I was dropped into the fictional zombie infested city of Harran only a short time ago. I currently don’t have the skills needed to survive outside the confines of a safe zones walls at night, yet I find myself on a bridge in the dark backed into a corner between a quarantine zone blockade, a rock wall and two ferocious Virals.
All I have with me is a flashlight which is my only source of light and my machete. Virals are fast, smart and still slightly human compared to your normal shambling zombies. The two virals keep false lunging at me waiting for the perfect time to strike. I’m just waiting for them to make their move. They finally decide to attack at the same time.
My machete swings and connects with the first virals neck taking his head off while also landing a glancing blow to the second viral. One zombie lies decapitated in the street while the other falls to the ground and begins to look scared. It manages to whimper out a “No… Please” before becoming angry again and charging. Another swing of the machete and I’m off to find somewhere safe to hide until daybreak.
In Dying Light you assume control of Kyle Crane, an undercover Global Relief Effort operative sent into Harran post outbreak to secure an important file that’s been taken by a rouge agent turned warlord named Rais.
After landing in the city Kyle manages to get hurt but is fortunate enough to be saved by a small group of survivors. This leads to the stories main focus of whether you complete your mission for the GRE or help the survivors trapped in Harran.
While the story starts off seemingly strong it quickly turns into your typical crazy bad guy rambling on and on about life, death and not being a slave to those in power.
It’s not completely terrible but it could have been done much better. It feels like TechLand wanted to make a Far Cry style villain but weren’t able to pull it off. I doubt many people were planning on buying Dying Light for its story anyway because everyone knows it’s all about the zombie killing and to do that you are gonna need weapons.
There’s a lot of different weapons for your zombie slaying needs to be found around the city or bought from some of the safe zones merchants.
Some of the weaponry includes baseball bats, knives, hatchets, axes, swords and yes even a few guns. Those are just your base weapons though. As you make your way through the city you’ll find blueprints and upgrades that add more damage, durability, handling and elemental effects like fire to your weapons. Even the best weapons break down eventually so you always need to keep scavenging for that next weapon or at least the metal parts needed to repair what you currently have.
Scavenging is a necessity in Dying Light if you plan to survive. You need to find the ingredients for anything you plan on crafting whether it’s a Molotov cocktail or a med kit. These ingredients are found all over the city in houses, cupboards, tool boxes, luggage, trunks of cars and just about anywhere you can think of to hide something.
The crafting system works the same as TechLand’s other zombie game Dead Island. As you make your way through Harran, you’ll find ingredients needed to craft bigger and better stuff.
Once you have everything you need you pull up your menu, find the blueprint for what you want to make and you’re done. Crafting doesn’t happen in real time which is a shame. Being chased down by a swarm of zombies and needing to find a safe place to hide while I make a health kit is always tenser when the game doesn’t pause when I want to make something.
Being chased by a swarm of zombies does have its perks though. It gives you a chance to brush up on all those parkour moves you’ll be using to avoid the undead. Harran was built with parkour in mind.
Close buildings with plenty of ledges and boards connecting them make for a great playground. At first Kyle can’t do much more then barely climb a wall but by the time everything’s said and done you’ll be jumping from rooftop to rooftop and climbing walls with ease, that is if you can master the controls.
TechLand decided on a rather odd controller layout that can be infuriating at first. Your jump button is mapped to the R1 button, kick is L1, attack is R2 and using your secondary item is L2.
This leads to a huge learning curve at first. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to jump from a roof only to fall to my death because I hit the wrong button but once you’ve spent some time with the controls they grow on you. I almost never fall to my death anymore because I pushed the wrong button but if I do fall I’ve now learned an ability that will let me roll once I hit the ground to help ease the impact.
Death in Dying Light can be very costly. As you play you have 3 skill trees that you earn points toward depending on what you do. You earn points toward your agility skill tree for any parkour type things you do like climbing walls or jumping between buildings. Your power skill tree is advanced by killing zombies and your survivor skill tree is advanced by doing quests, collecting air drops and generally staying alive.
Depending how you die you could lose a lot of precious points from your survivor tree. Every time you die you could potentially loss thousands of points and it can add up quickly. One tough section of a quest can result in the loss of an entire level worth of points from your survivor skill tree so do yourself a favor and play it safe.
Playing it safe becomes much less of an option after night falls though. Zombies become more aggressive and all of the crazy enemies you normally want to avoid are lurking in the dark. Virals which are the recently infected dead show up in much greater numbers along with volatiles who are mutated zombies capable of killing you in just a few hits. Don’t be surprised to run into a few other nasty creatures in the dark and the always present threat of other survivors.
The really terrifying part of being outside at night is the complete lack of light. You can’t see anything without a flashlight but using your flashlight can draw some unwanted attention. If you’re lucky it’s a rainy or foggy night to help obscure your movements from the zombies waiting in the darkness. If you’re not lucky prepare to run for your life back to a safe zone or take your time slowly avoiding the Metal Gear Solid style vision cone of the Volatiles who come out at night.
Dying Light’s multiplayer comes in two forms. First you have the 4 player coop which lets four people team up to kill zombies while playing out the main story and side quests. Then you have night invasion where one player who is a volatile is tasked with hunting down and killing the other players who are attempting to destroy zombie nests while trying not to get killed by the volatile. It’s a lot like a toned down version of the soon to be released Evolve. Both modes are a lot of fun but there’s something about teaming up with three friends and going on a zombie killing rampage that has a strange appeal to me.
Dying Light’s graphics are top notch. The way light shines and changes depending what time of day it is looks amazing. Zombies look downright grotesque and that’s before swinging a sword at them. Every hit on a zombie leaves its mark whether it’s an arm being separated from its body or just a chunk of rib cage falling off.
The sounds of Dying light are great too. No matter where you go the sound of zombies is there. This leads to constantly checking your surroundings.
When zombies get closer they tend to get louder but that doesn’t mean they’ll always be hearable. Some zombies aren’t very active. You can be walking through a room of corpses thinking you’re safe then you hear a faint moan and suddenly you got someone chomping on your leg.
Despite Dying Light’s rather weak story it manages to be a fun and tense zombie survival game full of cool moments. Most of those moments don’t come from the story but are made by just having fun and playing the game like the small excerpt at the beginning of this review.
Dying light might not be revolutionizing the zombie survival game but it is making huge leaps over the rest of the competition.