Eight years ago, I was trying to get FullCleared.com off the ground. While I have tens of thousands of bylines in the automotive industry, I’m a nobody in the gaming world. To my surprise, I was sent two review keys for a game called Dying Light ahead of its release. I knew a bit about the game, but I actually had low expectations heading into it — mainly because I figured, well if a nobody like me got a review code, how good could the game be?
While the original Dying Light isn’t one of the best games I’ve ever played, it is one of the most surprising games I’ve ever played. Maybe I just had really low expectations, but my experience with Dying Light was a very memorable one. I talk about it in my review, but overall the game was a surprisingly fun experience, especially in co-op. It took a boring genre and made it compelling enough for us to go through the entire game and really enjoy its DLC. Many critics shared my thoughts on Dying Light, as the game went on to review pretty well and is Overwhelmingly Positive on Steam. Needless to say, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Techland announced a sequel would be in the works.
There are plenty of stories out there surrounding the controversial development of Dying Light 2. While we were excited and looking forward to playing the game, early reviews made us hesitate on buying it at launch last February. Instead, we recently picked it up during the Steam Winter Sale and slowly made our way through the game. Considering it had been almost a year since its launch, we figured Dying Light 2 would be relatively bug free and complete experience. Boy were we wrong.
There are some cool effects and ways to customize your weapons, but combat just feels so janky.
The game starts off well enough, with decent characters and voice acting to set up the stage for your character, Aiden. But after the initial three hours or so, it really went completely downhill. Where the original Dying Light was one of the most surprising games for me because of how good it was, Dying Light 2 was equally as surprising for how bad it was. The movement in the game felt “floaty”, almost as if you were constantly lagging. There was little to no impact or feedback in combat, which was such a stark difference compared to the first game. There are plenty of options for gear and armor, but none of it is compelling. There might be bigger numbers that are all green, but it didn’t really feel like it made a difference in actual combat. And while night time was a truly intense experience in the first game, night time was just boring and bland in Dying Light 2.
Where the game did improve over the original was the amount of side quests and activities there are in the giant open world. The problem is, the game isn’t fun enough to make you want to engage in those activities. After a few frustrating deaths trying to reach inhibitor containers for health and stamina upgrades, we decided to just focus on the main questline to see if the game got any better with more unlocks. It really didn’t.
I think the biggest issue is the feel of combat in Dying Light 2. I keep wanting to use the word “floaty” because that seems to be the best way to explain it. Oftentimes you couldn’t tell if you managed to hit a mob and forget even trying to do all the movement-based attacks the game has. Clunky is another word that fits — basically it never feels like anything connects. And since the majority of combat is melee in the game, that seems to be a pretty big issue.
Why is there an image that’s pitch black? Because this is an actual screenshot of what I was staring at during the final fight of the game.
And then there were the bugs. We exclusively played the game cooperatively, just like we did with the original Dying Light. So honestly, I don’t know if these types of issues only occur in multiplayer, because I wasn’t going to bother playing through the game solo. Twice during the campaign, we triggered cutscenes that didn’t actually play out on our screens. We’d just stare at the NPC looking at us outside the door and then a few minutes later, we’d magically be on track to do the next step in the questline. We would have no clue who was behind the door or the conversation that took place, leaving us with no context as to what was going on.
One of the worst bugs I experienced was at the very end of the game. Transitioning between phases for the final boss left me staring at a completely black screen while my co-op partner fought the boss. But what made it worse was that he couldn’t actually do any damage to the boss, presumably because I was the host. It wasn’t until he died that my game decided to load the fight and let me play. It’s just so bizarre that a year after its release, Dying Light 2 would still have these types of bugs at pivotal moments in the game.
Well, pivotal if you were actually engaged with the story. The whole “choices matter” plays a role in Dying Light 2, but it results in a very disjointed story because the branching narratives don’t work well. For example, depending on your choices, a certain character will disappear for the majority of the game, only to make an unexpected appearance towards the end. The problem is, it’s in a way that made little to no sense to us and certainly wasn’t in line with our decisions. We actually thought they were dead! There are some choices that affect gameplay and the world map, like adding jumping pads and car bombs, while others impact the story. Overall though, it’s messy, just like the rest of the game.
It’s disappointing too, considering this game has talent like Rosario Dawson. But there’s only so much they can do when the writing is this uninspired. There are some characters that almost got interesting, like Juan, and then there are the predictable ones, like Rowe. It’s not like the original Dying Light had some groundbreaking and memorable story, but it at least made sense and was overall enjoyable.
There are two skill trees in Dying Light 2 and that’s pretty cool, I guess.
Now the game isn’t completely awful. There is a lot of different gear to pick up and check out, and weapon customization is pretty neat with all the different mods. But weapons do break with no way to repair them — or at least no way we could find — which becomes a little frustrating when you finally find a weapon you like. You can upgrade its durability, but it’ll still ultimately disappear from your inventory. Itemization on armor is a little less compelling, even though there is a variety of stats that can roll on the gear. Despite seeing all sorts of bigger numbers, it didn’t feel like it had an overall impact to actual gameplay. For example, we would stack a lot of stamina regen on our gear, but it didn’t feel like stamina regenerated that much quicker. Personally I chose to just put on as much armor as possible, because the perks didn’t feel very meaningful to me. My co-op partner just stopped caring about armor gear halfway through the game. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
One of our favorite features from the original Dying Light were the dynamic competitions in co-op. So imagine our surprise as we invested over 15 hours into Dying Light 2 wondering why dynamic competitions were nowhere to be seen. And then they magically started popping up! Maybe we had to unlock them, we thought — but nope, the game received a hefty patch on January 31, 2023 that brought dynamic competitions to Dying Light 2. Since we were in the midst of our playthrough when the patch happened, we were excited that maybe we’ll at least have some fun in co-op with dynamic competitions. Are you surprised to hear that they are a buggy mess?
We attempted several different dynamic competitions. Some of them were racing against your co-op partners to the destination, except they would occur during sequences where you have to wait for your co-op partners to proceed. So imagine you were racing from point A to point C. There would be a point B where you have to wait for your co-op partner before heading to point C (and they can fast travel to you). What’s the point of putting in a dynamic competition during that part of the game? And then there were other ones that we would trigger, but it would direct us to an entirely different quest location — not the one we were tracking. There was one dynamic competition where we were racing halfway to the other side of the map before we realized that we had abandoned the quest we were in the middle of doing. To us, it just seemed like the feature was implemented to pop up at random times and it was buggy enough for us to ignore it moving forward. Another disappointment, because it was one of our favorite features from the original.
A bland world in a bland game with bland characters and bland dialogue.
Overall, Dying Light 2 was a massive disappointment. Perhaps our expectations were too high for the game, but Techland literally had a solid foundation to build upon for the sequel. Instead, it’s evident that the game did go through some sort of development hell and mismanagement, because there were so few things to enjoy. The fact that we experienced so many bugs and issues after waiting almost a year after its launch made it even worse.
One thing that we experience here at Full Cleared is the enjoyment of playing games cooperatively as a group. There have been many games that were poorly received, but we actually enjoyed our time with them because they were entertaining to play together. Games like Wolcen and Outriders, both of which are Mixed on Steam were better experiences to us than Dying Light 2. We really did struggle in our playthrough, but we did want to give the game a fair chance and play it to completion. Nearly 30 hours were invested and I can’t walk away recommending this game to anybody. Just play the original Dying Light instead.