Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
After years in development, Techland’s sequel to it’s parkour based zombie survival RPG is now here. Because sometimes saving the world isn’t enough to protect it from human greed, the world as we know it is now gone and within that zombie infested madness is a man looking for his sister while unfortunately getting wrapped up in everyone else’s affairs while trying to find her.
Starting off on a bit of a disclaimer, Izzy and I played through the original Dying Light last month in full co-op mode and enjoyed ourselves from start to almost finish. While completely action packed and often nerve wracking, the scripted ending didn’t fit as well as the rest of the experience. That said, it was a pretty action packed adventure from start to finish which had us excited for the second that was only about a month away at the time and Dying Light 2: Stay Human does not disappoint. That said, this review is all about the single player experience with our co-op impressions to come.
There are many areas in which this review could start off from the gameplay and the graphics over to the menus and weapon customizations but I’ll start with perhaps the #1 thing that stood out as time went by. Aiden. No, not the vampire from Being Human US, but our protagonist and depending on how you choose to play, our hero. The original starred, for lack of a better word, an asshole named Crane. Unrelatable and generally just in it for himself whether it was for a mission or for a girl he “falls for” after getting her brothers both killed, he just sucked.
Aiden on the other hand, you have a bit more choice in how you approach the situations. At times, even if you need to be hard handed, you can soften the blows a bit or just be the good guy as he generally comes off as a decent human being which is big in a world like this one where everyone else is pretty much in it for themselves AND generally unpleasant to strangers. This is also a bit of where Dying Light 2 takes off as more than its predecessor in that there’s an embracing of the RPG genre in more than just the leveling up mechanics. It’s in the choices you take to advance the story. Do you side with one group over the over? Do you lie about what you found out or tell the truth? Where do you draw “your” lines and how do you decide what’s right and wrong? Adding to the icing on the cake is that sometimes you’ll have all the time in the world to evaluate your pros and cons.
Other times? You only have fifteen seconds.
These fifteen seconds however can seem nerve wracking in deciding what to do. Your gut tells you to do one thing as you’ve built relationships with some of these people while your mind is telling you that they are bat shit crazy and that maybe, just maybe, your gut is wrong. In either case, you’ll soon see the outcomes of these decisions as you have no choice to live with them and potentially the broken promises coming back to bite you in several places later down the line.
So it’s within these choices that you get to see this world that you find yourself in. Set story wise about twenty years after the events of the original, the outbreak is no longer in a city set under quarantine. Instead, because scientists couldn’t leave well enough alone, they not only managed to find a cure to the original virus creating the zombie apocalypse, but enhanced the damned thing causing it to blow out of original proportions spreading to the entire globe. Starting off in the lush wilderness, you’ll soon find yourself back in the close quarters of a city ravaged by the apocalypse and those still living within it.
This is another area where Dying Light 2 shines over its predecessor. While there were a lot of tight buildings and plenty of ways to parkour in the first, it all felt far removed from the ground level unless you REALLY had to go down there. If you were on the ground? It felt like you were doing it wrong. The second feels much more natural as even in even shorter parts of the city where buildings are two or three stories tall, there are wide roads with lamp posts and other objects to climb or jump onto for safety. In these cases, from the starting zone into the more open area where the districts open up, it doesn’t feel wrong being on the ground if you want to be, and if it is? You’ll eventually have a paraglider to take flight!
This is perhaps one of the larger shifts and to quote Izzy, “Dying Light was a zombie survival with action elements, Dying Light 2 is a action game with zombie survival elements.” To be fair, I didn’t really notice it at first as I was rather engrossed in my surroundings but as the hours went on I realized that she was right and it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a bit more of an adjustment to your approach and I’m glad that some of the systems were adjusted in consequence.
While some systems make their return such as separate leveling trees and skill points for combat and parkour, the third survivor skill tree has been done away with in favor of being able to inject yourself with upgrades to your health and your stamina. With this approach, there are several things out of the gate that are just a lot easier to manage such as how many weapons and items you are carrying with you instead of having to constantly worry about whether to go back to a hideout and store some gear or drop items that you’re carrying when you know you’ll need them soon enough.
The types of skills have also changed and reflect the new world that players will find themselves in. Parkour abilities for example while they’ll still allow for faster movement and being able to slide under objects while running will also now allow for players to run across walls and drag themselves onto a ledge even if their stamina runs out. While seemingly super stacked in that department at the beginning, it won’t take long for you to realize just how well you had it once it’s taken away from you.
Combat abilities now range from some neat tricks while performing perfect dodges and blocks against enemies. Slowing down time, these allow you to parkour over your enemies and kick another one right in the face and if you time it well enough, his buddy as well in basically leap frog attacks. Dodging will give you the opening you need to retaliate and not worry about your enemy having their guard up but if they do? There are ways around it like kicking them in the shin or bull rushing them straight off of a building.
It’s fun but it leads to an area that may be a bit harder for some to adjust to, the weapons themselves. Weapons in the first could be repaired a few times before finally having to throw them away. Weapons in Dying Light 2 are simply “use them and throw them away” once the durability hits zero. Using MMO terms, regardless of White, Green, Blue, Purple or Orange, once that durability hits zero, it’s gone. While regular weapons can be found here and there especially amongst flower and honey harvesting spots, you’ll need to do quests or outright buy new weapons of better quality from vendors in various parts of town. At least higher quality weapons can be upgraded a bit in order to either last longer or at least pack more of a punch as to not use as much durability when hitting enemies.
Playing on normal and exploring the world to see what’s out there will both be a detriment and a blessing to your weapon stock. It’s a detriment as you’re going to have to use a lot of them in order to get past some of the infected hordes to get what you want especially if you end up making loud noises by accidently setting of propane cans. Exploring will also be a blessing as you can find loads of loot that can be sold off at a premium allowing you to buy those better items that can be upgraded and kept around longer. It really depends on where you are out and exploring within the city’s districts.
If there was to be one disappointment with weapons on this adventure is that you cannot simply pick up those of the enemies you have defeated. While this is not normally an issue when dealing with the infected as they are coming at you tooth and claw, the humans of this world that would bash your head in, they have gear, why aren’t they dropping some more loot. Often their weapons, even if they would be of the regular kind, would go a long way to make sure that I don’t need to worry about my fancier gear until I absolutely have to if I want to keep on living.
With all of this in mind, it was moving through these broken and “empty” streets fighting for my life, running along the tops of buildings overgrown with grass and wildflowers, seeing the sunset and the sunrises that Dying Light 2 is simply gorgeous. I often just stopped to take in the view whether in the middle of the day or night where I really should be a lot more careful as to where I’m stopping to take in the view as unlike the original Dying Light where Crane had to worry about story based booster shots in order to not turn, our protagonist Aiden will turn into an infected if he stays in the dark too long.
This shift brought plenty of new elements to the table and were often not ones that I was even considering at first until I saw that I had no choice if I wanted what these challenges held. Following along the lines of Dying Light, nighttime is where the worst of the monsters come out to play as they no longer need to worry about being burnt to ash by the sun. These hideouts however often contain a lot of amazing items such as the boosters to increase your health or your stamina so you’ll want to go in there while the going is “safe”.
Obviously going into these hideouts has its own set of worries such as how long can you actually stay down there without things such as UV lights or medications to stave off the infection alongside what’s actually still down there. If that already wasn’t bad enough and you were actually properly prepared, your immunity not only drops at night, but, depending on what’s in the air the infection rate can even speed up even faster. This makes things pretty rough as some of the medications on hand last an extra fifteen seconds instead of a whole lot longer which changes just how “brave” you were planning on being with a scary ticking clock in the top middle of your screen.
All of these elements just came together and it was easy to blow an entire weekend in this post apocalyptic world running past or through zombie hordes. Leveling up just increases the craziness of your stunts and as you move through the story some of the new gear just changes things drastically like being able to take to the skies with a parasail or unlock fast travel points in to not always have to run back to key locations. But more on that once we come back for Dying Light 2: Stay Human – Better with a partner.
As a bonus to the PS5 version, which others on the PC or the Xbox will not have, are that the adaptive triggers have been configured to harden as your stamina depletes. This was often what I would consider a blessing in combat as I could keep my eyes on where I was swinging and not have to lower them to where my stamina bar would be seen depleting. It really helps to keep you in the action, making me think I should get paddles for the back of my PS5 controller like I have on my Xbox Elite Series 2.
In a few short words, Dying Light 2: Stay Human surpassed my expectations. For those that have been on the fence as to whether or not make a return to this world after the first I would highly recommend it. Combining the fast paced parkour features of the first in a world that allows you to take it at your own pace was a great combination that I’ll not soon be leaving as I continue through my version of the journey wrapping up side stories left behind.Score: 9 / 10