Dying Light Is The Cure To My Dead Island Blues

As one of the year’s first major video game launches, Dying Light carries a heavy burden upon its decaying, zombie-infested shoulders. Going into the game myself, there were certainly mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. On one hand, here is an ambitious first person survival game attempting to bring something new to the genre. However, looking back a few years, I can still remember the bitter disappointment I endured when playing Dying Light’s original predecessor, Dead Island.

Although not a bad game in concept it seriously lacked polished, constantly stumbling over a network of game-breaking glitches. Personally, I became jaded with Techland’s survival horror series having been one of the unlucky few to have hours of progress stripped away from them courtesy of a particularly nasty glitch.

Watching Dying Light grow over time has somewhat helped to rebuild that trust. Backed by a new publisher and being able to reflect on past mistakes, the chances of Techland succumbing to the same pitfalls has always seemed implausible.

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Thankfully, having spent a few hours within Dying Light, my fears were mostly allayed. I say mostly because, in truth, the game doesn’t get off to a flying start. As undercover government operative, Kyle Crane, you are thrown right at the deep end. The city of Harran, infected by an unknown virus, is in a complete state of disarray, civilisation having gone out the window along with law and order.

As soon as Crane touches down, he’s set upon by zombies before being dragged to safety by a ragtag band of survivors. It’s a simplistic and fairly tame opening rendered even less memorable as players spend their first half-hour roaming a dull tower block and talking to various secondary characters. It’s likely just that this is the game making sure that you’ve got all the basics in hand before letting you loose on the world, and you do need to become accustomed to the game’s unusual control scheme, but with a zombie legion waiting to have their heads caved in, I felt justifiably impatient.

Thankfully, the stabilisers are torn away soon enough with Dying Light placing more and more freedom in the hands of players. Soon after reaching that magical one hour milestone, you’ll be free to explore Harran at your own pace, taking on side missions or simply exploring.

Without getting into too much detail, Dying Light carries a familiar albeit fun open world gameplay experience. When not jerking around and trying to kick zombies off ledges, you’ll be gathering materials to craft weapons and other gear while also earning experience. What I really liked about this progression system is the way it branches into three sections. Your primary survivor rank gets topped up as you complete tasks whereas the other two are specifically dedicated to combat and free-running.

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This twin focus makes perfect sense given how integral both of these are to the core game. Most battles against the undead are carried out using an arsenal of close-range weapons whereas navigation is done solely through a very smart parkour system. Having recently played through EA’s Mirror’s Edge, it was interesting to see how both games handled their free-running controls. Although not as skill-based or precise, Dying Light’s movement system felt more complex and grounded as well as being extremely accessible, allowing players to scale just about everything in sight.

So far it has been an enriching single player experience. However, throw in one or more chums, and Dying Light becomes immediately more fun, as I found while playing alongside TSA’s own Stefan. Aside from having partners to team up with, there’s the inevitable hilarity of slapping around helpless zombies or watching your friends fall to their deaths after mistimed jumps. What surprised me most is that Dying Light allows players to tackle the entire game online, whether exploring Harran freely or completing campaign missions. Granted, there seems to have been a slight issue with checkpointing when we broke up our matchmaking lobby, which we’ll have to investigate further, but it was still a fun and rewarding experience.

Dying Light has certainly overcome its first initial set of hurdles, yet the true test remains. Will players eventually run into game-breaking bugs down the line? More importantly, will it have the same appeal now that it does ten or twenty hours in? We’ll have the answers in our full review.

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20 Comments

  1. I really am desperate to get this and have been (annoyingly) tempted to buy this at the ridiculous PSN price. This article has only made me more impatient so cheers Jim!!

  2. Good article and highlights my reason for holding off. Dead Island lost me around 10-12 hours in and became very old, very fast. It was one of the very few games I have bought and never completed and that is my main concern with Dying Light. I will likely hold off until somewhere down the line and it appears in a sale.

  3. The difference between Dying Light and Dead Island is you actively try and avoid combat in Dying Light, which personally I found more tense and realistic. It’s more Walking Dead than Dead Rising, running round a corner at full speed and finding the entire road swarming with zombies is a proper “eek!” moment, you have to slam on the brakes and quickly look for some higher ground.

    • Do the missions become rinse and repeat as you level up though? That is often the issue I run into with a lot of open world games these days. Their is a level point where the game just becomes meh as the difficulty plummets and all the activities become varying shades of magnolia.

      • I haven’t played enough to comment on that, sorry.

      • I’ll wait for the review in that case. Having just played through Sleeping Dogs again I’m in desperate need of a new open world to fart about in.

    • Are you actually able to confront the hordes should you wish to (albeit likely being a silly idea due to wasting resources/health etc), or do you literally stand no chance at all?

      • You can definitely dive in if you have the right weaponry. Especially if you’ve tracked down the Easter Eggs. I noted a few people online finding the Excalibur Sword. It’s amazing!

      • Ah, nice one – Cheers Mike.

        I thought that might be the case (with better equipment/weapons etc) & I believe that you can up your stats through gameplay which would probably make it easier – I didn’t know if you would just get annihilated if you charged headlong into a pack shouting “who wants some?”.

      • I think they’ve found a nice balance of you finally getting that weapon built (that you’ve had your eyes on) and it lasting only so long. There’s a feeling of empowerment (in the daytime) where it’s a bit more “COME AT ME, BRO!” but the night time is still frantically scary. Love it. :-)

  4. This has been out on digital for over a week and im struggling to find a single review.

    • There are few reviews around now but the blame for a lack of reviews lies solely at the door of the publishers who sent out review codes literally 12 hours before release. Bonkers strategy by WB but a slight improvement of Shadow of Mordor.

    • Also, to my knowledge its only been out a couple of days. Since Tuesday I believe.

      Granted, I would have expected to see more reviews by now myself, but its a tad of an over exaggeration to say its been out over a week.

      • As sorry, i assumed it came out last Friday as thats when games are normally released.

      • Yeah, usually you would be correct for the UK, but it came out in the US on Tuesday (which is usually their release day) & available for download the same day I believe, which were actually the only two ways of getting your hands on it.

        Unfortunately, the boxed release for us UK dwellers has been pushed back to about this time next month. :(

        But yeah, you should start to see some reviews pouring in shortly due to that (& what Tef said in terms of late review copies).

        Personally I am really looking forward to it after the short segment I played at EGX a year or two back, but was not prepared to spend £60ish on the download or faff about getting myself registered on the US store. I’ll just wait.

    • It’s been out since Tuesday in the US but review code was only sent out very shortly before launch. Reviews will start popping up over the next few days, and I think EG have posted theirs today, but there’s simple reasons of time being against us in general to get something out quickly.

      You could consider this post to be our “review in progress” first impressions of the final game, but we’re aiming to play a lot of the game co-operatively to really sample both sides of what it can be like.

      • Yeah i read today that they only just sent review copies out. Thats sucks but it seems to be the way the industry is going. I really enjoyed Dead Island, and from what i have read and seen this game looks to be quite good so im not sure why they wouldn’t want reviews going out.

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  6. I loved Dead Island but am somewhat tentative about Dying Light after playing Riptide. That game was completely broken for me, to the point where I was wondering if it my PS3 rather than the game. The whole thing ran at a terrible frame rate, stuttered constantly and frequently froze completely.

    I’ll be waiting for reviews and a physical release but this article definitely helps allay some of my initial concerns :-)

  7. I’m nearly 8 hours into the game and boredom hasn’t set in yet. The combat is tense and messy which makes it all the more fun. I spend most of the time just running around the rooftops anyway, it’s fun!

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