Here at InReview, we had a ‘best of the decade’ series a little over a year ago. In that review, Dying Light was highlighted as the best overall game of the decade.
While lacking that type of attention on the national scale, this game was definitely appreciated by critics. Steam gave it a 10/10 while the notoriously stingy IGN marked it at 8.5/10. Simply put, this game was a masterpiece, well ahead of its time for a 2015 video game that aged beautifully.
And now? On Wednesday, May 26th, Techland finally revealed the official release date on Dying Light 2: Stay Human. The game will grace shelves and digital storefronts on December 7th of this year.
Based on the description of the game, the setting will take place twenty years after the events of the first game. Some revisions have been made, namely how a player interacts with the world during the night and the choice of weaponry they have in front of them. That said, the general dynamic is thought to carry over a lot from the first game. Thus, a robust single player and multiplayer experience should be expected if the first game is anything to go off of.
That said, despite the glowing praise this website has given to the game, there is not yet an actual review of the game itself. So, this piece aims to accomplish that, whilst highlighting what the sequel needs to do to fill the enormous shoes in front of it.
Let’s start off with what Dying Light did right:
Techland made this game into a passion project
The game released in 2015. All the way until 2018, Techland dropped frequent DLC packs and new stuff to do seemingly monthly. The game’s first notable DLC pack “The Following” was basically a new game in and of itself with how much content there was. DLC was reasonably cheap and definitely let this game stand out from other zombie slaying adventures.
Combat and general gameplay were very loose and varied
Killing normal zombies is simple and easy enough. However, things can take a turn for the worse if a Bruiser shows up. Vitals are even more threatening. Gas tank zombies can be turned against their horde, but they can also suicide bomb straight into the player, and can’t be ignored. But if an ill equipped player ever came across a Demolisher or, even worse, a Volatile, they were done for.
Moreover, general gameplay changes significantly when the sun goes down; zombies become more ferocious and the Night Hunters come out, but XP gained and loot is heavily stimulated, presenting a huge risk/reward dynamic.
The combat itself is simplistic and well done, with no real issues. The game’s HUD is simple and not intrusive, weapons have a durability system that’s easy to understand, and there is a seriously large list of weapons the player could get their hands on. From a 2×4 plank to a katana to a Zweihander into exotic dual wielded blades, along with guns of all sorts and crossbows, the player could arm themselves to the teeth. A very player friendly system.
Dying Light must have dropped a pretty penny or two obtaining permissions to video game franchises across the globe. Techland hid numerous ‘Easter eggs’ across the map that can let the player briefly enter a crossover between the game and another popular franchise. Astoundingly, there is a replica Mario NES level, there is a Plants vs Zombies shoutout level, the player can encounter a replica Clicker from the Last of Us series, and there’s even a weapon called the “EXPcalibur” that looks just like King Arthur’s legendary blade, the Excalibur. Crossovers are largely fan-friendly endeavors that just helped to make this game all the more memorable.
The storytelling was phenomenal
Kyle Crane, the main protagonist, has an absolutely enthralling character arc and general development. He starts off working for the Global Relief Effort, a corrupt organization whose purpose in the war-torn streets of Harlan is extracting Antizin, the so called cure to zombieism. Crane eventually grows more of a humane side to him that dissuades him from basically robbing the citizens of Harran, and when he learns of the GRE’s corrupt plans to pretty much nuke the entire region in exchange for payment, he turns on them completely despite his status as a mercenary for them. He essentially becomes a champion of the people and saves the area from imminent destruction.
In the other corner, we have the wonderfully done villain, Rais. Rais is a perfect kind of hateable, being morally twisted, all powerful, greedy and constantly one step ahead of Crane. He rules Harran with an iron fist. He is even found to be working with the GRE in exchange for his own assured safety. He does in fact get his comeuppance, as an epic final boss-esque duel is had between himself and Crane, where Crane wins and simultaneously saves Harran from him and the GRE in doing so. This also gives the story a great, happy ending.
The storytelling for The Following was also compelling and very enjoyable. In general, Techland did a beyond perfect job with character development. Even side characters were built well enough for the player to care about them. This is what gave the gameplay its wings.
The multiplayer is robust and enjoyable
The single player campaign can optionally be played in multiplayer! With the exception of each final boss fight, this applies to the base game and The Following. There is enough content to log some big time hours with a pal. The worlds are huge, there are tons of fun side quests, and as previously mentioned, the thrilling storyline is there to be enjoyed with a partner as well. In particular, some would-be tedious side quests can be made much less irritating with a friend who can cover extra ground.
There are ultimately very few games which can be classified as truly perfect, but Dying Light breaks the mold here. I’d give this game a grade of an S+ (above an A). Just a wonderful game, well ahead of its time, that has aged like a fine wine.
So what does Dying Light 2 need to do to properly follow up?
This is ordinarily the part where a large laundry list of suggestions are made. However, in truth, graphical updates and a general refurbishing to match that of a 2021 video game are about it. Ideally, the new story Techland is prepared to tell ends up being just as good as the first game. Really, if they just slightly refurbish the graphics, do another good job with story telling, and leave the gameplay dynamic as it was in the first game, it will again be an incredible game. Hopefully they don’t make changes just for the sake of change. Given their reputation as a result of Dying Light, though, any changes they do make should be initially met with optimism and trust.
They’ve most definitely earned it.