Dying Light 2 Preview: Making Decisions Matter In The Zombie Apocalypse
The zombie video game has long overstayed its welcome in my book. We've seen the mindless co-op shooters, the emotionally charged narrative adventures, the survival-based online games, and even the sniping-based games all about zombies. It's time to move on, right?
But then again, there's Dying Light 2.
Despite the odds, it's a first-person action game with lots of zombies that managed to not only surprise me but leave me optimistic after an hour-long hands-off demo at E3 2019 earlier this month.
New Kind Of Apocalypse
To understand the core of what made Dying Light 2 so impressive, you need to understand why so many people loved the previous game. Most zombie games are defined by their violence. Whether that be a downpour of bullets shredding through undead heads or just gratuitous gore exploding with blood and guts everywhere, it's a genre that revels in its bloodiness. And I totally get it.
But Dying Light was a game that used zombies as the backdrop for an otherwise rich and vibrant open world. In many cases, you were actively encouraged to avoid zombies and run away from them — just as the protagonists often do in most non-gaming zombie media. And to make that running away more fun, Techland employed an impressive parkour system that let you leap across rooftops, slide along the ground, and dropkick the undead like never before.
Now, with Dying Light 2, that's all been cranked up to 11. This time around, you can clearly see and feel the Mirror's Edge influences as the player is allowed to wall run, slide under barriers, kick down doors, leap out of windows, swing across pipes, ride along zip lines, and so much more. There was even a grappling hook mixed with a paraglider for traversal that looked fantastic.
I also spotted a stamina meter similar to Breath of the Wild while climbing. Overall, it reminded me of a first-person view of the opening scene in Aladdin, and it seems exhilarating.
During combat, there seemed to be a satisfying weight behind everything from melee swings to taking damage and even leaping through the air. A specific moment that really stuck with me is when the developer jumped up, kicked a zombie through a glass window, and then rode its body down to the ground to break their fall and continued rolling forward to chase a van without stopping.
It was a gloriously epic few seconds that felt like something out of a blockbuster action flick.
According to the developer that walked me through the demo, the biggest new element in Dying Light 2 is the evolving narrative sandbox. They've signed on Chris Avellone to help with the story (the same guy that was a designer and writer for Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, and a bunch of other revered RPGs), so I have got high hopes for the story this time around.
Decisions That Matter
Reportedly, if you finish all of the missions and complete the game, that will mean you've seen about half of the game's actual content. The reason for this is that there is a multitude of decisions you have to make that literally prevent you from seeing alternate outcomes or other areas of the "modern Dark Age" setting.
For example, at the end of the demo I saw, the player was faced with a decision of who to trust and who to side against. The ending result caused an entire section of the city to be drained of water, revealing a new under-city below that dramatically expanded the map. Picking the other path would have, supposedly, done something totally different.
I appreciate the diversity in ways to approach scenarios as well. You can head in with the intent to fight your way through enemies, or sneak around and behind entire strongholds if you find a good enough parkour path.
We've seen countless open-world games that promise wide-reaching decisions but haven't truly delivered. However, from what I've seen of Dying Light 2, I'm certainly optimistic that won't be the case here.
In fact, Techland said they still aren't even sure how many dedicated endings will be available in the main storyline itself, but they've still got about a year left to decide.
Dying Light 2 is slated for a Spring 2020 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
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