In Dying Light 2 you can sprint across a wall, dive onto a rope, swing into a building through an open window, climb inside, lose your footing on a beam, and plummet into a nest of undead ‘infected’ all within a matter of seconds. It looks blissful, and I am already enamoured with it.
First, the stuff in the periphery: Dying Light 2 is set 15 years after a viral infection wiped out most of… everyone, really. Those who didn’t die were either left in a hellish post-apocalyptic world fighting every day for survival – or turned into infected. Zombies, basically. With the setting further along than in the original game, there’s been time for a rudimentary society to get its footing. A rudimentary society in a post-apocalyptic setting, if all movies, TV shows and comics are to be believed, is often going to be rotten to the core. Fortunately Dying Light 2 is all about giving you the opportunity – the choice – to change things.
This genuine change comes via the game’s narrative designer Chris Avellone – he was a writer on the best Fallout, New Vegas – and presents players with scenarios in which they can impact the world around them. The example we were shown was that of the game’s reveal trailer, but we were given a bit more detail because we’re simply better people. *cough*
Players have to stop a gang controlling a water supply. Simple. Do so and the supply is taken over by the benevolent, kind, and not at all dodgy Peace Keepers – a wannabe UN for a post-apocalyptic society. Water for all! Climbing and navigational aids constructed! Barbaric forms of justice, so heavy-handed they make a mockery of the word! Ah. A double-edged sword, I see.
The other route sees you siding with the bad guys, which has the obvious consequences: violent gang presence increases, numbers of infected increase, and your regular civilians get no water and die of thirst. So why would you go down this monstrous route? Well, the sword’s got those two edges again: you make money from it, on a consistent basis, for the rest of the game – and by going this route you also see a black market open in this part of town.
All of this isn’t just reflected in the story told, but in the city Dying Light 2 takes place in. It changes, physically, depending on the decisions you make, and while you’re not specifically modelling it in the way you want – this isn’t Minecraft – you are impacting things. That shouldn’t be overlooked.
Elsewhere there’s the actual game, which is always a novelty when you’re talking about a game. The first-person parkour of the original is back and has been improved upon, with double the number of free running moves than before and physics-related interactions with some objects in the world. Or, in layman’s terms: you can swing on ropes and that.
There’s added parkour puzzles to make sure you’re not just faking it and do know your way around the runny-jumpy stuff, and a general physicality backing everything up. You see your body, your hands pop up to get purchase on things, when you roll, you roll. It brings you further into the experience, though it also means playing in VR would be hell, were that to be an option.
This ‘modern Dark Age’ also sees a return to the fantastic melee combat of the first game – again, another area seeing refinements, but not one I was shown much of beyond a few choice decapitations. Ah, gore. We all love it. But all it has to be is a slightly improved version of the first game’s close combat and you’re onto a winner – fights against the infected were desperate and flailing, while those against humans were stressful, tactical, and lengthy. It was a great mix, and it does look to be returning here.
And, of course, the third pillar in all of this is the day-night cycle – not just a pretty graphical effect, it actually marks the point where the dangerous streets (daytime) become THE DANGEROUS STREETS (nighttime). It’s prowling hour for the infected, no longer weakened by the sun and backed up by improved AI over the first game – they’re still going to swarm you, but they’ll probably do it a bit smarter than last time around.
The first game was shonky around the edges, and with that in mind Dying Light 2 is going to have to prove itself to be a shiny, special, all polished and lovely product when it does eventually release. Having said that, the original was also brilliant fun – Techland has had over two years development time and is using its biggest team ever to make the sequel.
It knows what it’s doing, the foundations are solid, it looks – from an admittedly controlled, hands-off perspective – like it’s hitting all the right notes, and I am sincerely looking forward to it. If only so I can nudge a friend off a rooftop in co-op, causing them to plummet into a nest of infected. LOLLE.