Dying Light, while not a perfect game, is probably one of my favorite zombie games (I’ve played it multiple times in solo/coop, with around 330 hours of playtime). So it goes without saying that I’ve been looking forward to the sequel. Well, after spending around 85 hours with the game, here are my thoughts.
The story of Dying Light 2 takes place 25 years after the events in Harran. The world has fallen to the virus and Villedor is one of the last walled cities on Earth. You play Aiden, a pilgrim, who is searching for his sister, and his journey takes him into the city. During your search you come into contact with two factions, the independent survivors and the more militaristic peacekeepers, for whom you’ll do various quests. At a certain point you’ll need to side with one of them which branches the story. Along the way, there are several twists and turns, and you can make additional, but smaller, choices that will impact the story.
While I’m not going to go into any specifics, since I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who are planning on playing it, I don’t think the story was particularly good. To be honest, I believe that it’s probably one of the weakest aspects of the game. The voice acting wasn’t bad per se, but the writing and character development weren’t great. Thus, some characters felt really forgettable.
The epilogue was predictable and a big disappointment. Add to that a generic multi-tiered boss battle that was tiresome and unimaginative, a “screenshot” ending that concluded with white text in a black background (which informed you of the result of your choices) and…. well… it all felt very rushed, almost as if Techland ran out of time, budget or both.
There is also no way to go back to earlier checkpoints to replay sections with branching choices to see different outcomes. If you want to see a different ending you’ll need to replay the entire game from scratch. Needless to say, I have no intention of doing so, especially since Dying Light 2 does not have a New Game+ Mode. Also, your choices do not have as much impact on the city itself as Techland implied prior to the game’s release.
The city of Villedor is divided into two major zones, Old Villedor and the Central Loop which you unlock partway through the campaign. The size of the play area is larger than the previous game, and the world is filled with places to explore. Those are Dark Hollows, Forsaken Stores, Military / Evacuation convoys, Airdrops, Bandit camps and GRE anomalies/labs along with a number of combat & parkour challenges.
There are also a number of safe zones scattered around the map that can be unlocked, Metro stations (which act as fast travel points), radio stations, a few water towers/electrical stations which unlock either traps or traversal items in each zone depending on which faction you assign the building to. Additionally, assigning these zones to a faction has no impact on the story or on your influence on a faction.
Unfortunately, there are not that many variations in these areas which was somewhat of a letdown. There are only around 6 GRE labs in DL2, versus the 12 unique quarantine zones of the original game. Not only that, but these GRE labs are nearly identical. Having some duplicated locations in a large game is understandable, but when what should be some of the more interesting and exciting locations to explore are all duplicated layouts with some minor interior asset changes, it comes across as low effort.
This issue is also present throughout other building interiors and rooftop locations in the city, even down to the lootable container placements. As a result, the feeling of “I was just in this building looting this exact chest 5 min ago” is quite prevalent. Now while this did not hinder my enjoyment of the game itself, it was far more noticeable here than in DL1. Some more variety here would have elevated the experience.
While not everyone will agree here, I believe the parkour in DL2 has been improved. There are more parkour moves available, and once you reach the Central Loop you also unlock a glider which adds a new way to move around the map. It’s absolutely necessary in the Central Loop since there is a large amount of verticality in the zone. Moreover, and once you unlock it, you can also use it in Old Villedor. With the glider unlocked and with all the parkour moves (which unfortunately takes longer than it should), moving around the city was very enjoyable and fluid. The grappling hook is back as well, though it acts more as a way to swing from point to point rather than pull you like it did in DL1. Although it’s a nice addition, it’s far less useful and cool here.
The combat has also been improved/enhanced with the ability to parry and the inclusion of some new moves. Otherwise, though, it remains mostly the same as the original. Oh, and the dropkick is back and is still OP, as is ranged combat and the ability to pull enemies toward you and headstop them. This makes some encounters kind of trivial, but for the most part, the gameplay loop is what you’d expect from a Dying Light game. It’s visceral and responsive, and the weapons feel impactful. The ability to dodge, grapple, head stomp, drop kick and decapitate infected remained entertaining throughout my playtime, and I never grew tired of it.
The weapon modding system has also been changed. In DL2, you can no longer “repair” your weapons with scrap. Once you mod a weapon, you will refill some of its durability. Weapons can only have up to 3 mods added to them (depending on rarity) and once a fully modded weapon breaks, it’s gone forever. I didn’t really like this change since it artificially limited me from using mods until I’d used the weapon for a while.
As expected there are a number of different types of weapon mods, which are divided into sub-types that dictate how the effect activates and where they are applied on the weapon. The problem is that they are all identical, so each effect will have 6+ different mods for it (2 locations with 3 variations each). What makes this worse is that each mod is incredibly grindy to upgrade, and this does not include upgradable consumables and accessories. To put it into perspective, there are a total of 43 upgradable items, 22 of which are weapon mods. After my 85 hours, I only upgraded a handful of weapon mods to 4/9, one or two accessories to 4/9 and my bandages to 8/9. Perhaps when they talked about 500 hours to complete the game they were referring to the time it would take to max out all the upgrades. While it’s great to have the ability to have 2 mod effects on any given weapon, the way it’s been implemented struck me as an odd design choice. One of the most enjoyable parts of Dead Island and Dying light was being able to mod the cool weapons and experimenting with different mods, but when it’s as grindy as it is in DL2, it just doesn’t encourage experimentation (well not if you want the mods to actually be half decent against equal level enemies).
There is a gear system in the game now as well, where certain pieces of armor will add stat bonuses. You can tend toward a specific build by the choices you make but the stat bonuses are inconsequential at the start. And by the time they aren’t, you’ll already be steamrolling everything.
Player rank (which governs the level of armor and weapon loot, and zombie levels after finishing the game) increases as you gain XP in combat and parkour (the survival tree is gone from DL1). Each time you level up your combat or parkour, you get a skill point to unlock a new ability in the respective tree. However, access to these abilities is locked behind a max health (combat tree) or stamina (parkour tree) requirement/system. You can only upgrade your Health and Stamina by collecting inhibitors that are scattered around the map. Thus, the game does incentivize you to find these locations and explore them to collect as many of these as possible to a max of 126.
However, story quests, side missions and zones have recommended level ranges now. As such, it won’t be long until you actually out level many of the quests (if you do other activities and explore the city). I’m not sure why these RPG mechanics were included in DL2 as they don’t enhance or improve the experience in any way. In fact, these RPG elements can really detract you from the experience.
Another big change is the day/night cycle. Most zombies will be indoors sleeping during the day, and will only come out at night. So, exploring indoor areas is easier and safer during the night. The biggest change, however, is the lack of Volatiles in the streets at night, which makes night exploration far less tense and dangerous. Night is also much brighter than it was before. There is also an immunity system which is essentially a timer, indicating how long you have before you turn into a zombie. To refill it you need to either go into the UV light, drop a UV flare or use an immunity booster. When you start the game it feels somewhat inhibitive since you feel like you need to constantly run back and forth to a UV zone or use up your small supply of mushrooms, but after you’ve leveled up and gotten enough resources, you’ll completely forget it. This is another questionable system as it doesn’t really add much to the game.
There are a few other types of special infected out at night, mainly howlers (zombies that when alerted will scream and cause a chase to start), along with a few others that are unlocked as you progress in the campaign. However, the Banshee that is found in the tutorial mission was nowhere to be seen throughout the rest of the game.
I’m not sure I liked this change as it makes exploring both at night and during the day kind of trivial. If you want a challenge, you’ll either need to deliberately go into dark zones during the day or start a chase and have it progress to level 3/4 before you’ll have volatiles chasing you (the only time you’ll see them in the game, minus a few story sections, or unless you enter GRE labs during the day). At least they are stronger now, and they can potentially kill you with a few hits.
Finally, there is a stealth system, but it seems wholly undercooked like some of the other systems in the game. For instance, you can’t move or hide enemy bodies. As such, the human enemies will inevitably see you. I suppose this stealth system can be helpful when sneaking around interiors killing zombies, if you want to preserve your weapons.
The AI is also a bit disappointing, especially when using ranged weapons. You can shoot an enemy from a distance in order to bait other enemies to come and investigate. And then, you can kill them too. I cleared out entire metros this way without them actually seeing me.
The game had several issues at launch. And while Techland has ironed out most of them, there are still some annoying issues.
Key binding is still not functioning 100%. For example, changing a default key will not change the corresponding special action key in some cases. The game also appears to have an issue that causes performance degradation after a while of playing, requiring a restart in order to fix it. These were my biggest issues, though there were also a few smaller ones like missing audio, zombies T-posing when killed, occasional animation glitches, survivor sense not working and some lighting anomalies in certain situations.
Regarding co-op, I never had any issues with disconnects, though I’ve seen numerous reports about this. There’s also the ability to send out a distress signal to call other players to help you out or join other players who need help. The game supports up to 4 players in co-op. You should keep in mind though that the level of equipment they loot will be based on their player rank, and the levels of enemies will be based on the host’s rank., and the story progress only effects the hosts game.
Despite its issues, I enjoyed Dying Light 2. The game is fun, and highly enjoyable in co-op. I just hope that Techland will add a New Game+ mode (after all, the first Dying Light game had it).
The addition of the RPG elements seems unnecessary though and doesn’t really add a great deal to the game. The mod/item upgrade system is incredibly grindy and limits the player’s ability to experiment with loadouts and mods. I was also disappointed by the game’s duplicate/similar locations (which detract from the excitement of exploration). The story is pretty weak and the characters are completely forgettable.
And yet, despite all the aforementioned issues, the moment-to-moment gameplay is still great fun, if a little repetitive. Is it better than Dying Light 1? That’s really up to you to decide. For me, it was better in some ways, but as a whole, I feel Dying Light 1 left a far more memorable impression.
Finally, I don’t think it’s worth picking it up at full price in its current state for most people. If you are a fan of the original game, I’d say it is worth picking up on sale. If not, this sequel won’t change your mind. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what the developers will improve and add going forward. The post-launch support for Dying Light 1 was excellent, and I expect no less from Dying Light 2.
- Weapon mods are cool
- A lot to do
- Game looks good especially with RTX On.
- The glider is nice addition
- Various bugs & glitches
- Story & characters are lackluster and uninteresting
- Epilogue feels very rushed
- Very easy even on hard
- Incredibly grindy upgrade system
- Nighttime lacks tension compared to DL1
- No Newgame +
- RPG and some other systems seem unnecessary
- Noticeable duplicated areas
Windows 10 64-bit computer using an Intel i7-12700k, 32GB Ram, and an nVidia RTX 2070 Super graphics card