Highly anticipated zombie survival horror Dying Light 2 is finally here but does it deliver on the promises it made?
What do you need to know
- What is it? A post-apocalyptic open-world zombie survival horror/action game.
- Reviewed on: PC - Ryzen 5 3600, Radeon RX 6800, 16 GB RAM, NVMe SSD
- Developer: Techland
- Publisher: Techland
- Release date: February 4, 2022
- Available on: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
Dying Light 2: Stay Human, the sequel to Techland's zombie survival thriller Dying Light, is finally out after many delays and more than five years of development. Will Techland be able to breathe new life into the tired zombie genre, or will this be just another zombie game?
In Dying Light 2, you take on the role of Aiden Pearce, a "Pilgrim" who has been separated from his sister since childhood. Aiden embarks on a quest to find his sister but becomes infected shortly after following a lead which brings him to the Villedor city, which becomes your first open region to explore.
After almost getting hanged to death in one of the settlements in Villedor, Aiden meets faction leaders who are willing to help him on his quest but as always, all of them want something in return.
From that point, Aiden's goal of finding his sister will intervene with the needs and wishes of the local faction leaders and other characters. Aiden's choices will have a major impact on the story, characters, world and ultimately the ending so it's all about finding the right balance as you're trying to get to your lost sibling.
Villedor is home to a variety of factions fighting for dominance and believing that their final answer is the best. The city is far from a boring playground, with life and the undead on every corner - from the free folk Bazaarians, the police-like group Peacekeepers, to hostile outlaws Renegades.
Working for these organizations can be uninspiring at times, as you'll usually be assigned to mundane and monotonous tasks such as cleaning specific places and rescuing survivors from brain-dead zombies.
The story itself is okayish. It's certainly nothing breathtaking but it's not terrible either. I feel that the choices I've made didn't really have that much of an impact on the story and the world, at least, not as much as Techland promised in one of those early trailers.
While the story did not impress me, I loved some of the characters, and the relationships that you can build with the people you meet, though, not all of them, not even close.
Their personal stories also vary from disturbing, sad and shocking to lame and generic. I've spent a fair amount of time completing quests related to these characters in order to build these relationships to see if that would affect their opinion of Aiden but ultimately, nothing really mattered much, not in a way that would dramatically alert Aiden's relationship with them.
Where choices actually matter is during linear story missions where you'll get a chance to choose between doing things in a certain way and helping a certain group, but I find this to be a downgraded version of the true "choices matter" idea that got lost somewhere during the development of Dying Light 2.
The gameplay is very similar to the first game with a couple of neat additions. Various zombies are still the main threat and you'll have plenty of tools at your disposal to fight them. Travelling the city during the daylight is still your safest option but the game has an interesting mechanic where it offers different events and opens up different locations once the night falls.
When cornered, the good old UV lamp comes in handy as well as various safe houses across the city.
These especially help if you trigger a chase, which is basically self-explanatory - attract enough zombies and a horde will start following you until you can find safety or become zombie food.
Travelling during the night is a high-risk high reward concept and will give you more bonuses and experience than daylight traversal. Killing zombies and human enemies and parkouring will reward you with experience points in the respective skill trees.
With enough experience points, you unlock skills that expand Aiden's ability to reach new locations, be more effective in combat, faster and more agile in parkour and survive longer.
Most of these skill points are actually helpful and you'll want to get some of them as quickly as possible. I like the idea of having a smaller number of skills where each skill offers something meaningful rather than having a bunch of unexciting ones that serve more as a filler than an actual noticeable upgrade to Aiden.
One of the biggest strengths of Dying Light 2 is found in its world and parkour. Running around the city, jumping from one roof to another, using various poles, windows, chimneys and other objects is a highly satisfying experience from the get-go.
As you unlock more parkour skills, the traversal becomes even more enjoyable allowing you to jump across wider gaps, reach higher ledges and drop down from high places without dying.
Weapons and weapon upgrades are cool too. You can add various mods to weapons that have at least one mod slot. Mods buff your weapon with various types of damage - fire, electricity and so on, which can be a massive advantage when battling groups of enemies.
My favourite one is the electricity since it can bounce from one target to another, which results in a big chain reaction light show.
Just like in the original, the weapons will break after prolonged use, especially the low-level ones. Better weapons from the purple or yellow loot tier are more durable and can smash plenty of zombies' heads before breaking.
But it's not all buttery smooth when it comes to Dying Light 2 parkour and combat. Bugs and glitches can sometimes ruin the otherwise great fun.
For example, during my playthrough, I've fallen to death numerous times since the game sometimes fails to understand where you exactly want to jump or which ledge you want to grab.
Given that parkour is a vital part of the game, these small bugs can ruin the fun of free-flowing traversal, which I really enjoyed.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Dying Light 2 is quite the looker with some unusual flaws. First off, if you have capable hardware, we suggest you try pushing for those high frame rates which give the parkour a totally different dimension.
I've managed to get frame rates beyond 60 FPS on High settings and 1440p resolution and my experience was mostly fluid without major frame-rate drops.
However, with ray-tracing turned on, my GPU struggled to achieve playable 60 FPS so AMD FSR and lowering some settings came to the rescue.
Speaking about ray-tracing, Dying Light 2 is one of those games where turning this fancy option can be a game-changer for visual fidelity.
Dying Light 2 looks stunning with ray-traced global illumination, lighting and shadows but it's quite heavy on the GPU as expected.
Without ray-tracing, locations can look bland without proper light bounce and shadows but this only becomes truly noticeable once you see some of these locations with the full set of ray-tracing.
Having played both with ray-tracing on and off, I choose higher-frame rates all day long.
I've mentioned that the visual side of the game has some flaws and those flaws are probably down to some engine restrictions and optimisation. For example, you'll notice that roof tiles are just a simple, flat texture, without any tesselation and some foliage also looks questionable.
Though, it must be said that the world is huge and packed with detail so it's understandable that the devs had to make some important design decisions which resulted in some underwhelming visuals.
Music is excellent as well as sound design. The soundtrack can help create tense moments during chases or some linear missions. On the other hand, some voice acting is poor and disappointing which is odd for a game that puts huge emphasis on characters and story.
Dying Light 2 is an improvement on the original in almost every way despite not being the game that we've seen several years ago. Some of its promised features feel downgraded but overall, it's a well-structured title with a stunning open world that is packed with detail at every corner.
If you're looking for fluid gameplay, satisfying combat and a massive city to explore all while turning zombies into mush, but don't care much about the story elements, we wholeheartedly recommend Dying Light 2.
How we reviewed Dying Light 2:
We were provided with a PC copy of Dying Light 2 by the game's PR agency. We've spent 40+ hours playing the game on the Normal difficulty.