Dying Light is Techland’s latest foray into the world of zombies, and with The Following expansion pack now out, it’s time to see if it holds up.
First up, the gameplay. Dying Light is well-known for its free-running, and it works very well. Climbing buildings and running through streets and across rooftops feels smooth, fluid and seamless transitioning between them. Occasionally it bugs, where the game won’t allow you to grab onto a ledge, but this is only an occurrence in the expansion. Other than this, it works perfectly.
The AI is good, though has its bugs. Zombies react almost realistically (assuming that can be said about zombies); they react to noise, and go into full on attack mode when they spot you, lunging forward, but if they don’t, they shamble around, stumbling over ledges and low walls. Virals and Volatiles, on the other hand, are fast and deadly. Volatiles have thick armoured skin, but are weak to UV light, requiring you to switch to your UV flashlight and keeping it on them at all times. It adds a unique change to the gameplay, alongside the other various special infected. However, similarly to the free-running, the AI also have their own bugs, be it the sudden erratic movement of the zombies glitching, or human AI doing similar. Despite these, the AI is sound and usually holds.
Driving was added in the new expansion, and feels beautiful. The buggies handle well (unless off-road), feel good to drive and smash through zombies like a knife through butter. I was initially cautious about the added driving, but Techland have done well.
The graphics in the game are absolutely beautiful. The city of Harran looks incredible at night, with pillars of smoke rising from buildings, and the swaying grass in the expansion. The zombies are very detailed, with wounds and blood splattered all over them, and weapons coating in blood when dug into a zombie. Techland have definitely nailed the graphics, and given an amazing looking game.
Combat is entertaining and enjoyable. There are two types of weapon in the game; melee and ranged. Originally, the game focused more on melee combat. due to guns being the main ranged weapon. Guns made lots of noise, and in the tight city streets, guns were a death sentence in the form of Virals. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the melee weapons felt powerful and hit hard, with zombies (and humans) losing limbs and being ripped in half. Guns, on the other hand, didn’t feel too good. They felt almost like shooting a water gun, and were about as strong as them.
Since the expansion, new guns have been added, and due to the size of the area, the combat focus shifted to ranged, with the additions of a crossbow and bows (ignoring the one from the Bozak Horde dlc). The guns still feel weak, but the bows and crossbows feel good to shoot and watch arrows and bolts fly through the air.
The story quests feel fun and draw you into the world and the lives of the survivors. You run jobs for the survivors in the Tower, and you find yourself beginning to CARE about the characters, from Jade and her brother Rahim, to the Tower leader Brecken, to the old doctor Zere. Of course, this is a zombie game, and eventually everything goes to hell, and it gets even worse in the expansion. The main quest for both the base game and the expansion feel like an epic struggle against time, as you fight off the infection and look for a cure.
The side quests are also fun, and offer various different missions. One quest sends me hunting down some chocolates and a videotape for a survivor’s mum, another sees us clearing out a building of bandits. It’s nice to have variety, and not be forced into doing them.
The expansion, on the other hand, does force us to do them. In order to progress to the next story quest, we need to increase our “Follower rank”, which determines how much the locals trust us. To increase this, we’re forced to complete the side quests so we can progress. While they’re interesting, using them as a way to progress the story isn’t always a sound move.
The online side of the game is where the fun really shines. Players have a choice between co-op (three players join someone just to play around and help the host in their own game), or PvP. PvP revolves around one player, the Night Hunter (a super zombie), invading another player’s game and forcing them to take out the Night Hunter’s nests, while the Night Hunter hunts the humans until their lives are gone. It adds a very tense and often terrifying experience to an already terrifying game, as you hear its roars in the distance and it suddenly grabs you. Both modes in the base game work smoothly and without much lag issue.
However, the co-op mode in the expansion needs fixing. Due to the sheer size of the area, on consoles it has to cope with a lot of activity, and it leads to extreme frame drops. Not only this, but it often either kicks you from the game, or simply crashes the whole game when a new player joins. So far I’ve only found this happens when you join someone ELSE, but it is something that definitely needs fixing.
Overall, Dying Light is the zombie survival game we’ve been waiting for. The free-running gameplay, engaging and emotional story, and the terrifying PvP, makes this a definite purchase. Despite the various bugs and issues, the game is a must have, and earns an 85%.
Gamers Pantheon Score – 85%
– Solid gameplay
– Beautiful graphics
– Engaging quests
– Fun combat
– Exciting online
– Various bugs
– Serious lag issues
– Forced side quests