Dying Light was developed by Techland (who also did Dead Island), published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and released in 2015. For a game released in 2015, it is absolutely gorgeous. Dying Light follows Kyle Crane (you) in his quest to hunt down the dangerous Kadir Suleiman who is hiding in a zombie infected, quarantined town. Things go wrong however, as upon landing inside the Middle Eastern city of Harran, Kyle is attacked and bitten, giving his objectives a time limit, making his job that much more difficult.
In reality however, this game is an open world where you can take all the time doing what ever you want. Thankfully there isn’t actually any kind of time limit. That would have ruined the game, in my opinion. The story itself is rather good for a zombie game, when most players will ignore it and be focused mostly on running around smashing heads in, and gun fighting with hostile survivors/raiders. The leader of the living humans that are trying to kill you and steal all the supplies being air dropped into the city is a man known only as Rais, who has proclaimed himself the ruler of Harran. He does not like you helping out The Tower, and the other groups of independent survivors who give you side quests, and subsequent rewards and upgrades.
The game does primarily focus on running around and smashing in the heads of the infected. Literally. One aspect of game-play is parkour. The zombie hordes are often too thick, and filled with too many special zombies, for you to just fight and kill them all. You need to rely on traps, and your ability to get to them, as well as distracting zombies and running away. You can climb anything in this game, from cliffs to walls, to the sides of buildings. Nearly everything can be climbed, and the rooftops will soon become your domain, while the undead hordes own the streets.
The parkour is this game is pretty smooth for the most part, with climbing up, climbing sideways, and climb-jumping backwards to new surfaces working very well. The one problem is with dropping down to the last level you just climbed up from, as sometimes you will not grab onto the ledge and instead fall. The running, jumping, sliding, vaulting enemies, and much more, is quite fun. Overall movement in this game is a blast, and the more of it you do, the higher your Agility skill gets.
How do you want to make your way through the zombie apocalypse? Your first skill is to dodge, an invaluable tool for fighting both regular infected and special infected, but what else can you do? Well you have choices. You can vault and jump over zombies, you can grab and toss them, you can slide under them and knock them down, you can even just charge right through them. Other great upgrades include the ability to take less fall damage, and use up less stamina when sprinting. The ultimate upgrade is to lose no stamina at all. So however you want to make your way through the zombies is up to you.
The one problem I have with the Agility skill is that you don’t get nearly enough experience for it. By the time I had finished the game, I had both my Survivor and Power skill trees completely unlocked, but Agility fell far far behind, at only around level 21. There is also the fact that what experience you get seems to be randomly determined. I made the same jump up onto a car and onto a building several times, and each time I received different amounts for the exact same set of moves.
Moving on, yes you read right, there are other skill trees, Power and Survivor. Power is obviously for fighting, and you get it by busting heads, but how do you get Survivor? Well I mentioned up above in the story that there are air drops, as well as groups of survivors that need your help. You get Survivor experience by doing side quests and by reclaiming the supplies from the air drops. If you can run to the drops and get there fast enough you can collect it without a problem, but if you are late you will have to fight off bandits for supplies. Get there way too late, and there will be nothing left. Everyone wants a piece of the pie being dropped into the city. What is so special about these air drops, other than food and water? Anti-zen, a drug that suppresses the zombie virus and allows those who take it to nor turn into a zombie, for a limited time. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs more.
The Survivor skill tree is probably the most important one, as it controls your carrying capacity, how much health you have, what items you can craft, how many items you make when you craft/how many materials you can save, the quality of the items you craft, how much money you find, and most importantly of all, the grappling hook. But there is also much more in there. It is kind of fitting that this skill tree is the most important, as it is tied to the most important resource, as well as helping others to survive.
This was the second skill that I eventually maxed out, after Power. It was also the one that I wanted filled the most, and drove me to do as many side quests and grab as many air drops as I could. The quality of your crafted weapons and just how many weapons and items you can carry is paramount not just to surviving in the game, but to having fun.
As I mentioned before, Power was the first skill tree I maxed out at 24 levels, and it was very early on into the game. As you can imagine, you get experience with every hit you make, and every kill you get, which will quickly get the skill fully leveled up. I don’t mean to downplay the skill tree, it is extremely useful, but the game is totally unbalanced in the experience you get. I had completely maxed out Power before being anywhere near to completing the game, whereas Survivor I only finished off after only being a few hours from completing everything in the base game. Agility needs to have increased experience rewards, or Power needs to have the amount of experience you get scaled down.
The Power skill determines how you fight, and what kinds of combat maneuvers you can do. From stomping on the heads of fallen zombies (and humans), to throwing your melee weapons, to massive crowd clearing swings, or silent take-downs. In my opinion all you really need is the ability to stomp zombies, everything else is just icing on the cake. However, the final rank allows you to fight without losing stamina, which can be a life saver, literally.
So you can run your way through the zombies, or fight your way through. when it comes to fighting, the game does not disappoint. As fighting is a huge part of the game, they have made sure to make it always fun to do, a joy really. The sheer number of different melee weapons to be found, as well as all the myriad blueprints and upgrades you can make for them, is kind of jaw dropping. By the end of the game I had nearly 50 different upgrades for what could be around 100 different kinds of melee weapons, from wooden planks to ancient short swords, claw tooth hammers, to massive two handed war-hammers.
There are two kinds of upgrades you can apply to your weapons, elemental customization through blueprints that can only be applied once to a weapon (which will be covered next), and direct upgrades through mods. These mods can be applied to your weapon three times, and are permanent once installed. They can increase the handling, durability, and damage, directly. The better the mod (grey -> green -> blue -> purple -> orange) the better the stats on the weapon are improved. If you only want damage, you can do that, or if you found a weapon you love and want it to last forever, stack durability upgrades on it. This can create extremely fast weapons as well, and is an excellent way to upgrade your weapons when combined with the next type of upgrade, damage types.
The damage type upgrades are one of the things that makes fighting in Dying Light so much fun. There are two main kinds of damage for melee weapons, blunt and cutting, as well as one handed and two handed weapons. However, you can augment all of this. Bleed damage, poison, electricity, fire, impact, etc. You can focus on one type of damage, or you can have a little bit of everything (depending on the blueprints you find). Things like fire and electricity can be great for crowd control, as zombies who touch each other with these effects on them will pass them on. Poison is great for taking down big special zombies. However, my favorites are bleed and impact. Electricity, fire, and poison can all damage you as well, but when you make the enemy bleed, there is no risk of damage to you, and it works just as well at taking out big enemies. Impact is fantastic. It has a chance to activate every time you hit a zombie but don’t kill it. It launches the zombie away, and if they hit other zombies they get knocked down, and if they hit spikes and traps, they will be killed instantly.
While bleeding and impact were my favorites, you may find a different type, or combination, to work the best for you. In order to customize your weapons like this, you will need crafting materials. You can find these all over the map, in containers, on shelves, on zombies, everywhere. However, for the best materials for the best weapons, you will need to brave specialized quarantine zones, or kill special zombies for their body parts. You will also need the blueprints to craft them, which you can buy, get as rewards for quests, or find hidden throughout the map.
Speaking of the map, it is huge, and there are two of them. The game is split up into the Slums, and the Old Town. Both maps are extensive, with it taking several minutes at full and unlimited sprint to get across them. The slums has many wide streets, open areas, and low rooftops, with some heavily urbanized areas and narrow alleys in-between. You are constantly in the shadows of large highways, apartment buildings, and warehouses. Small villages dot the edges of the map along the forested mountains and the coastline.
The Old Town is made up of extremely high buildings and towers, with most of the streets being extremely narrow. Everything is tightly packed, and on this map you will find yourself keeping to the rooftops unless strictly necessary. In the Slums you often found yourself on the streets, but in Old Town you are almost always on the roofs, and upgraded parkour skills will come in handy. It is extremely urbanized, with several large roads passing through the area, as well as a massive canal. There are some rural areas, but they are all along the far edge, and far down below the old walls of the city. Beware of going down there without a grappling hook to get up, especially when it starts getting late.
You may notice that in most of the screen shots there is a clock present in the top right hand corner. Although I said you aren’t pressed for time in this game, that is when it comes to the quests. There is a day and night cycle to this game, and woe to those who are out after dark. If you find yourself unlucky enough to be caught out after dark, quickly rush to one of the safe houses. One of the first things I did when playing was to immediately unlock every safe-house I could. Night brings out the Volatiles. These zombies are no joke. They can run as fast as you, jump and climb as fast as you, and hit much, much harder than you. They also have a ranged attack in case you find a spot where they can’t get to you. If they spot you they will chase you down and kill you. On the bright side you earn double XP at night… Don’t go out at night.
Unfortunately, some missions need to be done at night, or at least they make you think they need to be done at night. I only came across a single mission that actually needed to be done at night (that wasn’t a part of the main quest) and thankfully it was right next to a safe house. These quests can be done a little bit easier at night (like knowing which light bulbs are the right ones to take, or rare hard to see plants will glow in the darkness), but honestly, doing them in the day is so much safer, and the night gets very, very dark. Even regular zombies will become faster and more powerful at night. Avoid it at all costs.
Other than the Volatiles, the ultimate special zombie, there are a couple more. You have the Goons, big but slow zombies with a powerful two handed melee attack. Toads who have a projectile vomit acid attack that obscures your vision. Screamers are children who were infected, and damage you with a sonic shriek that calls more zombies to it (as well as looking scary as hell). Bombers will run up to you and explode, doing massive damage and calling in the zombie hordes to flood you. Demolishers are heavily armored, massive tanks that can throw rocks and charge at you.
There are also Bolters, special zombies that don’t attack you and that you need to chase down and kill for their parts. Then there are the infected, those humans who have yet to turn into shambling zombies, but are near enough that they aren’t attacked like you are. You are one dosage of medicine away from being like them. They are fast, and they can climb. They are nowhere near as dangerous as Volatiles, and just taking off an arm can cause them to die, but they will come in large numbers at you, especially if you fire guns, let Screams scream, or allow Bombers to explode.
There is a slight problem with the game though. It is really fast paced, and that is one of the things that makes it great. But every time you want good weapons, rare crafting materials, or the chance at a new blueprint, you need to come to a complete stop, and slowly and methodically pick a lock. The lock-picking in this game is a direct copy of Skyrim, where you turn the pick and the lock to try and find the point where there is no resistance.
The problem with this basic lock-picking mini-game is that the more difficult the lock, the more brutal and annoying it gets. For the ‘very hard’ locks, where you will find the best items, you need to find the sweet spot right down to the millimeter. This slows down the game right to a halt, and in order to make sure you don’t die while you pick the lock you need to clear the entire area, because the game does not pause while you pick locks, like Skyrim and other games that also ripped off the same lock-picking system do.
Other than that though, I don’t really have any major gripes, other than that while playing with friends, fighting zombies can get a little bit wonky. Zombies should have health directly proportional to how much damage you do, and how much damage your allies do, so that no one feels over powered or useless, but this often isn’t the case. When I play with friends they will sometimes fight basic enemies that end up taking 25+ blows to the head before finally going down, while others die normally. No one likes that, and the system needs to have these bugs ironed out.
Honestly, this is one of the only bugs I have come across. I have never had a quest get stuck, or have zombies rag-doll into the ground, or be trapped in an area, or have any kind of graphical glitches. Very few are the games I have played like this where there have been no bugs or glitches, Dying Light is an extremely well polished game.
They also keep coming out with partnerships with other games, and DLC. Quite a lot of the content they have come out with over the years has been free, which is really nice. They mostly partner with other zombie games, adding in weapons and outfits from them, but others can be quite weird like the Godfather bundle, or the Shu Warrior bundle. Don’t get me wrong, more weapons is great, but things got a little too weird with the Retro-wave bundle, where you and your new weapons are lit in teal and purple neon.
A quality DLC that they released and that finishes the story is called The Following. At the end of Dying Light it is no surprise that you are able to complete your main objectives and keep the innocent people of Harran safe while punishing the villains, but after that you are free to run around in the city as before. The Following completes the game’s story, and gives progression into the next game Dying Light 2, which I am really looking forward to. If it ever comes to pass you can find my review of the sequel here. My review of The Following DLC can be found here.
All in all, this game is a ton of fun, both alone, and with friends. It is especially fun with friends, and having people to watch your back while you pick locks, or to help you escape from a Volatile at night is a must. The parkour and movement in this game is perfect, and combat can make you feel powerful. Every weapon can be customized in crazy ways to fit what ever kind of style you want, while the story is actually rather good. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of open world first person zombie survival games, and to those who aren’t but might want to dip their toes into the water.
Dying Light is a fast paced, first person, open world, zombie survival game that is tons of fun to play. There are some issues, like lock-picking and the sheer amount of DLC, but in the end the game it just too much fun for those things to hold it back.
- Extremely fun fast paced action, be it combat or movement.
- It controls extremely well, and your character does eactly what you want about 98% of the time.
- Two absolutely massive maps to explore and destroy zombies in.
- An actual, decent main story-line that gets you invested in the main character and the world he is in.
- Tons of side quests to do, giving you tons of weird and different situations to escape from or kill zombies in.
- Tons and tons of different weapons, with both direct upgrades and elemental weapon customization..
- Playing with friends is extremely simple, just join in. It is also tons of fun to cut through hordes of zombies with a pal.
- Three lengthy skill trees filled with essential and fun abilities and upgrades that can drastically change the way you play the game.
- Ambient sound effects are really good, and when music does play it is quite nice. Voice acting is also generally very good.
- Plenty of other items like exploding throwing stars, incendiary bombs, and UV flares to craft and use.
- You can hold an unlimited number of everything, except for weapons. There is no inventory management other than what weapons are carrying.
- There are times when your character just does not want to safely drop down a ledge, and will instead fall to his death.
- The fast paced action of the game can be ruined by the lock-picking poached directly from Skyrim.
- The sheer amount of DLC is kind of awful, and can kind of be a turn off, but none of it is essential, it is all cosmetics.
- A weird bug persists, one of the only ones, where in multi-player games, damage isn't assigned properly if different players are too far apart in Power.
A massive upgrade to Dead Island, this game is fun, exciting, and scary. I highly recommend it to everyone reading.