Techland’s Dying Light 2: Stay Human is the definition of a “mixed bag.” The mix of parkour and first-person combat paired with survival horror RPG mechanics makes for an enticing game in itself, but some lingering story and gameplay issues keep me from wanting to come back to it. So is Dying Light 2 worth your time? I believe so, but improvements are needed to allow it to compete for my limited gaming attention.
Let’s just get this out of the way…
Before you can really get into the game, Dying Light 2: Stay Human asks you to invest in a story-based tutorial that takes a couple hours to get through. It’s helpful to learn the controls and get a feel for the challenges that await, but it’s asking a lot for you to stick around with some less than stellar narrative points. Our protagonist, Aiden, has recurring flashbacks to his childhood that are played out in PS2/3-era looking graphics. Not sure if this was the intent of the developers, but this aesthetic mixed with the suspect voice-acting and overall narrative have me looking forward to the end of each flashback cutscene. Here we learn of his quest to find his long-lost sister, Mia, and also seek some revenge on Waltz; the jerk that’s responsible for it (and a whole host of other things.)
Eventually, you’ll make it out of the tutorial story prologue and be given access to the city of Villedor, a European city well on its way to ruin and infested with zombies. As with any nightmare, people have survived and could really use your help. Some of which may, in turn, lead you to find Waltz and uncover the whereabouts of your sister. Of course, where there are people, there are factions that disagree with each other, and that’s exactly what you’ll have to deal with in Dying Light 2: Stay Human. The Survivors are the salt of the Earth faction of Villedor just trying to get by, and the Peacekeepers are a faction of patrolmen who think they own the city. You’ll find yourself quickly swept up in their issues as you progress in your quest.
In Dying Light 2: Stay Human, the story definitely isn’t where this game shines. It’s the action. It’s the parkour tour around Villedor (that rhymes!). It’s the adrenaline-pumped kick fights on the rooftops or in dark corridors. But the game takes its sweet time in getting you competent in handling both of these things, which is frustrating. It’s throwing Zelda-like ability and progression checks, along with slow XP improvements, at you when it should be really opening things up. If this title had started about 5-10 hours in with a 5-10 minute cutscene at the beginning to set the stage for why Aiden was in Villedor, I think this game would become a better version of itself immediately.
Kicking enemies off a roof simulator
Once you gain some solid parkour/combat abilities and get some decent gear on you, the fun really begins. You’ll be grappling through the city, confident in your skills to traverse distances and kick some zombie butts, (off rooftops). Sadly, the time and effort paid to get to that point wasn’t worth it to me in retrospect. Don’t get me wrong, I love progression and earning my abilities, but when the true fun of the game is tied to skills that you must progress towards, I think the devs should reconsider their approach.
Okay, enough negativity. Once I wasn’t getting my butt kicked or falling to my death from running out of stamina at the wrong time, I started having a lot of fun with Dying Light 2. Parkour combat relies on a lot of kicking, vaulting, and landing feet first on your opponents in an extremely satisfying manner. There are a couple of solid kicking abilities at your, (eventual,) disposal that will have you launching enemies off rooftops and escaping claustrophobic battles with ease. There are also various weapons, including axes, maces, throwing knives, and bows that you’ll find around Villedor. These offer different damage types and ranges and some can be upgraded with helpful enhancements, such as offering helpful stamina regeneration buffs, or imbuing your weapon with fire damage which zombie “no likey.” These items can’t be repaired though, so durability is important when thinking about your weapon loadout. Eventually, you’ll be swimming in new weapons so you probably won’t miss the last one when it breaks, but if you grow attached to one specific weapon, you’ll have to say bye to it eventually! There are also explosives at your disposal like mines and grenades, as well as one-time-use weapons that can really bail you out in a tough fight.
The parkour abilities you gain in Dying Light 2 will aid not only your combat but your ability to traverse Villedor efficiently. You’ll wish you had a lot of these skills upfront but once you are able to bounce back up immediately from a landing or slide through rubble while outrunning a hoard of enemies, you’ll be glad for everything you’ve learned. You’ll also get items to help you like a grappling hook and paraglider that will make traveling easy. These item and ability upgrades really help at night when Villedor becomes much more dangerous and challenging. The added challenge does come with boosted XP and loot, so you can weigh your daytime and nighttime risk: benefit ratio accordingly.
Shape the city and the narrative as needed
Another large aspect outside of the main quest is control points. Solving the puzzles usually results in equipping a building with a much-needed city resource, but you’ll need to decide who gets control of it. Remember the Survivors and Peacekeepers? They both want it, but you get to decide on who gets it. Your decision impacts play around the city quite a bit. Handing a building over to the Survivors will increase parkour features on the map, making your traversal easier. Handing it over to the Peacekeepers will net you more offensive features like turrets and traps for use against your enemies. So, depending on what you really need to happen around the city to make life easier for you, here are the opportunities to shape it in your favor.
Okay, I have to get back to the story here. I know I’m pretty down on it in general but there are some redeeming characters, moments, and some missions in Dying Light 2: Stay Human that help balance it towards decent. The lengthy cutscenes associated with them? Not so much. There are other expected story elements in play, like story missions where you’ll have to make decisions and take sides between the factions. If you are into the roleplaying aspect, then these are the decisions that will help Aiden feel more impactful in Villedor. These decisions will help balance out the lack of impact you might feel by turning over control points in favor of gameplay enhancements.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Stay patient. Stay human.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a good game, but it could be great. If you can survive the grind of the first several hours of the game, you’ll be rewarded with satisfying combat and loads of stuff to do. If you have been looking forward to this one, just stick it out.
- Dying Light 2 stream coming this Thursday via Twitch
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