Dying Light is a follow up title in a way to Dead Island from Techland, but is more so inspired by the series than anything. With new mechanics to move around the city and some perks to fending off hordes of zombies, we get an interesting experience.
After playing Dying Light for several more hours days after the initial review, I will say not much has changed. There was a lot of criticism for my “early review” since people didn’t actually read a lot of it and jumped right to the score. They said “you didn’t play enough” and I simply thought that was a fair thing to say, I really felt I didn’t play enough, so I gave it more days and a ton more hours. Yet here I am still with the same mindset, the game has strong points, but falls brutally thanks to weak aspects. Overall my original review was stregthened the more I played the game.
The open world platform style gameplay is simply awesome. The more I play, the more I loved exploring like this. It has mechanics that not many other games get right. Yet the cliché story, slight slip in gameplay mechanics, and repetitive nature of the game really hold everything back.
Starting with the story, which for the first time ever I find myself wishing a game didn’t have one. (You know, Doom wasn’t supposed to have a story…) Honestly though, the gameplay is so fun, but the story has no heart. It goes through every single cliché idea you can think of. Rogue style operative? Check. Doctor, hard ass, and “I can’t trust you” members of the group? Check. Zombies are a virus and we have a cure? Check. It does it all and the bad news is that it is semi trying to be serious with very few slight jokes spread throughout the game. That doesn’t mean there are no jokes, because there are, they are just a subtle and will make you giggle here and there. You just have to do a little digging to find them.
Then the game leads you to its ultimate strength, the parkour fun. This only gets better the more you get going in the game, along with pretty much every mechanic in the title. You are climbing buildings, running through groups of zombies, and you always have your eyes open ten feet in front of you. This is something I haven’t quite experienced in other related titles at all because the mix between combat and climbing is so intense in some areas. As stated in the early review, you are not simply smashing buttons. You actually have to look at objects and use logical thinking to find your way around areas. This is neat because you need to unlock “safe areas” which are places you simply can’t die and function as checkpoints, and most of them are behind walls or up tall towers. Some of them take minutes to get to and one wrong move will send you falling down to the beginning.
This is where the small intricacies of the gameplay start to get annoying though. No game is perfect, and Dying Light isn’t either. There are times when you miss a jump, or the character does something awkward. When on top of these towers there seems to be no checkpoint, so when the character acts up like this and you go flailing down the tower you have no choice but to get frustrated and walk away. My major problem with the game is that they designed it almost perfectly to “go up” the map, so climbing anything you want is a breeze. My problem is coming back down. This often means leaping down, or grabbing a rope and sliding down it. There is no fine tuning to this aspect at all, which there are several instances I wish it had because I ended up leaping down tall towers on accident several times.
Another thing to point out is the leveling system will level up every aspect of the game the more you use it. So climbing will gain you agility, combat will raise your fighting skills, etc… So if you are climbing a lot (or finding loot cave style areas) then that aspect of the game will gradually become easier with new perks. There is one perk where you get a grappling hook, making the tall towers way too simple to climb.Yet the game takes time to slowly unlock major upgrades like this and has a very complex yet fulfilling leveling system. It was interesting that the game dynamically crafted itself around how you play.
This isn’t the only thing Dying Light does well. The zombie aspect is also frightening and well thought out, for the most part. The game shifts between night and day and each time period has its special perks. Day time is obviously the easier route to take, but night time is when mayhem sets in. Faster zombies are lurking about and they have a vision field you’d expect to see in Metal Gear. You will find yourself being a little quieter and checking corners with quick bursts to get by them, which adds a new level of tension to the title. If spotted then you are running for your life because they are super fast and more will come! It was thrilling running from them and looking back to see if they were gone, only for another one to surprise attack me. During the day, things are a little more simplistic, but Zombies are more capable of seeing you further away and will slowly start to group around you. This makes the platforming all the more important.
Yet this is where the game really starts to spiral downward and be restricted by some poor decisions in development. These fast zombies can get annoying, and the added “be a zombie” mode is a whole new problem we will address below. The thing is, the game is repetitive to a point of getting boring. You spend pretty much the entire game doing chores for other people, the entire first act was nothing but this. What this means is “go talk to him, then go get this, then bring it here, then do it again.” Traveling this city is really fun, but when you are doing pretty much nothing but going across the map ten times it gets dull. Now you are despising that climb of the tower or building and you want something that is more of a challenge, yet the game never really offers it. Plus the zombies go from frightening to "ugh, just go away" real quick!
Instead the challenge will come completely out of the blue and the game will sometimes forget to explain to you “oh yeah, don’t do that.” For example the harder zombies just appear, then shortly after it will tell you “run, don’t fight.” There are times when you may do something and some subtle “twist” is added in just to be different, but you don’t realize it until you are pretty much dead. The draw distance in the game also restricts you a little bit, and something that was supposed to be a quick reaction event becomes a "what the hell!" moment.
Zombies are everywhere, but they hardly ever pose a threat…. That is until you need to pull a switch with 3 of them hovering around. Playing alone that means hopefully drawing them away, yet not far enough, or simply fighting them and beating them for 10 minutes before they finally give up and stay down. This means you are constantly looking at surroundings and hoping your items are fully stocked to get through it all once you start. The only issue I had is the game will randomly throw one zombie in the perfect spot to be annoying, and the “shock value” of it is more like “Wtf, are you kidding me!”As the game slowly progresses, it opens up this aspect and gets better over time. There is so much resources in the second half of the game that you didn't really worry much at all.
This is why I feel the game was meant to be played with others. As soon as friends jump in the game with you, the game hits a better level of fun. Players can distract while another players takes them out, or does the objective. Things simply make more sense and are much more strategy based, making the game overall a lot more fun. I’m a person that likes to play alone, so this didn’t really help me out too much. However if you do plan to play with friends, I will say the game becomes miles better!
Overall the game has some major strengths, but it just throws too much at you and never develops anything. The obnoxious amount of talking needs to go, sorry, there is no way around it. I simply can’t stand listening to another character talk! Then your character almost always needs to climb something and repeat everything to his boss while standing still…. Really? Can’t we do this while moving or condense it? This isn’t like Dragon Age or Walking Dead talking either. There is no interesting aspect of it; it’s mostly cliché moments with predictable outcomes, and stale dialogue. Then it repeats itself right after while your character is frozen, not doing anything. The game tends to lean in an interesting direction and build some key moments, then bam it’s right back to 10 minutes of why it’s so important for you to do another chore….
Let's Be A Zombie
There is a special DLC that allows people to take control of a zombie for online battles. You get to be some super advanced zombie with Spider-Man like capabilities, and for some odd reason the game takes every negative thing I said about the core game and tosses it all out the window. Honestly. It throws you right into the zombie character, teaches you how to use all the different aspects right from the start, then lets you have fun without explaining every last detail. Yet, as you advance it keeps explaining certain aspects, and when you die it will explain how to improve. Why couldn't the core game be this straight forward and fun?
As stated, the gameplay is basically zombie Spider-Man. You get these powers to leach on to buildings and fly through the air. You get to crouch and be sneaky, or leap on to buildings and find ways to destroy real players running from you. You let out a loud screech to locate the players, which also somewhat alerts them to your position. The game does fall a little behind here because it doesn't truly tell you how they track you. All it states is that a special UV light will crumble you and force you to get away. So unless you play as a human first, you won't understand what they are doing to find you.
The DLC does have some frustrating perks to it too. The UV light is way overpowered for players that are just starting out. You haven't unlocked anything new, and advanced players will jump to shinning the UV light everywhere. The very second they shine it on you, the zombie becomes a clueless monkey slamming the ground trying to esecape. If you find a way to single off a player and take them out, then you might be able to get past it, but when players are sticking together it becomes super hard to do anything. I tried pouncing, sneaking, everything I could. The second I attacked anyone the other players were shining the light on me instantly and there was nothing I could do.
Another aspect is that the human players can choose to stay in the safe area. I was put in several games where the players were already in a safe area. They wouldn't leave, which means several minutes of either running around the map doing nothing, or simply standing next to it and doing nothing. It wasn't thrilling to say the least. If you do get bored and decide to go attack them in the safe area anyways, the game auto kills you before the final blow. Sure you win if they are panzies and never venture out, but it's simply boring.
Overall though, the added DLC really changed the game for me. I had more fun being a zombie than I did being a chore boy.
PREVIOUS REVIEW :
The first thing that pops out when playing Dying Light is the new mechanics for moving around the city. The gameplay resembles that of Mirrors Edge where you have a first person view point, but you are running and jumping on ledges to figure out how to get to the next area. Of course with any platform style gameplay you get puzzles that go with it, but what makes this gameplay so unique is how it is used.
Unlike other titles where you simply smash a button and maybe point the analog stick in one direction to make a character leap to the next object, Dying Light throws a slight twist to it. In this game you actually have to be more precise with it. That means looking at the object (a ledge for example) that you want to jump to. You can’t just push a button and pray because that often ends up making you fall to your doom, either splat on the ground or into a group of zombies. Instead you look, time your jump, and then hope you did things correctly. Even jumping off buildings into trash to cushion your fall takes a little bit of precision and isn’t fully automatic at all.
This makes this interesting for several reasons. The first being that puzzles don’t randomly work themselves out by pressing buttons. Instead there are instances where you need to look around, and perhaps you come across two choices and you have to decide to take a chance or not. I came to one where I had a ledge above me, but another ledge seemed within grasp. I leaped for it and of course missed, but luckily I landed on something that allowed me to leap back to my original spot quickly. Another reason it is so cool is that the game becomes more so a survival game rather quick and you find yourself running for your life from zombies. During these instances you are constantly on alert for anything you can climb up to get away. The game alerts of you this right at the beginning by stating “they can’t climb” signaling to you that you will need to climb to get away.
These new mechanics have a slight learning curve to them, but once you get the hang of it you can swiftly move through areas just like you do in Mirrors Edge. The only downside is that some things are a little too precise, or simply don’t work right all the time. This means that while you are working on a puzzle your character could miss a ledge or mis jump and now you are screwed. This is especially so during the more complex puzzles where you need to climb tall buildings to unlock a new safe area. These are really long climbs filled with puzzles, so the game really needs to be precise here to make sure it doesn’t get frustrating. It isn’t flawless, but it isn’t full of flaws, it rides the line right down the middle.
Bridging this game elsewhere we run into a problem I had with Dead Island. I have played a few hours now and the game wastes no time spiraling into a “do my chores” style gameplay. You basically go from point A to point B and do the required task. This is pretty cool in tense situations, but when it mostly consists of climbing things and small puzzles, it begins to get repetitive quick. Again, we are still playing, so perhaps the game will open up more down the road, but so far it seems that this will be the central focus of the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, I will mention a little bit about the technical side of things. First off, the game is playing amazing on consoles. It looks fantastic and the frame rate is beautiful so far, it truly has impressed me in those terms. It probably wouldn’t push high end computers that much, but for consoles getting it to play this clean is making the game so much better than it is.
This allows for the core mechanics to flow really well. I honestly felt Dead Island was clunky and hard to play, so far with Dying Light I haven’t had any issue like that. I’ve come across my fair share of zombies and I’ve handled it all really well. There was nothing frustrating about it at all. As long as you are quick on your feet you can play the game perfectly fine. This also comes into play for the platforming, you can swiftly move from area to area with little to no problem at all. Besides the occasional misstep I explained above, the frame rate and gameplay is nearly flawless. Very little stutter and very little pop in, it’s a massive improvement from past titles by the developer.
The only thing visually I don’t really care for so far is the stock looking faces we get. They seem dated for the new consoles at this point, and facing facts so far this game has done A LOT of talking. There really isn’t a whole lot going on half the time either, so it detracts from the experience. Speaking of talking, did I say there is a lot of it? This early in the game and I already avoid characters just so I don’t get stuck listening to what they say…. heck I daze out during half the convos anyways, but I let them keep going just in case an event does happen.
Story wise I love how it started expanding almost right from the start. You clearly get that you are stuck in the middle of two groups, and you are slowly learning about both sides. There is a emotion intertwined in here, and the story is developing really well. Like I said above though, there is a lot of talking and in order to keep up with the story you need to pay attention to what is being said and how characters react to you. If you enjoy dialogue heavy games, then this is for you. I honestly prefer a little more to be happening, even if it’s little stuff. So far there is no real “threat” or urgency to the story, but I feel that it’s slowly heading in that direction.
Review is in progress, more will be updated this weekend! We will also have some gameplay posted here, so be sure to keep coming back!
-Gameplay is strong, extremely strong, but the repetitive nature holds it back. A few drawbacks make for a frustrating experience at some points. Way better than Dead Island titles.
-Online makes the game way more fun.
-Cliché zombie story and game, hits every cliché you can think of. Parody and jokes are not very strong.
-So much talking, the story couldn’t be any more boring because of it… The first act is so painfully dull that many people will get bored before finally getting to the good stuff.
- There is A LOT to learn because the game hardly explains anything. This leaves for a fun experience, or a frustrating one. Way too much “fetch” quests to pad the game time out. The game starts off extremely slow because of it, and it never intensifies the pace to make up for it.