Sunday, 1 March 2015

Dying Light - 2nd Look

I'm a huge fan of anything zombie related, and when footage of Dying Light was shown at E3 2013, I was fangirling like shit. However, this was another promising game that was delayed, pretty much summing up 2014 for "next-gen" gaming. Physical copies in every region bar North/South America were also delayed, but the digital versions were available, and I couldn't resist the higher RRP to wait any longer. It's been heavily compared to Dead Island, but is it much different? Personally, Dying Light is worth every penny. 

Developed by Techland and out now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC comes Dying Light, a zombie apocalypse-themed game set in an open-world. Players assume the role of Kyle Crane, an undercover operative sent to infiltrate a quarantine zone in the fictional city of Harran, based off ancient Turkey, as his mission is to find Kadir "Rais" Suleiman, a politically figure gone rogue who has a file that could destroy the reputation of his agency. When Crane arrives, he must decide between completing his mission, or helping the other survivors from bandits and zombies. 

The game starts with Crane sky diving into the quarantine zone, however his parachute is caught on a pole, and your first encounter is surprisingly not a zombie - it's a group of bandits. Having said that, after a bit of commotion you're bitten by a zombie and infected instantly, but unlike Dead Island, you're not miraculously immune to it. The infection can be contained by consuming Antizin, which survivors Jade and Amir give to you. Amir sacrifices himself so you and Jade can get away, and the debt hangs over your head for quite, leading to a few errands to return the favour. The story in Dying Light is brilliant. With my only other open-world zombie gaming experience coming from Dead Island, I wasn't expecting too much, however there are some great story lines stemming off from the numerous characters you meet in the game. It took me around 30 hours to complete the main missions, but the side quests is where the game really shines from a story perspective. A fetch mission like “Get me a gun.” turns into a multi-part adventure with his or her own short storyline - a simple run of the mill task turns into something a lot creepier and interesting than you could expect.

In an open-world game with no vehicles to drive, players might think getting around will be boring. If you are thinking that, you couldn't be more wrong. Free running has been a heavy focal point in the development of Dying Light, and they even brought in the creator of parkour, David Belle, as a Stunt Coordinator to fully replicate the movements of free running. You can pretty much climb, roll, and jump on everything in the game, and the fluidity of the free running is the best part about it - reminiscent of Mirror's Edge. When the player unlocks the grappling hook, it makes scaling buildings an easier task, however there've been a few times when I've used it, tried to grab on to the ledge and my player has decided to fall to his death instead. Other than that, running around in a zombie-infested area has never been more enjoyable.

The day and night cycle in Dying Light is definitely the best I've seen in a game - as it completely affects the gameplay. During the day, zombie numbers are a lot thinner, and barely any "Viral" (faster infected) are around. When it hits 9pm in-game time, it becomes interesting. Numbers of zombies are heavily increased, with "Virals" pretty much everywhere, as well as a zombie called "Volatile", and it's the fastest, most dangerous one out of the lot. It's risk & reward, as your Agility and Power skill level receives double xp during the night, but the chances of you dying at night are heavily increased, meaning you'd lose survivor xp. It's a chilling experience, and when I was playing it I was genuinely worried about what was going on around me, as the only vision I had was the path my flashlight was lighting up. It created a true survival experience, and made me want to play at night a whole lot more.

Going back to the recently mentioned Power, Agility, and Survivor skills, these are the three skill trees in the game. Killing enemies rewards you with power xp, being a parkour pro rewards you with agility xp, and completing missions/side quests rewards you with survivor xp. For the survivor skill tree, there are 24 levels, and you can lose xp towards that level by dying. The other two skill trees have 23 levels, bring your overall level to 70. I'm not one for blasting through the story missions straight away. If there's a side quest available, I'd rather finish all of them or go on a massive killing spree before moving on to the next story mission, so I ranked up pretty fast. Although I was pleased with the abilities I had at my disposal, I'd have liked to have seen a few more levels added, as the xp I earned became pretty redundant as soon as I capped, making side quests feel like more of a chore.

While playing Dying Light, I haven't experienced many issues. The main issue I've had is the constant dropping of the frame rate. When there is a load of zombies surrounding a gas tank that's about to go off, I want it to be a smooth masterpiece, however the frame rate made it look pretty laggy and anti-climatic. Every time there's a fire too, it seems to be a problem. Textures pop in and out at times, and zombies seem to just disappear in front of me every so often. They're all minor issues, which can be patched, but it's something that's holding it back from being that perfect game. My only other gripe is that the gameplay features are very similar to Dead Island. Although Dying Light is better personally, some feature are exact repeats, such as the stamina bar depleting when you swing a weapon, main focus on melee weapons, and the crafting. It would have been nice to see a different system in place, just to attempt to drift away from the Dead Island comparisons.

Like many games these days, Dying Light is better with friends. Up to three co-op players can join in and help you complete the story, watch your back while you're looting, or help you mow down hordes of zombies. They're also numerous challenges that can pop up such as "Kill the most zombies" etc. which turns it a little competitive at times. A player-controlled zombie can also invade your game. "Be The Zombie" is a free DLC now because of the delays, and it is great to play. Playing as the zombie does feel a little one sided if there isn't at least two human players, and when you unlock more of the abilities for the zombie skill tree, dominating like a super zombie should is brilliant for you, yet frustrating as hell for the humans.

Overall, Dying Light offers an extensive story; great open-world environments and enjoyable gameplay from start to finish. Navigating the vast open-world is fluid with the parkour feeling pretty perfect, and chopping down hordes of zombies has never been better. Playing with friends’ offers hours of co-op fun, and playing through the campaign with friends enhances the whole experience. Dead Island was a diamond in the rough, and Dying Light is the polished version.

Dying Light drop-kicks zombies out of the way and receives a solid 4/5.


Sam Terry

Dying Light at CeX

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