REVIEW: Dying Light

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

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Dying Light | oprainfall
Title Dying Light
Developer Techland
Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date January 27, 2015
Genre Open World, Action Horror
Platform PC, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Age Rating ESRB – Mature
Official Website

If you’ve followed my writings at all, you’ll know that I’m not a very big fan of horror games. I’m just not equipped to handle the jump scares, psychological mind games and unspeakable monsters that populate these games very well. There are a few exceptions to this, however. If a game decks me out with plenty of fully automatic weapons and explosives, my confidence to fight back usually trumps my fear. Alternatively, I’m able to handle having being powerless if I don’t have to deal with the horror alone. Co-op horror was made for me, as it easily turns a dark hallway that might cause me to “Nope!” it up when playing alone into a game of chicken between a friend and me, seeing who can run down whatever may be lurking in the shadows first. Dying Light is a happy medium between these two situations – discouraging players from using overly powerful equipment, but giving them the means to easily escape most of the horrors populating the world. Plus, the ability to play with friends can help take the edge off for gamers who may be a bit more… timid.

Dying Light | PSA

Words to live by

This is by no means my first zombie game, so there are a few things I’ve come to expect from them. One: zombies are an obstacle that must be destroyed completely in order to advance. Two: when zombies are fast, don’t bother running. Just kill them. Three: use all weapons and objects in the environment to their fullest – guns, grenades, exploding barrels – anything to come out victorious. Dying Light turns a lot of these preconceived notions on their heads to create what I think is one of the most realistic zombie games I’ve ever played.

Dying Light | Harran

The “beautiful” city of Harran

Players take on the role of Kyle Crane, an agent for the Global Relief Effort, on a mission to Nondescript Middle Eastern City, better known as Harran, to retrieve a certain file from a vicious warlord detailing the development and spread of the zombie outbreak in the now-quarantined city. Dropping in by parachute, Crane is almost immediately accosted by a group of raiders. Defending himself by putting a bullet in one of his assailants, the shot draws the most unwanted attention of several zombies, one of whom manages to take a bite out of Crane’s arm. Shortly thereafter, a man and woman show up to rescue Crane, but he soon passes out, but not before seeing his male savior overrun and eaten. When he comes to, Crane learns he is now under the care of The Tower, a group of survivors that have made a base out of a large apartment building in the middle of Harran. Now torn between his gratitude toward The Tower and his mission for the GRE, Crane must use his skills to complete his objective for the GRE while also trying to pay back his debt to his new friends.

Fans might draw similarities between Dying Light and Techland’s 2011 title, Dead Island, which I think is fair. However, while the games may be similar thematically, the core gameplay elements are quite different. People who followed the game during its development will know that its big selling point is the fact that Crane is able to easily run, jump and climb all over Harran with a variety of parkour skills. Practically every area that players explore becomes a puzzle for how best to advance. On a vehicle-covered bridge, is it better to jump from car to car and vault over zombies, or try to balance and run along the guard rails for a more straightforward, but risky approach? Do you risk the streets and fight through the hordes, or climb up to the safety of the roofs, but at the cost of wasting more time?

Dying Light | Skill TreeWhatever you choose, Dying Light has ways to reward just about any play style. Players have three distinct skill trees that will level up based on how they play. The more running and jumping players do, the more their Agility skills will increase. Conversely, spending more time fighting zombies will increase their Power skills. Finally, helping NPCs and completing quests will give them experience in the Survivor tree. Each tree will allow players to unlock new skills, items and bonuses that will help as they move forward. From being able to run and climb faster to getting discounts from merchants to unlocking additional one-hit kill attacks, leveling up is always a treat no matter how you play.

One of the biggest ways that Dying Light differentiates itself from its contemporaries, though, is how your actions affect the environment. You always see in zombie movies and TV shows that you need to stay quiet, lest you attract hordes of zombies looking to chew on your soft bits. And, yet, in video games, it’s the general course of action to go in guns blazing, blowing away zombies by the dozens with your machine gun. Not so in Dying Light. Apart from the zombies and raiders that you’ll run across as you travel around Harran, sound can also be a huge detriment. As already made clear in the game’s intro, any loud noise – be it a gunshot, an explosion or even falling through a plywood roof on a bad jump – will cause vicious fast zombies – known as Virals – to come running.

Dying Light | Gun

Think carefully before pulling the trigger…

Individually, these guys aren’t so bad, but, as is often the case when it comes to zombies, it’s rare that you’ll only deal with one. In groups, Virals are incredibly dangerous, able to dodge your attacks, as well as surround and flank you with ease. Interestingly – or possibly frustratingly – sometimes these loud noises are completely out of your control. Whether you come across a stronghold full of trigger-happy raiders or a burning zombie happens to wander too close to a stray oil drum, you always have to be ready for any contingency. Of course, you can also use this mechanic to your advantage. Fire a few shots at some wandering raiders, find a suitable hiding place and watch with glee as the Virals run up and do your dirty work for you!

Dying Light | BruteDying Light’s other monstrosities aren’t quite as straightforward as your run-of-the-mill zombies, though. Aside from the standard Biters and Virals, you’ll also come across huge, but slow Brutes that aren’t dangerous from a distance, but wield giant clubs made of rebar and concrete that will knock you clean off your feet if you get too close. Toads can spit big clumps of bio-goo that will poison you temporarily if you’re too close when they pop. Exploders… well… You can probably guess what they do. Hulking Demolishers can do loads of damage and will try to charge you. Probably most disturbingly, though, are Screamers. These zombified children can emit a high-pitched scream that will temporarily stun, as well as alert Virals to your position. There’s plenty of variety in these special enemies, though it’s pretty rare that you’ll run into more than a few when running from one place to another. The vast majority of your time will be spent with the standard zombies.

Find out what lurks after dark on Page 2 –>

About Tyler Lubben

Tyler is a lifelong gamer, getting his start on the Intellivision when he was three years old. After receiving his English degree, he discovered all those jokes about getting a job in his field were true. As Head Editor with oprainfall, Tyler is able to bridge his two passions; playing and talking about video games at any given opportunity, and being a total grammar nazi the rest of the time.

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