Dying Light 2 Stay Human PC Review

I dug Dying Light, the spiritual successor to Dead Island from the team at Techland. There was something joyous with its first-person parkour mechanics, a feature that can be hard to get right, but somehow the developers did well to deliver good controls. Dying Light was all about the gameplay, the freeness in exploration around the city, and the up close and personal melee, if clunky, combat. It has been over seven years since Dying Light was released, giving time for the team to bring a sequel that should expand on everything the original does. I can say that if you enjoyed Dying Light, you will enjoy Dying Light 2. This is more of the same, improving in the areas that made the original great fun, but not the best steps in other areas. In all honestly, this series was never about its story, it was all about its freedom to explore and its melee-focused combat that led to amusing zombie massacres.

Dying Light 2 jumps 22 years after the events of the first game to a world where a mutated strain of the original virus, the one that began in Harran, has managed to leak out of a GRE containment centre and spread across the world. This event is known as “The Fall”. The virus caused upmost devastation around the globe and threw it into what the surviving population call “the modern dark ages“. The only civilization left are a few settlements where people try to live together to survive. One such place is the European fictional city of Villedor, which the game’s protagonist, Aiden Caldwell comes across in his adventure. Aiden is a Pilgrim who travels between settlements, but there is an extra goal with Aiden, as he is trying to find his lost sister, Mia, who was experimented on, along with himself, at a GRE facility when they were young. Aiden was given clues that she is somewhere in Villedor, and so his quest begins to find her, throwing him into the conflict between the three factions – Peacekeepers, Survivors and Renegades – all who are trying to claim the city as their own. Aiden is also infected near the start of the game, throwing another curveball in his goal to find his missing sibling. And no, you do not need to play Dying Light at all to have any understanding of the story here.

There is more emphasis on story here than its predecessor. I understand why the developers wanted to do this. I mean, if you made a game and people said the story was the weakest part, you probably want to improve on that, and so this is what the developers have tried to do. Techland has done this by bringing in more characters and dialogue choices which alter the direction of the story. The dialogue options are more fitting for an RPG title like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or narrative-heavy games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

Do these options branch the story in completely different ways? Somewhat, choice selections alter certain outcomes, unlock side quests, and switch some of the major story quest lines around. I found myself captivated by some and not caring about others, it really comes down to what the story is focusing on. The world-building was more interesting since so much time has passed since the last game, I wanted to understand how the world came into this mess and what people were doing about that. What you do find is that in the main central hubs, where the majority of characters live, each one has plenty to tell, but rarely do you care all that much bar a handful of characters. The ones you care for, such as Lawan or Hakon, are the ones that come with you for the ride before they move out of the limelight. Most of the time you want the characters to talk less and let you get on with the action, as some dialogue scenes go on for slightly longer than I would like in a game where I want to get back into the world and get on with my parkour activities. Just like the first game, the story is passable, but it is not the reason why you are playing Dying Light 2.

The reason to play Dying Light 2 is once again the fantastic parkour mechanics and freedom to explore around the landscape. The mechanics carry on into the sequel with improvements and new features. There are tools given to help Aiden climb up the tallest buildings, slide under gaps, jump over fences and all the other fancy ways people can get around on foot. In the beginning, due to the RPG upgrade systems in place that enable Aiden to improve his health and stamina from inhibitors discovered in the city, along with skill points earned from using either combat or parkour to unlock new moves, the parkour is somewhat limiting in what the player can do. Small amounts of stamina mean less time to hold onto things or perform huge jumps. It is still possible to get around the city, but it means the player has to be more watchful or risk falling down into a city full of zombies. The game helps the player signal the best routes by highlighting them with yellow paint, but these can be ignored as this is not the only way, as anything that sticks out can be used. There is the occasion where the controls can get a bit mixed up and the game does not activate a grab because it was animated something else. For example, activating the glide too late can cause problems in grabbing onto things if the animation has not been completed, so it is not perfect, but this should not happen too often if you keep it in the back of your mind.

Traversing becomes so much more once the skills are unlocked and the story gives Aiden more gear to use. Towards the last third of the game, nothing feels out of reach. The full pleasure of running through every element of the city, from its dirty zombie-filled streets to the rooftops of houses, or going full Tom Cruise from Mission Impossible and climbing up the tallest building to access its radio tower is an exciting and thrilling delight to partake in.

This is down to the paraglider and grappling hook, as once unlocked, Aiden becomes a traversal machine, able to move around faster, gliding from height to cover larger distances or use the air streams to boost himself up into the sky. The grappling hook can attach to pretty much anything and be used to swing around, almost making Aiden Spider-Man like, it’s a fantastic tool to use. Other games have offered parkour as a way to explore its environment, but the speed with Dying Light 2‘s mechanics makes this title one of the better games at doing it. The sheer feeling it gives you, the joy from making a long jump between tall buildings, swinging from one ledge to leap to another and just about grabbing it and pulling yourself up. It feels involving, and even though it is a game, the relief of successfully surviving these ridiculously attempts is satisfying. I do wish the glider and hook were accessed faster, due to how impactful they are on the exploration, as it hinders the full enjoyment of the game in its early story.

Combat is the other main element of Dying Light 2. This is not as polished as the parkour, but is still fun enough to entertain throughout most of the game. Guns do not seem to exist in the world of Dying Light. I could not get a full explanation as to why. I think it is something to do that the gunsmiths are all dead and no one had the skills to make them. Being melee focus does mean that it is all up close and personal with the zombies and other gangs. This also means most weapons are primitive, so expect to defend yourself with machetes, pipes, swords, knives, knuckledusters, and they do some damage. Hard weapons will make that echoing bang when smashing against skulls, even bust heads open, while bladed weapons are great for dismemberment.

The melee can be described as impactful and satisfying, but there is some limitations to it, as there is not enough to keep it fresh all the way through the game. It comes down to blocking, dodging moves then retaliating with a few hits, so by the end of the game the combat ends up losing its spark. I found trying to do other ways of fighting enemies helped make it entertaining. The drop kick is one such action. Time this perfectly and you can send the enemy through a window gap or off the ledge to their doom. It is absolutely hilarious and can lead to some amusing glitches with bodies getting stuck in doors or furniture.

Fighting humans is more tactical than the zombies, since those undead mainly lunge, or if during the night, when the tougher zombies come out to play, they can knock the player down to the ground due to their strength. Human enemies will circle around you, but there is still that element of waiting for them to attack and counter by using their body as a launching platform so you can drop kick the other enemies in the face, then go for a face stomp if that skill is unlocked. Just like the parkour, the combat gets better as more skills unlock, but it does feel that you have to force yourself to use them, rather than the game making you. Although, if you want to break the combat, simply use the bow and arrow, as this seems to keep enemies at bay. Even bosses could not hurt me as I rapid fired arrows to keep them in a reaction animation loop.

An added bonus is the ability to craft items, such as grenades, Molotov cocktails, UV lights to keep zombies at bay, health packs, plus upgrades can be added to weapons, such as making them have elemental damage (lightning stuns enemies, fire burns enemies, etc). These upgrades seem to be the only way to repair weapons, as they increase the durability and there was no other way to fix durability on its own, so if a weapon is used too much it will break and be removed from the inventory. On the topic of gear, armour did not seem to make much difference. It might be because I used the pre-order bonus gear, which seemed good, but I rarely changed from it, only doing so in towards the end to see if I would see a difference, and honestly, I did not, which may be down to my player level, but gear felt more cosmetic than anything else.

I feel I have to commit on a post made by the Twitter account for Dying Light 2 which mentioned this game had 500 hours of content. This seems to have caused an uproar from some people, so if you are a person who is frightened of that number, do not be. Playing at my own pace, doing a few side quests, and then continuing with the story missions, I beat the story after 30 hours. The game does let you continue to do side quests and all the other optional challenges after finishing the game, but do not treat this as if you are forced to. 30 hours is a good length for this type of game with its RPG mechanics, character progression and combat.

Running the game on PC is a visual treat if the hardware is available for you to run Dying Light 2 with raytracing on. If you want that along with 4K resolution, then some sort of scaling option is required if anyone wants to keep the game running at 60fps. Having native 4K and all the raytracing options on had the 3090 in this PC on its knees, easily dropping into the teens. The best way to hit 60fps was use DLSS in performance mode, which did not hurt the image quality that much but helped running it on a 4K monitor without much blur, mainly reserved to far away objects. With the constant moving of the camera, due to the game’s first-person parkour gameplay, I did not seem to be distracted by objects in the distance that much. In terms of bugs, my playthrough was mostly filled with silly things like zombies getting stuck in objects after being hit. It was mostly glitch free until one of the last missions that crippled progression, due to an elevator door being open and the button inside not working. A reload of my save fixed this issue, thankfully, but for the most part, on PC, the game was not as buggy as I was expecting from a game that has so many mechanics going on in its open world.

In essence, what I am trying to say is this is more Dying Light, everything that made the first game so fun is duplicated in its sequel. The story is fine, the consequence dialogue choices are okay – a couple have a big impact on certain parts of the story due to characters being added or removed – but I was not fully invested in many of them. Also, the last boss fight is annoying, as it is dragged on for too long, a battle that is split into four fights, each time a new attack is added to its skillset. If you wanted me to hate the final boss, then the developers did a good job at that, but that was down to their determination to not give in, to the point I was telling him to shut up and let me just kill you. As with the predecessor, there is also cooperative mode, where a friend can come join in your world and help you complete missions, but only experience and weapons will come back with the none host player, as world progression is only done on the host. I didn’t have much time in cooperative, but I did open it up for some help, and from the limited time, it seem to be fine, similar to the first game in that regard. As they say, playing with a friend is always more fun.

Fun is subjective, of course, but when it comes to video games, we mostly play them for the fun or the experience it offers. The biggest and also the best element of Dying Light 2 is that it is simply so much fun getting around its city. Its parkour mechanics are some of the best in a first-person game where performing such athletic feats within its cityscapes is thrilling and so gratifying. Fans of the first game will surely like this sequel, as what made them fans is all here but improved. Dying Light 2 goes bigger in all areas and tries to be ambitious with its story, but does not quite hit the mark. Like I said in the beginning, it was never about story that made the original a cult hit, it was the stuff you could do within its sandbox, and when it comes down to that, it still is a terrific time being in the world of Dying Light.

8 out of 10
DarkZero