Dying Light Review!

by on February 11, 2015


In a decade and a half of gaming
development, Techland made lots of games from different genres, but what put
them on the map was their ability to create fun first person shooters with good
combat. The western, Call of Juarez, showed their true talent and it continued
with a great prequel, Bound in Blood. But in the last years, when gamers talk
about Techland they think about the Dead Island series, which is a mix of first
person action combat, RPG and a few elements of survival horror in a world
filled with zombies, the perfect combination for mindless fun.
Techland managed to deliver most of the time an immersive
experience and up to date graphical fidelity with the help of their in-house
Chrome Engine. Their games for 2015, Dying Light and Hellraid, promise to add
new elements to improve on their recipe.
But how much can they improve without damaging the fun
focused gameplay while possibly increasing its complexity?
               Dying
Light is another first person action shooter filled with zombies from Techland
and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
               The
action takes place in the fictional city of Harran which is under quarantine
after it was hit by a viral outbreak that turned most of its inhabitants into
aggressive zombies. The player takes the role of Kyle Crane, an undercover
agent sent into the city by the Global Relief Effort (GRE) to recover a file
that could damage the image of the agency from one of their operatives that
went rogue.
Not long after being parachuted into Harran, Crane is
attacked by bandits and bitten by a zombie only to be saved by the runner Jade
Aldemir which takes him to the Tower, a building that serves as sanctuary for
many of the survivors.
Waking up days later, Crane finds out that the people of the
Tower attempt to help the survivors and struggle with their supply of antizin,
a drug that suppresses the infection as long as it is constantly administrated.
He is trained into parkour discipline by Rahim, Jade’s brother, and starts
doing various missions for him and the other survivors as he attempts to find
out which one is the man he is looking for.
Things become edgy when in order to get contact with the other
major faction in the city, Crane is ordered by GRE to destroy a supply of antizin
putting the lives of everyone in the Tower in grave danger.
Crane is a tough, resourceful and
sarcastic person, willing to help anyone, but also taking a lot of shit from
the people in Harran for no apparent reason. He is easily manipulated by GRE to
do stupid things for the sake of the dramatic evolution of the story. These
moments will clearly have a terrible outcome and could easily be avoided, but
there are no decisions left to the player and the story development seems to
mock the player with this.
Protect them! Infected children are some of the worst!
               The story of Dying Light had
potential, but instead of trying to expand on it and make it something
outside of the comfort zone of FPS games, the people at Techland decided to go
with the same generic presentation. Because of this, the end result is an
extremely linear narrative which puts the player in predictable situations with
an unchangeable outcome as there are no choices involved.
The characters met in throughout the game gave a Far Cry vibe,
with crazy and eccentric being in abundance even for a zombie apocalypse
setting. It is like Harran was a giant loony bin and the outbreak just gave
everyone the liberty to act accordingly.
The villain tries too hard, making him unbearable, he is
nowhere near Vaas but he is definitely grinding the attention from the player
through forced actions and unstoppable talking. The ending moments are anticlimactic
being nothing more than a QTE fest which is extremely disappointing for a game
that showed little elements of a console port.
                It is
quite a shame that Techland didn’t push it past the most common features for
this kind of game. I would have preferred to see less secondary missions, which
Dying Light has in spades, in favor of a better developed story. Instead the
story pushes onto the player some wannabe memorable moments with the hope of
obtaining an emotional response, but I felt nothing for those that died or for my
immoral actions since there wasn’t anything I could do to save them.
There was no other option…
               The
gameplay shares many similarities with the Dead Island series with lots of
secondary missions and challenges, weapons crafting and a strong focus on melee
combat. With the action set in a verticalized open world, Dying Light sets
itself apart through its core game mechanic: parkour.
               The
parkour is the main element of the game and it opens up the gameplay for some
pretty amazing fast paced action and stealth.
The city’s architecture seems designed for this discipline
and waiting for the moment when this would be put to good use. Most of the
buildings have a low to moderate height and have a wrinkled exterior aspect so it
is easy for the players to grab on anything and pull themselves up. The
suffocating infrastructure with small roads and buildings hugging each other gives
a connectivity feeling to the city like a circuit waiting the electric current
to pass through it.
In the two months of quarantine the city was adjusted by the
survivors to serve their needs. Traps have been set everywhere and can be used
to slow down the chasers and walls full of spikes are ready to receive some
zombies and if the night proves too dangerous there are many safe houses that
just need to be secured. Harran is a paradise of slaughtering zombies and
freedom of movement.
Jumping over obstacles, zip-lining and being in a constant
running is how the action goes in Dying Light from the very beginning until the
final cutscene. The learning curve for this mechanic isn’t too steep, but it
takes some time to get used with it and learn how to optimize it. There is an
ever present sense of vertigo in this game that caused for me more deaths than
the zombies did (my extreme fear of heights didn’t help me either).
But what Crane can do with his basic training is not enough,
especially for the night time and the second half of the game, his abilities can
be improved with the help of a skill system.
Circus training.

               The
skills are split in three different categories each with its separated
progression. Survival is leveled by completing missions and makes the life in
Harran easier by improving crafting, offering discounts for vendors and
allowing the usage of advanced traps and the awesome grapple hook (Attack on Titan!).
Agility increases with each jump or parkour trick performed.
Leveling Agility makes the character better at this discipline increasing the
threshold for getting tired while performing any parkour actions.  It also opens up abilities like sliding,
jumping over the zombies and many others.
The last skill tree is Power and it serves as an enhancement
for the combat system. The Power tree is leveled through fighting and upgrades the
combat with various new abilities like throwing the melee weapons, aerial drop
kills and other spectacular and unrealistic moves. It also increases the
character’s life and helps with the maintenance of the melee weapons.
Grinding my way to be the best!
               The
day-night cycle in this game is more than an immersive feature, instead it
separates the action in two distinct stages. During the day the zombies pose a
threat mostly through numbers or because of the player’s mistakes. The streets
are filled with Biters which are the generic slow walkers and don’t represent
much of a threat unless they surround their victim. Things can get a little
difficult when trying to take on a Goon which is a big zombie wielding a giant
pole that can smash anything into pieces. Causing noise through explosions or
gun fires can wake up the Virals which are quite fast and agile and can climb
buildings chasing the player. Yet, the Bombers might be the most problematic as
they tend to use the element of surprise, coming around corners or waiting
behind closed doors, one slow reaction or an instinctual hit on them and they
explode killing everything in their proximity.
There are many different zombies under the warming lights of
the sun with more appearing as the action progresses and while they can be
quite a nuisance at the beginning, most of them rapidly become obsolete and no
more than practice targets. But as the sun sets, things start to change.
The night is a dangerous time to be out of the safe zones as
the Volatiles awake and start searching for prey. These are extremely fast
zombies that can match the agility of the player and gather in a pack quite
quickly after spotting someone. They are resilient and require several hits
from a high damage weapon to be killed and their only weakness is UV light. This
makes the Volatiles a dangerous enemy and it is not indicated to fight them except
when facing them one on one and with the help of UV lights.
               The
night time is intense and has a special feeling to it, being chased by the
Volatiles and desperately trying to escape by grabbing on anything and blindly
jumping into the dark in front can get the heart pumping. This is the perfect
time for those that seek something more challenging in the game or want to test
out their sneaking skills. The night is not only harder but also more rewarding
as during this time the experience gained for each skill tree is boosted
exponentially.
Looks so peaceful.
Get off me!
               While
the parkour is what sets this game apart from previous Techland titles, the
combat system is what makes it fun and it does manage to overshadow the latter.
The combat in Dying Light is similar to the one in the Dead
Island series being centered on melee combat and following a similar items
progression.
 The fights are
relatively reactive based on the enemy faced with both melee weapons and
firearms being capable of blowing off the body parts they are hitting. From the
classical exploding heads to the maiming hits directed towards legs or hands,
the combat offers possibilities and the visual effects support it in such a
manner that is bloody, visceral and satisfying.
To further enhance the violent action and the great feeling
of the fights, features like slowing time when melee hits have a devastating effect
or an x-ray image of the target showing the broken bones by the critical damage
have been implemented into the combat system. While these features can be seen
hundreds of times during a playthrough, I never felt like they got old and had
the same effect as the first time I’ve seen them.
               Abilities
gained through the skills system allow for more freedom in combat, combining
the parkour moves with combat actions for a bit more complexity and expanding
the ways zombies can be killed.
But a head on approach might not always be the best or fun
option. Using the terrain or various items to create a distraction and gather
the zombies in one place so they can be easily blown away by explosives or
burned by Molotov cocktails never gets old.
You don’t need that anymore!
Your left arm seems to be the problem!
               The
combat is not only about the attacks, but also about the weapons used to
deliver them. Dying Light features and extensive arsenal which consisting
mostly of a wide variety of melee weapons to play with, including different
types of axes, swords or maces, divided by quality and stats. Each weapon type
has its distinct attacks suited for different playstyles and combat situations.
The durability of melee weapons is used quite fast and they
can be repaired only a few times, making the idea of backup weapons very
important. Upgrading them can increase their durability and other stats, but
eventually no weapon will last forever. To keep the flow of melee weapons going
the game has a crafting system based on schematics and using items found
throughout the world or purchased from vendors. The crafting is decent and
gives access to some crazy weapons that use lightning and other elements to
damage the enemies. But as good as it sounds, the crafting doesn’t seem to be
at the same level with the Dead Island games, having fewer patterns and less
interesting weapons.
The firearms are poorly represented with only four types
available and always using the same models. Besides the lack of variety and the
fact that they can’t be upgraded in any way, some of the firearms act quite
weirdly and bug out when being hit and during aiming or reloading being quite irritating
when surrounded by zombies.
It is well known that Techland’s latest games have been more
about slashing and smashing than shooting your way out through enemies. But for
a shooting fan like me the firearms just feel lazy, like they were added just
to make everybody happy, which is too bad because the shooting is above average
and could compete with many games of this genre that are completely build
around it.
Half Life 3 confirmed!!!
Uber pipe!
               What
diminishes the intensity and enjoyment of the combat system is the difficulty
level. The developers seem to have gone out of their way to make the game easy
and it shows. Most of the zombies are quite easy to kill and it takes one or
two fights to learn most of the tricks for each of them and the action turns
into faceroll pretty fast. To make matters worse the item progression in the
game allows for incredibly powerful weapons that turn zombies into a pile of
meat in the blink of an eye and there isn’t even an option for adjusting
difficulty at the start of a new campaign.
The AI is adding up on this problem by not reacting as it
should, faster zombies get stuck in all sorts of objects and act quite strangely
sometimes and no enemy seems to react to the flashlight.
But the biggest issue that mainstreams the level of
difficulty even for the night time is the minimap, which serves as a radar for all
non-Biter enemies and includes the vision for the powerful zombies that show up
at night. This feature is such a killjoy as it increases the readiness of the
players to such levels that they can hardly ever be surprised. There is not
even an option to disable it, which points out that the developers didn’t even
think of the impact it can have on the level of difficulty (seriously, are
challenging AAA games a dying breed?).
30 minutes into the game.
               For
those who want to survive the zombie apocalypse as part of a team, there is a
Co-op mode with support for up to four players and the possibility of an
additional player to take the role of a powerful zombie to hunt down the
survivors. The team play is extremely fun and includes competitive challenges,
but does oversimplify the game even more.
               One of
the strongest features of this game is its technology. Using an upgraded
version of the Chrome Engine, Dying Light delivers an immersive experience
through graphics that are reaching today’s standards.
Even in its disastrous state with streets filled with blood,
with bodies everywhere and hordes of undead, the two districts of Harran are
still nice to look at with beautiful landscapes and unique buildings. The level
design was done with parkour in mind and serves its job amazingly and the keen
attention to details adds up to the exploration feeling. Things don’t stop here,
the animation both of movement and combat are spectacular and fitting the
purpose of a dynamic game very well. The lighting and shadow effects make the
day feel like a vacation and the night time a visual and terrifying pleasure. But
the game has its baggage, like most of the new releases nowadays, making
sacrifices where it shouldn’t and having all kind of tech related issues. The
zombie models look terrible up-close and the overall chromatic effect can be
upsetting for some people, but this could have been tolerable if Dying Light
didn’t have huge performance problems.
The optimization was a mess at release and there are
settings that are still unusable. The advertised NVIDIA Depth of Field makes
the cut-scenes lag behind so much that they can’t be watched. The view distance
can cause serious frame drops when is set above 50% and vsync has the potential
to cause massive freezes.
Despite being patched multiple times and GPU drivers being
dedicated to it, it still has some troubles with performance and is better to
avoid the options mentioned above.
               Dying
Light didn’t skip much on graphical fidelity but it did ignore physics to a
high degree. While bodies have their own physic and some indoor areas are
filled with destructible objects, the world of Harran is composed of an unmovable
and unbreakable environment. Most of the things are made to stand still and
very few objects can be moved or destroyed. This is quite a letdown as physics
should always be an important part of an FPS game and I could only imagine how
much more amazing the action would have been if cars would blow up and the
walls of the buildings could be destroyed and so on.
Immersive!
Turkey?
Horrible quality shirt.
               The
sound effects in Dying Light are wonderful. There is a considerable amount of
details put in the environmental sounds, from the constantly moving leafs of
the trees and the wind passing through them to the sound made by every
structure. But the best part is related to its best feature, the combat. The
slashing sounds of weapons cutting through the rotten flesh and the vile sounds
of the zombies when they are hit repeatedly are amazing. The night time is a
blend of chilling cries and creepy noises made by the restless threat that
could make your skin crawl
The game has high quality voice
acting covering all the dialogues in the game with every voice capturing
perfectly the personality and quirks of each character.
I did feel like the music wasn’t
always in tone with the action and didn’t intensify the feeling and atmosphere
as much as it should do. By the end of the game I realized that despite being
activated the music never really caught my attention.
Zombie attempting parkour.
Dacia 1310?!
Looks familiar.

               Dying
Light gave me a strong feeling of a challenging survival at first and I loved
that. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it is going to follow the
same path as the Dead Island series and this left me with a bitter taste. I
imagined this game taking a step forward and becoming more complex and
difficult while tuning down some of the arcade gameplay elements, but I was
wrong. The story is decent but underdeveloped resuming itself to a linear and
predictable evolution and a villain that sets a new standard for annoying (I
think it beats Diablo in talking nonsense). The game isn’t polished either with
various annoying bugs, AI problems and terrible performance issues.
               Even
so, looking from an action standpoint, Dying Light does serve its purpose very
well. It doesn’t have any unique elements, but it combines mechanics that have
been used in the past to create a dynamic gameplay, full of zombies
slaughtering and mixed with heart racing and acrophobic moments for great
entertainment. It might not be everyone’s coup of tea, but it is fun and quite
a good training to fight fears or train for Mirror’s Edge.
Pros:
+ Good graphics
+ Atmospheric sound effects
+ Visceral, fun and addictive combat
+ Parkour
+ Night time
+ Open world
+ Wide variety of melee weapons
+ Plenty of side quests
+ Co-op
Cons:
– Linear story with plenty of moments of predictability and full of clichés
– Optimization problems
– Arcade elements (cars preventing fall damage, etc.)
– Various glitches and bugs
– Small variety of firearms
– AI can go crazy
– Terrible last boss fight
– Way too easy
Nodrim