The original Dying Light, at release, was a solid zombie killer open world game with innovative parkour traversal.
It clearly struck a chord with an unexpectedly large audience though, as developer Techland spent years providing significant updates to the game, including a large expansion. There was something in the unique mix of traversal, combat and setting that kept players engaged long after similar games came and went.
So it was always going to be a challenge to match this success with the sequel Dying Light 2. Many years in the making, and not without its controversy along the way, Dying Light 2 has finally launched on current and last gen consoles, as well as a feature-packed PC version.
Set 10 years after the original game and 15 years after the Harran virus wiped out the world population, you play as generic white guy Aiden, looking for your long-lost sister.
Your path leads you to Villedor, a pastiche of various European cities, where you soon become embroiled in a war between the various factions in control of what remains of the once-thriving metropolis.
The narrative of Dying Light 2 was much-hyped before launch, but in the end there’s a whole lot of story without significant impact.
Before launch much was made of the significance of the choices you’ll make and how it will affect the city and your experience in the game. And there are certain choices that do give you certain benefits if you go one way or the other. But in a game that can last hundreds of hours, it does seem restrictive to block off certain benefits for good. I’d bet you’d be unlikely to play dozens of hours again just to see minor world changes – perhaps a let’s play on Youtube would be more suitable.
The city of Villedor, however, is the true star of the show.
Split into two sections, it is a beautiful, dense cityscape perfectly crafted for the game’s first person, free running parkour system.
As in the first entry to the series, your time is best spent on rooftops, avoiding the deadly zombies below, who can swarm and take you down with surprising ease. And while you don’t get enough parkour abilities early on, as you progress the number of actions you can take to keep your momentum going is somewhat astounding.
Open world games often feel sterile because its simply moving from point a to point b and back to point a again, with not much to do in between (see Assassin’s Creed or Red Dead Redemption 2’s autoride cinematic modes for a start), but Dying Light 2 blends gameplay and setting in such a way that simply getting to your mission objective becomes a core part of the game itself, especially in the second half of the game when certain abilities I won’t spoil open up to you.
One type of mission I was less impressed with however, were the stealth missions.
In a game about parkour and free movement, the stealth segments – moving slowly in the dark to avoid sleeping zombies – didn’t feel like it matched the intensity or flavour of the rest of the game. It felt more akin to the style of The Last of Us, and while it makes sense as a gameplay type, it did seem out of place.
All the beauty of Villedor, however, comes at a steep performance cost.
On my system featuring an i9-9900k, 32GB 3200MHz RAM and an RTX 3070, the game struggled to keep 60FPS at 3440×1440 using DLSS balanced mode and ray-tracing features on. For 4K, even DLSS performance mode struggled even without ray-tracing. You’ll need a high end card to hit 60FPS, and DLSS is a godsend for performance. The ray-tracing features however, are amazing, and truly transform the look and presentation of each environment.
If possible, I highly encourage you to turn them on.
On PC, I did experience a fair number of bugs and other issues, such as the cutscenes and HUD being presented l in 16:9 even on ultrawide resolutions, and cutscenes and gameplay have completely different lighting, but overall the game was very playable and a number of bugfixes have already been released.
With Techland’s commitment to updating Dying Light 2 for many years, I am certain the issues I experienced will be addressed as time goes on.
One surprise to me, not having played the first game for more than an hour or two, was how detailed the RPG elements of the game were; certainly more than I was expecting.
It has the vague scent of an immersive sim, and I wished it had gone harder on that angle but the number of stats that go up, gear to craft and skills to unlock is enormous.
While I don’t think every one of these came together extremely well, for that person who will put in a hundred hours or two into Dying Light 2, there is plenty to min-max and open up as you spend more time in the game. There’s a bit of every modern WRPG in recent times, from the 3D Fallouts, Skyrim, the Witcher and more.
Given how successful Dying Light 1 ended up being, Dying Light 2 had a lot of expectations on it, and I was happy to see that developer Techland have created a world-class AAA title that stands out in the crowd of open world action RPGs.
Not without its flaws, in particular its forgettable yet overly-complicated story, Dying Light 2 and its city Villedor is one zombie-infested world I do, in fact, want to stay in.
Released: February 2022
Platform reviewed: PC
Genre: Action / First person