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    Dying Light: Review

    Dying Light fell to pieces on me nearly 9 hours into the game. Up until that moment, the game was able to capture my attention well enough, even if I wasn’t exactly enjoying everything I did in it. Then, after getting to about 20% of the game played (I was taking my time), all of my progression and gear wiped my character had to start from scratch, with no weapons and not even the ability to dodge, while still remaining halfway through the fairly difficult mission I’d reached.

    To some extent Dying Light actually improved for a time. Suddenly I was scrambling for any weapon I could find, searching every nook and cranny for medkits, desperately struggling to survive. With limited health options, reduced survivability and manoeuvrability and non-existent combat it started as a tense struggle to survive, but quickly became a tedious exercise in repetition and sadly it winds up being this with or without a progression reset.
    Basically, Dying Light is a Bad Game
    Let’s be clear. It’s very pretty, and if your PC is good enough it runs quite well (barring that one massive bug I encountered).

    Even when it’s not functioning properly it’s functional, and while reports indicate that it has some issues with SLI (at time of writing) Techland seems enthusiastic about updating the game to fix any problems. But a functional game doesn’t always make for a good game.

    Unfortunately for Dying Light, it’s a game with one key gameplay loop that it exploits repeatedly, and two parts of that loop simply aren’t very good. Dying Light consists of “Acquire Quest, Parkour to Location, Kill Zombies, Acquire Quest Item. Turn in. Repeat.” The game breaks up these elements into three parts Survivor, Agility and Combat and it ties a progression system to each part. Survivor and Combat are where Dying Light fails to impress.
    Acquire Quest, Parkour to Location, Kill Zombies, Acquire Quest Item. Turn in. Repeat.
    Survivor is the game’s key tree, the one you’ll earn XP in without really trying you’ll do it simply by playing the game. Everything seemingly earns you Survivor XP, but you can farm it if you simply search every container for loot, or every dead body for cash.

    Your role as a runner affords you the ability to fetch all sorts of macguffins for inevitably ungrateful people. You’ll run all over the city of Harran finding mushrooms or crayons or whatever so that people can sleep easy in their zombie infested shithole, and if you manage to successfully courier these things around the map you’ll be rewarded with survivor XP. This is the tree for all the things Techland felt didn’t fit into the other trees by increasing your Survivor rank you’re able to activate more of the booby traps around the city, for example. There are really just two things in this tree that you’re trying to unlock; zombie camouflage, where you paint yourself with zombie blood causing all zombies to ignore you, and the grappling hook, which straight up ruins the best part of Dying Light.

    Dying Light excels at free-roam parkour. The city isn’t massive, but it’s big enough to give you a wealth of buildings to climb over, leap upon or run atop as you fetch batteries or whatever bullshit the still breathing citizens of Harran have tasked you to acquire. Yes, there’s a progression tree attached to this slice of gameplay, and yes it doesn’t make a lot of sense Kyle Crane (the player character) is apparently a secret agent of some sort, but when the game begins Homer Simpson could run longer distances than him. It’s not until he reaches the higher levels of his Agility that he finds himself capable of really parkouring his way around the city.

    At night time the parkour really shines (wordplay!), as limited vision forces you to make quick decisions, lest the Volatiles catch you. The limited reach of the torchlight means you’ll need to take in your surroundings quickly, pick a safe route and take it the whole time being chased by zombies that are faster than you and are capable of taking you down in two or three hits.
    When the game begins Homer Simpson could run longer distances than him
    And then you get the grappling hook, and you have to wonder whether it’s worth it at all. Here’s an item which allows you to, at will, zip through the air at great speeds across distances of more than 15 metres. There’s no cooldown, no real restrictions you just point your cursor at something you want to fling yourself at, press Left Trigger (I don’t play melee focused games with a keyboard and mouse, the beauty of the PC is that we get to choose) and away you go. If that doesn’t ruin the parkour experience for you (and to be fair, you won’t get access to it until quite late in the game), the combat will anyway.

    Dying Light’s Dead Island influences are strong and unavoidable. Stats are king, meaning the Pipe Wrench you start the game, with its “42 damage”, will be quickly rendered obsolete by almost anything else you can find. Until you can find something else, however, you’ll be stuck in a game of sticking and moving. You strike, you dodge backwards. You strike, and dodge backwards. The game has a stamina meter designed to stop players from swinging willy nilly, but all this does is force players, at low levels, to run from any fight they don’t have to be a part of. Of course, you can’t run from every fight.

    The original intention for Dying Light was to put the emphasis as far from combat as possible, but that’s clearly no longer the case. You’ll often reach locations covered in zombies you must kill before you can complete your objective. A lot of the time, these zombies will be specials two metre tall monstrosities which take dozens of hits to kill, or spitting zombies with perfect aim and you’ll need to take them out while also dealing with the shambling zombies populating most of the game. These encounters are the most tedious, turning fairly run of the mill combat into protracted wars of attrition as the high hitpoints of your enemies wage war on your ever-shortening attention span.

    That doesn’t even account for fights with other humans, where the ludicrous hitpoint system persists and your enemies are suddenly equipped with automatic rifles. The AI is laid bare in these sequences, where human enemies always know where you are, always know when you’ve peeked from cover.

    Dying Light is one of those games that, once it has been mastered, offers little to no reason for the player to return. The story is one generic moment after another as Techland takes you on a tour of the tiredest zombie tropes. The gameplay loops which combine all three of the game’s systems are monotonous after a time, despite the excellent free-running. You get a quest from a generic survivor, you enjoy yourself as you run to your next location, you suffer through the game’s combat and then you parkour your way back again. That’s the entire game, all of it tied to a progression system they didn’t need and a loot system stolen from a far less serious game one where immersion in the player character’s experience wasn’t necessary for the game to work.


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