If there’s one game that I don’t think there’s enough love for, it’s Dying Light. Techland’s first person zombie slayer/parkour simulator was so much fun because the controls were pitch perfect, rewarding scavenging system, meaty combat, and a non-cosmetic day/night that significantly impacted gameplay. Being stuck outside at night, far away from UV traps that keep the hungry undead at bay was a real lesson in tension and terror as the urban environments became a stomping ground for stronger and deadlier creatures. What felt like a hard reset of concepts introduced in Dead Island, Dying Light easily ranks high on my list of top games this generation.
Getting hyped, then, for a sequel was a no-brainer. At last year’s E3, I sat through a hands off presentation that focused on an improved mobility system and a stronger emphasis with player decision making. With different factions trying to take control of the city in their own way, the player character is forced into positions where their choices have a dramatic effect on the landscape and the people trying to survive inside it. 2019’s E3 gave me another chance to see more of a game I’m hotly anticipating, though I was sad that the latest build was another hands-off demo for a game that won’t be released until next year. *quiet sobbing*
This year, Techland showed off more parkour and how player choice can affect the world on a character level. The demo begins with a crisis: a portion of the city is on the verge of running completely out of water unless some sort of deal can be made with a figure known as The Colonel. A parlay between two factions, one military based and the other scavengers, hesitantly agree to assist with a mission to sneak in (or burst in, guns blazing) to the Colonel’s campaign and get water flowing through the aqueduct again. Things go bad almost immediately, as random thugs attack and gravely wound one of the NPCs, forcing the player to choose whether or not to pursue the attackers as they make their way back to the Colonel’s compound. Our presenter chose to follow the van and, to skip ahead, we discovered that by not seeking out medical help, the wounded NPC died.
As one of the Techland devs followed the van across the city, it was a good opportunity to show off free running by hopping across rooftops, fences, and hallways to maintain pursuit. As this part of the city was heavily occupied by the undead, we were shown some creative ways of dealing with them while still running, jumping, and climbing which made for an exhilarating show. It may have been scripted but it was wild to see the player drop kicking zombies out windows, grabbing one as you fall out a building and use its body to break the fall, and accidentally stumbling into a nest of undead creatures in a pitch dark basement. UV is still an effective tool to hold back the horde and this time around, you’ve got a small, portable flashlight that’s useful for gaining a little breathing room.
We eventually caught up with the Colonel’s van and instead of killing the driver, the player held a gun to his head to force him to continue the trip home. Sparing the driver means getting inside the compound and sneak past the guards. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know the series of car honks needed to get inside. Because the driver was a live, if somewhat skittish, we got inside the Colonel’s base largely harm free and arrive md in a large pump room. The Colonel, in all his mysterious glory, appears and tries to negotiate on a mutual outcome, suggesting that the player character was being played by one of the factions. Again, this was another opportunity to choose where the story goes and for this demo, the presenter turned the water back on by force after fighting his way through a small army of goons.
If we didn’t turn on the water pump, then the story could get dark as people look for different, more violent means to get water. In the case of our demo, the Colonel’s men were defeated and the water pumps were turned back on, delivering water to the masses. In a game about consequences, there has to be a catch, right? The activated aqueduct flooded water out from an entire section of the city previously unseen. We were told that this new area is now available to explore and has its own set of questions, challenges, and enemies. A final cutscene showed the police faction staging an assault on the Colonel’s compound and the reveal of a frightening new type of zombie. We won’t know how the decision can affect the rest of the game until the game is released next year.
And I can’t flippin’ wait.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.