It’s a common theme, the world is in danger of being overrun by mindless zombies. The outbreak is held at bay by a quarantine trapping both “biters” and survivors alike. The survivors band together into two groups, Runners and Bandits. And so it goes, the conflict between the living and dead as well as between the living and the living.
You play as Crane, an agent of the Global Relief Effort (GRE) dropped into to the writhing hell hole that is the Harran ona mission to secure a file from the leader of the Bandits, Rais. Early on in your campaign you’re befriended by members of the Runners faction that are lead by Brecken, a parkour instructor who’s trained his followers the art of fancy jumping and climbing to keep them one step ahead of the zombies while they scrounge the city for supplies. You’re almost immediately welcomed into the fold by the runners after coming to the rescue of one of their members. Soon you’re asked to go on missions, after a bit of fancy running and jumping about training, which are comprised mostly of fetch quests and dungeon crawls. Being a typical modern city though the dungeons of Harran are comprised of sewer tunnels and the corridors of high-rise apartment buildings. Eventually the Runners need antizen, a drug that’s used to prevent infected survivors turning into flesh eating monsters, from the Bandits and you’re volunteered to broker a deal. Of course the bandit leader is a charismatic psychopath who’s against any deals that have a potential to be fair. Rais orders you to run errands for him, reneges on his deal and a recipe for conflict is concocted. Through the course of the story you grow attached to some of the Runners and their wellbeing soon becomes your primary concern. Personally I found the story formulaic and the NPCs do what they always do, ask you to do favors for them. There are plenty of side missions available but I spent 19 of my play hours focused on the story missions alone.
The open world first-person gameplay of Dying Light is like something Dr. Frankenstein would have dreamt up. The developer essentially spliced together elements from several triple-A titles. Movement is reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge, your ability to run and jump and climb is indispispensible in traversing the city. Dungeon exploration right down to the lock picking mechanic is highjacked from Skyrim. There are several locations in the open world map that can be cleared and made into safe houses similar to Far Cry(unfortunately there are no zombie elephants). There are a lot of other features of Dying Light that are cherry picked from other games but overall they are implemented rather well. Your weapon load out can run the gamut from water pipes to hatchets to rifles. All the weapons can be upgraded to enhance their effectiveness and all behave rather different. Blunt objects will crunch and rebound as you’d expect and slicing weapons will cleave ever sosatisfyingly when upgraded properly. The gun play is a hot mess, right clicking R3 will allow you to aim down the sight but if your hungry opponents get too close you’re better off switching to a scythe and decapitate them before you’re overrun. Besides the mindless zombie drones there are some more deadly variations. Some are faster, some are stronger, some explode with little notice and others will spew green toxins at you from several yards away. In some cases it’s well advised to stick to the roof tops when running from place to place. It’s the best way to navigate the open world while the undead try their best to gnaw on your heels . When you get to the dungeon sections avoidance is less of an option but it still pays to be cautious. Melee fighting drains stamina so having a quick route of retreat to catch your breath is good practice (a la Skyrim).
The sound design and graphics are very well done. Besides a bit of open world jank this is where the game shines. I played about a third of the game with headphones on.The sounds of screams, moaning, feet shuffling and the horror music is nerve racking when you’re playing at night, in the dark, with a bit too much rum in your system. There are jump scares in the game but they are fairly well spread out so when they do happen they are effective. Also when they don’t happen you feel kind of foolish. The city of Harran really looks like an outbreak has taken place. Besides the fidelity of it all, abandoned vehicles, buildings and lunches all appeared to have been turned upside down right in the middle of life. The architecture of the city proper and the “old” city are well varied and provide a beautiful landscape from a distance when your zipping down a zip-line. Walls with blood streamed hand prints, boarded up doors, improvised booby traps and graffiti messages to other survivors depict the the gruesome struggle between living and dead. It’s a beautiful mix of metal, concrete and organic matter that you wish you had more time to explore if you weren’t being hounded awful day and gruesome night. Oh the night! When the sun goes down, you can’t see more than a foot in front of you and ultra violent zombies come out to shred you to pieces. You do get a stat boost for operating in the dark but unless you’ve leveled your weapons and character you might not make it to the morning in one piece. Furthermore, while this might sound morbid but I was very impressed with the level of detail that went into rendering severed body parts. Under close inspection you can see clearly the sinew, bone and marrow of the recently re-deceased. Anatomically, I’ve never seen another game that is its match. It may be something that goes unnoticed by most but if you do play this game, examine your slain, it’s awesome.
To reiterate, it took me about 19 hours to complete the story and there was still a lot of side missions that I didn’t get to and miles of landscape of hidden treasures that I didn’t fully explore. This game is a loot and leveling junky’s wet dream. There’s a lot of real estate to mine for swag to upgrade weapons and endless fodder to max out your character. While obviously not necessary to complete the story, if you’re into collecting this game has extra value. If you’re looking for an intense and deep story with revolutionary gameplay mechanics you should probably look elsewhere.