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Dying Light 2 (Xbox Series X/S) Review

February 15, 2022 | Posted by Stewart Lange
Dying Light 2 Image Credit: Techland Publishing
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Dying Light 2 (Xbox Series X/S) Review  

The long awaited sequel to Techland’s 2015 survival horror hit is finally here and changes enough to both estrange and attract fans in equal measures. Set 22 years after the original game, we find ourselves in Villedor, after the Harran virus spread betong control and destroyed 90% of the worlds population. You take on the role of Aiden, a pilgrim who travels to the city to find his long lost sister Mia but quickly gets caught up in a conflict between the many factions within the city.

The plot has multiple threads you can follow as your actions throughout the game can close off certain avenues with other factions, or ways to complete the main quest line. While I’ve not been able to complete multiple playthroughs to see just how dramatially this affects the outcome of the game, I do feel like a lot of the decisions I had to make either felt light and inconsequental, or I didn’t have enough of an investment levels to care about my decision either way. The option and feeling of control, however deep does make you feel like you’re in control of the story and since I’m sure it’ll force me through another playthrough just to see, it seems to have done it’s job. The RPG options feel fairly light too. You have two skill trees to level up, combat and parkour, and while you can unlock these based on your progression, there’s not really any need to leave anything out. Every branch of the tree will require unlocking to fully complete the game. With that said, with an estimated completion time of 500 hours, a number quoted by Techland themselves, I don’t know hw many people are going to dedicate all that time to seeing everything the game has to offer. This number has been refined to around 20 for the main quest and 80 for all side quests and collectibles, which feels much more in line with a AAA title. The amount of side activities had me checking at one point to make sure Ubisoft weren’t involved in the development side of things.

The game feels much different in tone to the first title, as my first impression was that it didn’t feel as scary, or tense as it’s predecessor. My feeling didn’t change throughout my time either, with health, weapons and safe zones never feeling in short supply. Even dying mid-mission doesn’t cause you to lose much progress either, with you respawning within the vicinity and your progress largely intact- meaning that while it’s still easier to avoid fighting hordes of the undead, there’s little consequence in trying and failing either. The day and night cycle which made the first game as tense as it was seems diluted too. I remember panicked sprints to the safe house in the first Dying Light, barely making it back in time from the chasing enemies. While the zombies are a little more awake at night here, aside from some specific encounters (which the game warns you of), I never found myself in much peril at night. At this stage I felt like the horror element had been taken out of the horror game.

Not all is negative, however. The largely melee based combat does feel really smooth, with the weapons feeling satisfyingly different as you switch from blunt to blade. Don’t expect gunplay, though. Shockingly guns and ammo are hard to come across 22 years after the end of the world. At no point did I miss it, as the crossbow seemed to lend itself more to the combat scenarios I encountered. Likewise the parkour feels smooth and realistic, which is good as it will take up the majority of your time in Dying Light 2. While there were points I wish you snapped to surfaces a little more, like in Mirrors Edge, for example, this concern only lasted until I unlocked the grappling hook which made the parkour much more forgiving. By this stage you should have also unlocked a significant amount of upgrades to the skill, meaning you can fly around the city with relative ease. It’s rewarding enough to stick with the game until you have these abilities.

Graphically, the game looks fantastic. Playing on Xbox Series S, I didn’t experience any notable graphical bugs or glitches aside from a couple of NPCs spawning within what should’ve been their draw distance. Whether this was luck or the speed the game plays at I’m not sure, however I’ve nothing negative to report on my playthrough, although I am aware there does seem to be performance issues at least in early versions of the game. From high points I felt I could see the full scale of the map, with buildings looking decidedly derelict after 20+ years of nature taking back over. One criticism would be regarding the zombie character models, as I don’t feel there was masses of variety. Sometimes clearing out a room or area would see you defeated 2 or 3 identical zombies, which does take you out of the moment somewhat. The same can be said for a lot of the NPC characters, both bandits in enemy camps or the people you interact with. Aside from a few notable story characters or the one who is unmistakably Rosario Dawson, there aren’t any side characters that really stood out to me. While this doesn’t detract from the game, it does mean that after my time with it I’d struggle to give you much in the way of plot aside from a few key bullet points.

A few extra points I’ll touch upon would be the crafting system, which remains largely unchanged from the first. Unlocking blueprints allows various weapon upgrades or consumables, like health packs, immunity boosters or mods. While there is a nice amount and they do feel different enough, I was personally guilty of settling into 2 or 3 that I liked and sticking with them. Likewise with consumables. With the exception of lockpicks and the aforementioned health and immunity packs, I found most other things needless. Thankfully the ability to change up your playstyle will mean this should vary from player to player. The factions in the city also means there’s a region control mini game, with you being able to assign zones to the factions. While this starts off simply, with it allowing for extra ziplines to be hung throughout the area, or increased car traps to help with the dead, favour one side too long and certain areas are as dangerous above ground with humans as at street level.

While Dying Light 2 does what it sets out to extremely well, I can’t help but feel like people aren’t going to find it scratching the same itch as the first. This one feels much more aimed towards action and story than horror and survival, which is fine, however I feel like that’s not what people are looking for from it. I personally preferred most of the sequel, though. The stress level being dialled down slightly led to me feeling like I was seeing and experiencing a lot more of the game than I did with the first. For me this led to greater immersion and more incentive to keep going and play through the game. I realise that many people are going to be disappointed in there being a bit of a change in direction but I really don’t feel like it’s so drastic as to estrange everyone. It looks great, plays well and despite a few niggles, I had just as much fun with Dying Light 2 as I have with a AAA title in some time.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Despite a lot of the survival and horror aspects being removed from the survival horror sequel, Dying Light 2 serves as a robust and extremely fun entry to a bloated genre, with the exceptional parkour letting it stand out from the crowds both in the open world action and zombie genres. While the story and voice acting leaves a lot to be desired at points, the core gameplay itself is strong enough to more than make up for these shortfalls. If this had come out last year I'd have been considering it as my game of the year, but we need to wait and see what 2022 brings to see if this is forgotten or holds up.

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Dying Light 2, Stewart Lange