwell, a survivor who has been infected but not yet turned. Our demo sees him and his group visited by a rival faction at their base, their water has been turned off by said rival faction and they can’t go without it. Aiden walks outside and hears a gunshot, he instantly runs to chaos and it gets pretty wild.
We see the typical hack and slash combat we’re used to, limbs and heads fly off and blood spurts everywhere. The van that dropped the group off peels out and Aiden turns around to find his friend Frank bleeding out. The player is given a choice, stay and help Frank or chase the van in hopes of getting answers and the water turned back on.
The demo saw Aiden go after the van but he had already lost track of it. This is where we saw just how vertical and more dynamic the game was in its traversal. When you played the first game, sometimes it felt like you were staying really close to the ground and not climbing many tall buildings.
Dying Light 2 changes that. Right away, he jumps up to some containers, swings from a rope, and then is thrust upwards by a makeshift elevator which sends him to the rooftop of a tall building. He sprints across the rooftops where he encounters a group of people growing crops (something that lives or dies depending on your actions), he runs past them and begins jumping between buildings.
There’s a whole bunch of insanely dynamic elements that happen here such as jumping off zombies like Mario, grabbing on to a zombie and falling out a window with them and using them to break your fall, and much more. There are even platforms that move depending on the weight you put on them so if you’re quick and agile, you can use them as ramps to get higher.
The whole parkour system looks wildly smooth. The goal is seemingly not to stop moving in-between objectives and there are enough places to move around that you should never feel like you need to stop and look at where you need to climb. There’s buildings with open windows to climb through, actual things to hold onto and climb, and plenty of other ways to keep your momentum going.
After spotting the van from afar, Aiden makes an effort to track it down by using a parachute and grappling hook that he has. He ends up moving through a building with some not-so sturdy floors that collapse and put him in a pit of darkness filled with zombies.
Given his condition, Aiden is temporarily immune to the zombies in the darkness. He blends in but it doesn’t last very long, Techland says that the immunity will grow over time though and will be a key aspect of your survival. With the day/night cycle, most zombies hibernate inside buildings during the day and come out at night so if you have a mission inside a building, it may be smarter to do it at night.
Using his trusty UV light to keep them back temporarily, he attacks the stunned zombies until his weapon breaks and now he only has his fists.
He bolts and bounces off walls to get over groups of zombies and carefully threads himself through the horde. He sees a small metal door being propped open by a wooden object, slides under the door while grabbing the wooden stick, and the door closes behind him, sealing some zombies in. Problem is, he finds another group of zombies.
He now has a weapon but it breaks after a few hits, he finds a ladder and climbs out. He moves towards the van again and finally lands on top of it, he takes a seat and takes a seat in the passenger’s seat. Dying Light’s “The Following” expansion introduced a buggy as a major factor in the gameplay but Techland noted it’s not going to be as integral to Dying Light 2.
There will be “vehicle sequences” that see you both driving and sitting in the passenger’s seat but the way they phrased it made it seem like you won’t be doing much driving in the open world itself.
Aiden talks to the driver and is given the option of killing or sparing him. He spares the driver which allows him to get to the enemy base without raising any eyebrows.
His goal now? Find the man in charge and get him to turn the pumps on. As he climbs up a large building to find the man known as the Colonel, Aiden looks over this enemy camp filled with children and regular people living normally. They don’t seem like bad people, he’s having second thoughts.
His friend Matt radios him and tells him Frank has died, he needs to continue and take care of the Colonel. Once he enters a large room to find the decorated leader, the Colonel seems confused by what happened back at Aiden’s camp. He didn’t order his men to kill anyone. He tells Aiden that he’s being played for a fool by Matt who then radios you and tells you the Colonel is lying.
You’re given a choice here, believe the Colonel or believe Matt and turn on the pumps. The person controlling our demo chose the latter and a fight ensued with a bunch of soldiers. We see Aiden use his grappling hook to knock a barrel down on to some enemies, he hooks it on the ceiling and swings from it to get the jump on some other foes, and he takes someone’s gun and continues his killing spree.
One really cool gameplay dynamic is that even if you run out of ammo, you can still use the gun as a weapon by switching it into a melee weapon you can swing around. It’s not just the butt of your gun, it’s like a proper melee weapon.
Once everyone’s dead, Aiden turns on the pumps and makes a mad dash to escape the base. The demo ends and we flash forward to see the consequences of the choices made, word spreads that the Colonel attacked Aiden’s base despite seemingly being completely uninvolved in it. People rise up against him creating chaos, having a major impact on the city.
Techland kept emphasizing how your choices don’t just directly affect you but the entire city. Your city can be a complete hellhole or a glimmer of hope for humanity, it all depends on how you play. The developers also noted that there will be multiple endings at the end of the roughly 20-hour campaign but they’re still figuring out just how many endings there will be.
Overall, Dying Light 2 looks absolutely fantastic and I’m not the only one who thinks this. The whole room of press was laughing with glee and constantly going “Woah!” throughout the 40-minute demo. Dying Light 2 will undoubtedly make a massive impact in 2020.
It takes the foundation for the first game and builds upon it to make an almost entirely new game. You can definitely see and feel how it’s still a Dying Light game but it’s doing so many other things and feels so much more well-rounded that it feels incredibly fresh.
Dying Light 2 will release spring 2020 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.