Dying Light was released back in January 2015 and unfortunately I’ve only just found the time to play it properly. Like myself I imagine that some of you may have noticed straight away the striking resemblance it carries to a few other notable games, in particular and expectedly it’s somewhat predecessor, Dead Island.
Besides both games being developed by Techland, both are first-person survival-horrors with role-playing elements set in an open-world environment and share similar objectives: run fast, bash things over the head with blunt objects, dodge zombies and complete a series of grueling repetitive tasks to make friends, save the day and learn the truth.
Dying Light gets to the point straight away. You play as Kyle Crane, an undercover agent who gets dropped right in the middle of a messy zombified hot zone, is saved by a group of people who seem to already have a pretty knowledgeable understanding of what’s going on and of course count on you to return the favour.
Dead Island is different, you choose to play as one of four characters either working at or lounging around a luxury resort on the fictional holiday island of Banoi. You are basically forced to immediately come to terms with what’s going on around you as the expensive looking resort crumbles into madness and you’re pushed out into the big wide flesh eating world. It is there and then that you begin to realise what exactly is going on, whilst continuously finding yourself surrounded by desperate locals and tourists that are trying to survive and who again of course require your help.
Visually the scenery differs (ever so slightly) between the two. The bright sunny holiday resort and lush green jungles of Dead Island have gone, replaced by a dismal sea of corrugated rooftops, brickwork and pylons, all set in the fictional coastal city of Harran. Amidst all the chaos the local environment still boasts palm trees, boats and random zombies still walking around in bikini tops and hot pants as they did in its predecessor, but I found that what Dead Island lacked in storyline and gameplay was made up for with imaginative scenery which gave way to unexpected settings and quirky characters as the main story progressed. Conversely, Dying light seems to have had the colour drained from the environment and injected back into the storyline and gameplay.
The new parkour system is fairly self explanatory; more Mirrors Edge than Assassins Creed and including a more realistic set of athletic and combat skills which go hand in hand with the health and survival system. It seems as though this new found athleticism has somewhat replaced the original survival tactic of just using brute force to survive in the testing environment.
The skills tree has changed and represents one of the few instances where the game has faulted in comparison to Dead Island, jumping straight into the action means that you’re at a disadvantage when it comes to leveling up and collecting said skills. This time around the game also includes a new lock picking system, similar to Bethesda’s signature style last seen in Fallout 4, although I admit that I found that this version slightly more challenging due to the sensitivity of the picking action which can be tedious at points, particularly when you’ve just found the correct point on a hard lock without the lockpick breaking and then get smashed over the head having to start again.
Although some may argue that fast travel would ruin the theatrics of the game, particularly at night, I was slightly disappointed to see that this option was not available, especially when some missions which fall right after each other are on opposite sides of the map, wasting precious time running to and fro to deliver a box of crayons.
One of the most noticeable controller clenching features is the new day/night cycle. Reminiscent of Silent Hill’s famous warning siren that helped escalate the survival horror genre, this game’s version has been reduced to a reminder on a sports watch, alerting you to the perils of the coming night. It’s purpose succeeds and the reminders beep has a similar effect on the atmosphere as the ash rolling in. With the night now upon you it paves the way for new traps, tougher enemies, visual obstacles and physical obstructions, all leading towards a desperate sprint to the closest safe zone to sleep off the horrors until morning.
Despite these seemingly new additions to what feels very similar to an already existing game, it’s difficult to not feel a constant reminder of the fact that you may have already played through the same basic elements of this before across a number of other titles. Although enjoyable for a while, the repetitive nature becomes tedious and leaves it a bit of a struggle to complete without getting bored in parts.