One big, post-apocalyptic disappointment
Dying Light 2 is not a good game. It’s a frustrating medley of intriguing ideas and concepts buried under a thick, post-apocalyptic sludge of mediocrity. From dull combat and dull characters to an abundance of dull side quests, Dying Light 2 is one of the biggest disappointments of recent years.
In development for a little over 7 years, Dying Light 2’s woes are all the more damning when you take into consideration the litany of bugs and glitches dotted throughout the game. I’ve had enemies stuck on bits of the environment, items on the floor that can’t be grabbed, story quests glitched and on one occasion I even had the final boss fail to show up, forcing me into a hard reset. And that’s playing the game on a PlayStation 5 with the day 1 patch installed.
The game itself begins with a decent enough opening cutscene, explaining the world and how it came to be a zombie-ravaged nightmare. With human settlements dotted between large, dangerous expanses of wasteland, a brave Pilgrim known as Aidan is on the hunt for his sister Mia.
It’s a simple enough premise but don’t get too attached to that storyline. Aside from a sprinkling of flashbacks dotted through your journey, the bulk of your playtime will be consumed with running fetch quests for various people across the world. It’s actually not until the final 3 or 4 missions that you finally get to the crux of the issue after a couple of teasing quests early on.
That world is split into two distinct world-map regions, with the first noticeably more fun and enjoyable to traverse than the second. With smaller buildings, a thoughtful presentation of different obstacles to jump or swing over, along with just the right amount of interesting locales to explore, the first 10 or so hours are actually pretty fun, although you’ll soon grow tired of the parkour thanks to an enjoyment-sapping stamina bar. We’ll get to that in a second.
The second area however, switches things up with towering skyrises, a parachute (which saps stamina when you use it) and less versatility when traversing, a lot of your time here will be spent on the ground to get around areas quickly.
The game presents itself with “multiple choices” for the player to reshape the story but in truth, those come down to a binary option of yellow or blue. Even the final mission and its choice for Aidan essentially results in the exact same ending, minus the fate for on distinct area. Certainly a far cry from what the developers originally promised with the game.
Look, I know games do change from the development cycle but as we’ve seen from titles like Bioshock Infinite, that’s not always a bad thing if the end result is polished or a fun adventure. Dying Light 2 is neither.
Much has been said about the day/night cycle in Dying Light 2 and honestly, it’s shocking that barely any reviews have picked up on this. The skybox doesn’t move. It’s static. Clouds don’t move across the sky and when everything turns to night, the moon simply fades in while the sun fades out, unmoving from its spot in the sky. If Minecraft can do a consistent day/night cycle, there’s absolutely no excuse for this “AAA” game not to. Especially after seven years of development.
At night, most of the zombies have spilled out onto the streets, with “Howlers” dotted between stacks of simple zombie grunts. These guys essentially work as sirens, alerting masses of zombies to your location and starting a chase. The only way to stop that is to either run far enough way and hide in tall patches of grass or under obstacles, or make it to a UV-light sanctuary.
Admittedly, these are quite fun but the option to add a respawn system into this game completely negates the threat entirely. In fact, it completely negates many of the different mechanics and systems in place in the game, and is one off the biggest deterrents along with that aforementioned stamina bar. At its worst, the respawn actually throws you back to the nearest safehouse which could be upwards of 500m away, depending on how thoroughly you’re exploring the world.
At its most hilarious, you’ll be spawned ahead of a mission objective or past whatever you’re working on. One such example saw me tackled by a group of thugs on a rooftop. With the boss at 50% health, I ended up dying… but then I respawned after that fight with all the enemies killed. Bonus!
Everyone’s favorite inclusion in games unfortunately rears its ugly head here too, as Dying Light 2’s biggest problem derives from the stamina bar. And it’s a constant deterrent until you level up your stamina enough to forget about it.
You see, the game places such a massive amount of emphasis on platforming and parkour but you can never fully immerse yourself in that as you’re watching your ever-declining stamina bar. Climbing and jumping both use up stamina, and late on so too does parachuting for some reason. The latter can be replenished by hovering over open air ducts but hilariously, climbing up ladders and the default sprint option for traversing the environment don’t affect stamina in any way whatsoever.
Now, this mechanic wasn’t included in the first game and it noticeably makes this game worse. If you’re reading this and disagree, imagine if Infamous, Assassins Creed or Uncharted all included a stamina bar. Imagine doing that thrilling train platforming section at the start of Uncharted 2 but instead of just marveling at the sights, you’re watching your stamina.
Imagine almost making it to the top of a massive building to synchronize in Assassin’s Creed… and then you fall because your stamina is depleted. If this sounds like fun, all power to you. But for Dying Light 2, these enjoyment-sapping moments occur way too often. And it’s not helped by the unengaging combat either.
The fighting in this game is essentially split between two different groups. Zombies come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, with monstrous titans swinging large clubs about and spitters spraying bouts of acid at you. The majority of the zombies you’ll face are the mindless shuffler variety though, with a couple of fast zombies thrown in for good measure.
Swinging your weapons constantly is the aim here, although you’ll have to watch your stamina bar and make sure you wait for that to replenish for maximum damage. You can add a few more moves to your repertoire, courtesy of skills and leveling up (more on that shortly) but largely you’ll be performing the same few moves constantly. While the ragdoll physics are amusing, it’s largely unimaginative hack’n’slashing.
Human enemies are, to put it mildly, a massive disappointment. There’s absolutely no strategy or intelligent AI with these guys, they simple charge at you, wait to attack you one at a time and add a block in over time.
Late on, archers, flamethrowers and heavy grunts join the fray but again, all of these can be defeated relatively easily unless you find yourself surrounded. But even then, because they only attack one at a time, good timing and a decent enough weapon should make quick work of them.
Even worse though is how overpowered ranged weapons are. There’s absolutely no thought put into this part of the game because if you choose to go into these human settlements with as an archer, you’re unstoppable. There’s absolutely no defence against your arrow blasts, and in fact enemies will just continue walking/jogging toward you as you pelt them with arrows. There’s no ducking behind cover, flanking or even enemies talking to each other. It’s bland and sucks the little bits of joy out of this game.
Alongside the litany of fetch quests in the main story are different side quests which (yep, you’ve guessed it) offer even more fetch quests if you’re tired of those that help advance the story. To be fair, there are a couple of varied missions dotted in here – including a fantastic main mission that sees you traversing a Cathedral and another exploring a hospital, learning about your past, but beyond that there’s absolutely nothing memorable in this game.
The same can be said for the different activities dotted around Villedor too. Metro stations can be explored and activated as fast travel points, although the design of these – especially when you reach the underground sections bathed in chemicals – are largely copy/paste jobs.
There are also windmills here too, various safe zones that act as respawn points, bandit camps and facilities to unlock. There are a few electrical stations that require some tricky puzzle solving, but their designs are exactly the same. Water towers however, will test your parkour skills and are arguably some of the better areas in the entire game.
There are also GRE quarantine zones which help you gain Inhibitors (we’ll cycle back to that in a second) and GRE anomalies, which are essentially zombies-gone-wrong. Don’t worry though, the design of each of these are exactly the same and hacking away with a blunt weapon will be enough to dispatch them without too much hassle.
As you journey through the game, XP points are divided into Parkour and Combat. Essentially, everything you do in the game works toward this, with side quests and main missions the best way to level these quickly. Each subsequent level grants you a skill point, which can be used to add extra abilities to your arsenal. From jumping further to climbing higher, across to smashing your enemies down with a special move, there’s actually a good deal of variety here.
Those Inhibitors mentioned earlier can be used to level up your total stamina or health, both of which crucial to progressing through the game. These also feed into your Immunity to toxic chemicals, which is especially prevalent at night.
Of course, you’ve also got your usual crafting skills, a litany of different weapons able to be modified and the fodder of minigames including a simple lockpicking gig. There are also safes to unlock but honestly, these typify that feeling of everything being very half-baked and ill-thought of. Most of the codes can be found in the same building and most of the time in the same room.
One of the most egregious examples comes from a safe combination requiring you to write out the digits for Pi, in a note lying right next to the safe no less. Despite the ability to write out 03-14-15, the actual combination is 3-1-4. I know this is a slight spoiler but given this took me way longer to realize than it should, it’s a good example of how careless this game actually is, even with the most trivial of activities.
Dying Light 2 ultimately feels like an unfinished project, and that’s a feeling I carried with me through the entirety of my 30+ hour playtime. The main quest is uneventful, littered with under-developed characters asking you to conduct uninteresting fetch quests for uninteresting causes that don’t even matter by the end. Granted, the world is actually quite pretty, and some of the presentation is decent, but graphical fidelity is the least of this game’s problems.
The numerous bugs will, of course, be patched out but it’s still not excusable given the cost of this game at launch. Combat is poorly implemented, with some hilarious ragdoll physics while the main quest – when you finally do get to find Mia and learn what happened to her – falls apart with a really poorly implemented final act.
Unfortunately, Dying Light 2 is not a game I can recommend. At least not at that price point. If you love zombie games, I’d recommend renting this one instead. If you’re sold after 5-10 hours, buy the game. For everyone else, given how stacked 2022 is shaping up to be for the videogame industry, save your money and stay away from this post-apocalyptic mess.
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Verdict - 5/10