Review: Dying Light (Playstation 4)

coverDying Light
Developer: Techland
Publisher: WB Games
Genre: Survival Horror Sandbox
Released: 01/27/15

Techland is the developer that brought the world Dead Island, and how you viewed that game will probably flavor how you view Dying Light, as in a lot of ways it’s almost identical. Weapon degradation, human degradation, it’s all in there. My major problem with Dead Island, and the one that kept me from getting Dead Island Riptide or whatever the sequel was called, was the fact that the game was buggy. Far buggier than I was willing to put up with. Turn a corner and, oops, the game froze time to reboot the 360 buggy. When a game is good but not quite great, you will only put up with that annoyance for so long before you decide it’s time to move onto something else.

Dying Light is Techland’s something else. I don’t know what happened, if they sold the rights to the intellectual property or what, but Yaeger Development is making a Dead Island game and Techland made this. So how is it? Well…

3So to start off, there’s been a Zombie outbreak. You’re hired by a shady outside organization to get airdropped into this city and hunt down a gentleman who has stolen a secret file, recover the file and blah blah blah. They insert you into the city and you’re immediately set upon by thugs who attack you, who are then set upon by zombies because you shot one, and are shortly thereafter rescued by a pair of adventurers, one of whom dies in the attempt. Woah. That’s a lot to take in before you even get to press a button. Not that I wasn’t pressing it anyway, hoping to accidentally skip a scene or two.

So you wake up a couple of days later and your shady organization friends have turned up the shady to 11, and you realize that this is going to be a long haul. You start doing missions for the good guys, then they find a reason to make you do missions for the bad guys, and I was halfway expecting them to find a way to make you do missions for the zombies. Sadly, they chose not to go that route, as happy an occurrence as that would have been. I should not be surprised by that, as this game is depressing as hell. The genre of the game is Survival Horror, and it’s true, but it’s not the zombies that cause the horror. It’s the way your character takes forever to learn how to do certain basic tasks.

Things like curb stomping a downed Zombie. Why do I have to be a level whatever zombie slayer in order to learn how to do that? That’s like zombie slaying 101, right up there with shoot them in the head and stay inside after dark. Why could I not sneak up behind an enemy and snap their neck until the very end of the skill tree? Seriously? This dude I’m controlling is some sort of paramilitary expert and I can’t ninja a dude? Did I forget that when I got clubbed in the head at the start of the game?

2Other things baffled me in the game. One of the main selling points of the game is the parkour that you can perform, allowing you to gracefully cross the city via rooftops and such. Sure, fine, great, but apparently Mr Special Forces/Parkour Expert cannot climb a chain link fence. Sure, if he can reach the top he can mantle it, but grabbing chain link fencing is impossible. Also in the realm of breaking suspension of disbelief, there is a point in the game where you find out that the city is going to be destroyed by bombers. You get in contact with the outside world and bargain yourself 48 hours to save the city. Yet after that, I spent 3 weeks of day-night cycles before finally getting around to doing that mission, without a hint of urgency from the game. Not one “Hey hero, time’s really ticking now man.” Sloppy.

The city is vast, but there aren’t that many sky scrapers. There are two parts to the map, and in order to pass between them you must make an arduous trek through the sewers. There is no quick travel in the game either, which starts to become a chore when mission objectives take you all across the game. It’s your job to be a runner, I get it, but holy crap, would it have hurt the game that much to let me pass from one part of the city to the other without getting annoying? The game is a little more hardcore than it needs to be, is what I’m saying.

The zombies are always there. I killed a bunch, and this isn’t Tokyo, so why do they keep coming back whenever I reenter an area? Endless horde, yadda yadda, sure. Also, there are bicycles in the game. Maybe it’s foolish to think that they would be any use to me when trying to navigate around in this city, but if you don’t want me to have them, don’t go out of your way to model them.

That’s not to say the game is without redeeming features. The parkour is, for the most part, pretty solid. It’s not as advanced as Mirror’s Edge, and you won’t be doing a whole lot of wall running, but the game does give a decent accounting of itself. I’d be interested in seeing how it played using an Occulus Rift or Morpheus, but only the parkour. Screw Zombie VR.

1Then we come to the other portion of the game. The game runs on a day night schedule. During the day, the zombies are relatively safe to navigate around. Sure, if you get into a group of them, you’ll find yourself in trouble, but one or two of them is nothing. At night, however, a new zombie appears. A zombie that hates the daylight. It’s a Hunter zombie. It can move faster than you can, it’s far more powerful than you, and it likes to hunt in packs. So yeah, the night is dark and full of terror. Which, of course, leads most people to say no thanks, I’ll just keep playing during day light, but of course the developers went to a lot of trouble to create that night mode, and by god you’re going to play it. Thankfully you don’t have to do too many night only missions. In a lot of ways, they are like stealth missions in an action game, because truthfully, if you want to survive the night exposed to the elements, that’s what you need to do; play stealthy, make sure you don’t attract attention, and pay particular attention to the hunter zombie’s vision cones on the mini map. Night time is especially tough, because you cannot see a damned thing. It is DARK (and full of terror… okay I’ll stop now), and your flashlight will attract the zombies’ attention. You can learn to craft potions which will enhance your night vision, but as I was only obligated to do a few night missions, I just didn’t bother carrying them.

Of course, there are reasons to go out at night. Primarily, you can earn a lot of experience really fast if you survive the night. The game features 3 ways to level up your character. Specifically, you can level up your agility, your power, and your survivor skills. Now agility isn’t that difficult to figure out in a game where you can run, jump and climb, so I’ll leave that one alone. Power is where you increase how good you are at combat, learning new moves and so forth. Survivor skills increase how much damage you can withstand as well as how durable your weapons are. Doing different things will allow you to level each of these skills up, but beware that dying while on a mission will cost you Survivor experience, just like completing a mission will earn you it.

Weapons in game are unfortunately based on the fact that if you bash something enough your weapon will break too. This, I guess, is a fair interpretation, but I think it would be good if they toned down just how quickly you destroy a weapon. Especially if you find an actual weapon and not a pipe. Guns don’t degrade, which I like, but good luck finding ammunition and avoiding the screamers that come running after you. There are also a lot of weapons scattered around, and you can usually replace older ones with newer, better ones pretty regularly, but all I wanted was a sword that would slice through bone and sinew with no worries of breaking. Was that so much to ask?

4The game reminds me of a modern day Skyrim, with zombies. No, not Draugher, zombies. You run around the big open world, doing missions for people, then returning to them for a reward. Along the way, you level your character up and do stuff. Skyrim does it better, but I could certainly see the resemblance.

The multiplayer is different. You have the coop mode, which is okay if you have friends playing, and you have the zombie invasion mode, where one player becomes a hunter zombie via “Be the Zombie” mode, while the other side must try to destroy zombie nests. My main problem with this mode is just how long it is. As a human, if you get finished killing off one set of nests another appears, while the zombie has to kill the humans 10 times or so before it’s game over. That’s just too long.

On the other hand, Be the Zombie mode seems like a perfect example of how to do a Venom game. I mean, everything the hunter does is Venom, right down to the eating brains. Hey Techland. Maybe re-skin that mode and send it to Marvel, see what they say? Because I’d play that game.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Dying Light is competent, design wise; I did not once crash to the desktop, I never had to reset my machine in order to start over, and I only got physically stuck in a few places, so that’s not so bad. Did fall through the floor once and had to reset, but overall the development of the game appears to be far less rushed, which is good. It’s just not very fun. So after all of that, I lost more and more interest in the game the farther into it I got. It just got so damned depressing and overwhelmingly dark. There are zombie children in the game, and yes, you can kill them. In fact, you kind of have to. So I’m just going to say it right now, I’m done with zombies. I don’t care if the next game is the best of all time, I’m just done with zombies.



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