PAX Prime 2013 Impressions: Dying Light

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

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Despite being absolutely terrible at even slightly scary games, I found myself drawn to Dying Light at PAX Prime this year. Dying Light is a free-running action-horror game developed by Polish developer Techland. That’s right, I said free-running. Dying Light is sort of like Mirror’s Edge with zombies, but there’s definitely more to it than that.

Dying Light

The demo I played opened in a safe area so I could learn the controls. I could jump and climb up buildings as well as slide under obstacles. I started with several weapons, like a wrench, a hatchet and a two-handed axe. These varied in strength, with the two-handed axe being the strongest. I had basic and charged attacks. The charged attacks obviously do more damage, but they used up almost all my stamina, so I decided to save those for emergencies.

With my basic training complete, I was sent out into the remains of the city to set up defensive traps to protect the camp from zombies. Night would fall soon, and we needed our defenses up. As I made my way to each of several devices, I encountered a number of zombies. It took me a few tries to get the timing on attacking them. They aren’t too fast, but if they get too close, they’ll bite at you, and you’ll have to tap the X button a lot to fend them off. One at a time, it’s not too bad, but if you have several around, then you’ll have to fend one off just in time for another to attack. One cool trick you can do is run straight at the zombies and hold the climb button to launch yourself off the zombie and toward a ledge behind them. There were a couple of different types of zombies besides the normal ones, including one guy with a tank on his back. If you strike the tank, it will explode after a few seconds, which is hopefully enough time to escape.

Dying Light 3

While I was out finding and activating the traps, a supply chopper flew overhead and air-dropped a crate of something that would probably be useful. I also heard a man yelling. It sounded like the enraged yelling of a man who is surrounded and knows he is doomed but refuses to give up. Unfortunately, it was getting dark, and, having seen the gameplay trailer for Dying Light, I wasn’t too keen on hanging around.

I ignored these things and headed to the last trap. I made it there with sunlight to spare and prepared the trap for use. But Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. When I flipped the switch to set the trap, the power went out for the entire area. Great.

Dying Light

With precious little time left, I made my way to the power plant to see if I could fix it. I skirted a yard full of zombies and climbed a bit of a hill to reach my destination. The last rays of the sun disappeared as I fixed the power. I looked down at the teeming mass of infected, who I knew got violent at night. At the prompting of one of the developers, who was my guide as I played the demo, I took a zip line down…right into the middle of the horde. I threw a few cracklers, hoping to distract some of them (hey, it worked during the day, but might not now…) and just booked it through the zombies.

I wasn’t familiar with the map, but I ran in what I hoped was the general direction I had come from. I was too focused on trying to pick a path through the buildings that didn’t bring me face-to-face with a pack of zombies. Many of them had what looked like blood bubbling violently from their faces. These ones were the most dangerous—they were already starting to turn. I ran into them more often than I would have liked, but I solved this problem by never stopping. I could hear a stampede of enemies right behind me. It was quite a chase, but I managed to make it back to the safe house.

Dying Light

Thus ended the demo. That chase was really heart-pounding, and I’m actually surprised I didn’t die at all. The controls and free running were really smooth. I only got to play the one level, but despite surviving, I wouldn’t have done very well had that level been in the real game. The chopper and supplies and the man who needed help were opportunities I had to miss. The supplies would have been helpful in an obvious way, but saving the guy would have been helpful, too.

Dying Light has a neat reputation system. Helping others might get you perks you need, like from merchants or tough guys who have special missions for you. Conversely, if people don’t like you, there will be consequences. In Dying Light, it’s important to pick your battles.

Techland’s Dying Light does not have a release date yet but will be released on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows. Check out the gameplay trailer below. Good night, good luck.