Late last week, FullCleared.com published its first impressions on Techland’s newest zombie survival thriller, Dying Light. Our initial impressions on the game were positive, especially its cooperative play, and now that we’ve had the time to complete the campaign we’re ready to deliver a full review. Available on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we reviewed Dying Light on the PC, running through the full campaign cooperatively while completing numerous side quests and exploring the “Be the Zombie” mode.
So will Dying Light satisfy your hunger to slay zombies and explore a beautiful, open world setting that isn’t based in the United States? Does the story hold its own weight? Is the combat fulfilling? Will you be scared to turn off the lights after playing the game? Read on to find out and with most reviews, we’ll do our best to avoid major spoilers – but there are some minor spoilers ahead.
Dying Light is set in the city of Harran and players are dropped in the midst of a losing battle against hordes of zombies. Sound familiar? It should if you’ve played Techland’s previous games from the Dead Island series. Dying Light starts off by introducing you to a diverse cast of characters, albeit generic in nature. There’s some mystery and intrigue surrounding some of the main, reoccurring characters, but as you explore deeper in the story you can’t help but feel frustrated that Techland missed out on a golden opportunity to really present a story that would resonant with you after you stop playing the game. The voice acting is superb and each character has a distinct appearance and personality, but unfortunately they’re just so plain and predictable. At the end of the game, we couldn’t help but wonder what could have been if some of the main characters’ stories were fully explored giving you a reason to feel more connected with their plight.
It’s true that Dying Light does a good job at making you hate the main villain of the game, but the overall plot and arc of the story just isn’t satisfying at the end, especially when you compare it to other titles in the genre such as The Last of Us and Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. Now, to say that Dying Light is an unsatisfying experience based on its story alone would be a lie because the journey getting to the end is a solid one. If you’re a gamer that can look past average writing with a predictable story and enjoy bashing in the heads of zombies, then Dying Light is calling for you.
Dying Light has a diverse collection of zombies waiting for a bat to the head
Simply put, the overall gameplay in Dying Light is fun. The game does a great job easing you into the controls and while its tutorial is a bit bland, the parkour and combat is one of the best we’ve experienced. It’s worth noting that when using a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller, there’s an unconventional mapping of the controls for jumping by using one of the top bumper buttons. Reason being, grabbing onto ledges and platforms involves looking at where you want to go, and it’s rather difficult to control the right thumbstick while jumping with a traditional button. On a PC however, the controls were tight and well done, allowing you to maneuver around the environment with ease and there’s quite a bit of enjoyment when you’re climbing up a tower and looking down at the stunning world below – all of which you crawled through to get to your destination.
And you’ll want to hone those parkour skills as you progress in Dying Light. The game culminates with an enjoyable sequence of events that will take everything you’ve learned throughout the game and truly put you to the test. The parkour experience in Dying Light isn’t merely a sideshow, it’s an integral part of the game and a positive one at that. Throughout the game, you’ll feel immersed in Harran and unlike other games where it’s a chore running from point A to point B only to go back to point A, traveling to each destination is fun in Dying Light, even more so if you’re playing with friends.
Even with a zombie present, we couldn’t help but appreciate how great Harran looks from high up
Depending on how you intend to play Dying Light, combat could be where you spend most of your time rather than scaling walls and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. There’s plenty of things to kill and you’ll have plenty of ways to do it, especially as you level up your skills and learn new ones. Weapons vary from baseball bats to machetes and while you do get your hands on guns later on in the game, you might not always want to use them. Sure, they’re much easier to mow down zombies with, but ammo is scarce and firing your gun loudly will attract even more zombies to you. The experience is a fine balance of give or take, and you’ll learn which environments will be advantageous with a gun and when it’ll be a terrible idea to fire away. We really appreciate how the difficulty curve is in Dying Light, where once you get a gun and feel like you’re all powerful and safe, you’re really not. Zombies get more challenging and their tactics change – sometimes jump kicking them in the face or taking out their kneecaps are simply better methods of killing than shooting them in the head.
For most of the open world exploration, you can avoid combat if that’s what you prefer. You can cleverly use items such as firecrackers to distract zombies to a location while you hurry to your destination, but in some quests there’s no way around it. You’ll want to not avoid combat entirely since leveling up and learning new skills is vital for the mandatory fighting sequences, but we can appreciate the lack of having to “farm” zombies in order to progress through the game.
As we mentioned previously, nighttime is where Dying Light really shines and things truly get intense. Don’t be surprised if you notice a change in your actual breathing pattern when the sun sets and hordes of zombies start swarming from the left and right. Throughout the world there are safe houses that you can unlock and rest in until daytime, but we’d recommend experiencing the game during the night as often as you can. The game gives you an incentive by doubling the Agility and Power experience earned during night and if you’ve got companions to help revive you, it’s the best way to take on the journey through Harran.
Aim for the head… always aim for the head
Speaking of companions, cooperative play in Dying Light is extremely well done. Players can assist one another with healing and reviving during intense battles and the fast travel system works well if you’re not adept with parkouring. During quests where you’ll have to reach a destination, only one person has to arrive and their companions can quickly travel to them in order to continuing progressing. There are also plenty of competitions that pop up throughout the game, ranging from who can kill the most zombies to who gets to a destination first. Another competition includes who can loot the most valuable goods, but that one is the least exciting to partake in since loot is mostly randomized and unique for each player. Competitions are entirely optional, but the winner does earn experience and is a great incentive to compete with your companions while having some fun. There’s just something entertaining about throwing firecrackers at your friend’s feet while trying to flee a mob of zombies.
As a minor spoiler, the final mission of the game can’t be done in multiplayer for reasons that are clear once you get there. Aside from that, Dying Light is exponentially more enjoyable with friends, but is also easier since players are able to respawn in combat as well as reviving and healing one another.
For some interesting PvP action, Dying Light ships with a Be the Zombie mode which allows one player to take on the role of a menacing zombie with the ability to travel quickly Spider-Man style and is equipped with a Pounce attack in addition to standard swipes. The zombie must protect the nests while up to four players try their best to not only take out the zombie player but the nests as well. Kill count determines which side is the victor and if this sounds a bit like the upcoming game Evolve, it is. Essentially it’s 4v1 gameplay serving as a decent distraction for those looking for PvP, but it’s not a selling point of the game. Teamwork is key in taking down the zombie and it’s rather easy to overpower it once you figure out how, so there are some balance issues in our opinion with the mode. That’s not to say it isn’t fun because it is, but we feel that it’s not a feature that can be played for hours on end.
Multiplayer in Dying Light is the best way to experience the game
Overall Dying Light is a fulfilling, but flawed experience. A greater story could have been told that gives you a bigger reason to care for all the characters in the game, while making your actions feel more impactful. The journey to the end is fun and enjoyable, but you’re left wishing there was something more and that what you did truly made a difference in Harran. Of course, one could argue that Techland is simply setting up for a sequel to Dying Light, one that we’ll be ready to embrace with open, bloodied arms.
Dying Light’s nighttime is suspenseful and full of action
Dying Light Review: What We Liked
- Solid gameplay and combat
- Fun parkour mechanics
- Variety of weapons, crafted items, skills and upgrades
- Multiplayer experience is fantastic
- Nighttime combat is intense, suspenseful
Dying Light Review: What Would Make it Better
- More fleshed out story and characters
- Diversity in side quests
- Better optimization on PC