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Dying Light 2 review: Cutting the mirror’s edge
The light dies better the second time.
Dying Light 2 review
Dying Light 2 feels like one of those games that’s been so delayed it’s a surprise it’s actually coming out. Rewind to E3 2019, and I was fortunate enough to be in a crammed hands-off preview session that fully sold me on the vision for the post-apocalyptic sequel. As a fan of the original game, warts and all, it was incredible to see how much developer Techland had built on the foundation of Dying Light.
The devs were even cool enough to release a version of that dev play-through from E3 2019 a couple of months later. As great as it was, it’s best forgotten and definitely not best sought out because some of the scope of that trailer has clearly been watered down for the release version of Dying Light 2. I think.
That’s the impressive thing about Dying Light 2: even after 40+ hours of gameplay, I wonder whether the parts of that 2019 gameplay section that seemingly didn’t make the cut are still possible in the world. The game takes place around 20 years after the first game, where you play as all-new protagonist Aiden. He’s a so-called Pilgrim who, like Jules Winnfield, walks the Earth.
As far as I can tell, the prologue and epilogue (which is explicitly called an epilogue, despite being the climax of the story) are quite similar between in-game narrative choices. But when I compared story notes with a fellow reviewer, it turns out our experiences in the middle chunk of the game, a stretch of about 20 hours of gameplay, were sometimes really different.
David Cage games are loved or loathed depending on whether the player can see behind the curtain of which choices matter and which ones are lies that lead us to believe they matter, but Techland truly seems to have gone all in on empowering players to make different choices and, more importantly, rewarding you with a real impact on the world.
But that deeper beneath-the-surface stuff wouldn’t be as impactful if the core gameplay wasn’t as addictive as it is in Dying Light 2. Outside of a bevvy of story missions, side quests, random (totally ignorable) encounters, and a whole host of other truly tempting distractions, Dying Light 2 boils down to two key pillars for its gameplay loop: parkour and gore.
After a while, open-world games tend to lead to the kind of fatigue that makes players seek out that faster mode of transportation, be it horses, cars, planes or fast travel. But in the rare times that I fast-travelled in Dying Light 2—part of a system that first must be unlocked—I felt like I was cheating because the free-running is incredibly addictive.
While it definitely feels light on to start with, especially for returning maxed-out parkour pros from Dying Light, the familiar and new mechanics elevate the free-running with every unlock. The tech tree has been simplified somewhat this time around, with the survivor points gone and a split between parkour and combat. The only difference is you get to boost strength (health) or parkour (stamina) whenever you find three inhibitor needles.
Initially, I thought this would gatekeep upgrades and necessitate an even sharing of combat and parkour upgrades, but you can get away with just doing the first few levels of each, then fully focusing on the one you like most. While having extra health certainly helps in some of the more crowded, tougher brawls, the added escapability of basic combat upgrades and enhanced parkour skills made getting in and out of fights a breeze.
The more you level up, the more you start to play with your prey. From about halfway through the game, I felt like I was choreographing a John Wick zombie spin-off, fluidly shifting between foes and brutalising them in satisfying ways. The original game featured melee weapons that broke too easily, zombies that took way too many hits early on and human enemies who could block when you could not. That’s fixed in the sequel.
Weapons break far less frequently, to the point where you really have to exclusively stick to a melee weapon to ever see it break. But Dying Light 2 is so generous with weapon drops, conveniently matched to your level (or near enough) that intrepid explorers find new options all the time, and I never felt the need to get too attached to any one death-dealer. You can block against human foes, and a well-timed block opens the flailing foolish foe for an easy counter.
More importantly, you don’t feel the need to grab every plank of wood you come across just to have something to hit zombies with. Dying Light 2’s combat system is like a simplified take on Chivalry, where getting into the swing of things means targeting particular body parts: taking a zombie leg, literally disarming a human opponent or a brutal decapitation to end a brawl.
As satisfying as the combat is, it’s the parkour that truly shines, meaning you’ll often want to leg it. There’s a parachute that you get relatively early on, but I would have preferred if it was swapped with the grappling hook which, again, comes too late in the main campaign. Dying Light 2’s grappling hook in default form is more Tarzan than Batman: Arkham City, but there are upgrades to improve it.
The thing is, those upgrades are tricky to get to. Tricky as they are to find, they’re also part of some of the most fiendish and rewarding parkour puzzles that Dying Light 2 has to throw at you. It’s telling that amid the satisfying almost exclusively melee-focused combat (there are bows and the odd shooting weapon), the level I loved most was scaling a building with my newly acquired grappling hook.
I was trying to stick to the main path as much as possible, but it’s almost impossible to only focus on the main story. There are so many interesting things to do, heaps of wild characters to meet, and so many great rewards (big and small) for exploration that Dying Light 2 is the kind of open world game that rewards the patient player keen to methodically clear an area.
That’s not to say you can’t just stick to the main path, get through the core content and not have a good time, but there’s a real joy in jogging around the world and discovering new things to do. Co-op wasn’t available during the review period, and while this would usually disappoint me, instead, it means that Dying Light 2 offers immediate replayability, shared with a friend or three as I explore new narrative choices and missed side quests.
Techland supported the original Dying Light for six years after it released, and with a pledge to support Dying Light 2 with five years of updates, this is the kind of game that has the potential to be as popular years down the track as it is at launch. Ultimately, Dying Light 2 is the first big release of 2022, and it’s absolutely worth your time.
Here are the best prices for Dying Light 2 in Australia
Dying Light 2, mercifully, bucks the trend of being one of those $100+ games, with a console RRP of $99.95. You can find it cheaper on console, last-gen and current-gen, for $69 delivered from Amazon. Expect to pay around $89.95 for a digital copy of Dying Light 2 on platforms like Steam.
|See it at Amazon|
|JB HI-FI|| |
|See it at JB HI-FI|
|EB Games|| |
|See it at EB Games|
|See it at Steam|
|Epic Games Store|| |
|See it at Epic Games Store|
|PlayStation Store|| |
|See it at PlayStation Store|
|Microsoft Store|| |
|See it at Microsoft Store|
Dying Light 2 FAQ
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Dying Light 2:
Dying Light 2 does have co-op, with support for up to four players. The prologue section of Dying Light 2 is single-player only, but everything outside of that is reportedly playable in co-op, including the epilogue. You can even vote on narrative choices, though the hosting player gets the final say.
- Smoke Grenade
- Impact Grenade
- Scan Mine
- Recon Drone
- Body Armour
- Revive Kit
- Stun Grenade
- Glue Grenade
- Ammo Satchel
- Fragmentation Grenade
- Field Wall
- Scan Grenade
- Explosive Harness
- XR Recon Drone
- Nitro Cell
- Paralysis Grenade
- Arc Mine
- Recon Vapor Device
- Anabolic Accelerant
- REACT Laser
- DirectX 11: 115fps
- DirectX 12: 125fps
- DirectX 12 (no upscaler): 83fps
- DirectX 12 Ultimate (max ray tracing settings): 73fps
- DirectX 12 Ultimate (max ray tracing settings; no upscaling): 51fps