Impressions with pictures here, review will be amended when I finish the game: http://gamewalkers.com/games/dying-light/articles/dying-light-impressions/
It was a bit hard to be hopeful about Dying Light. You see, I didn’t like Techland’s last zombie effort, Dead Island, all that much. I found it tedious and repetitive. The crafting system was cool but combat was quite a drag. I actually disliked it to the point that, when I originally saw early Dying Light footage, and it looked a bit like “Dead Island with grappling hooks and parkour,” I dismissed it, thinking that it would retain the overwhelmingly tedious combat that was present in Dead Island, only making getting around easier.
After about four hours of play, I can honestly say that I could not have been more wrong. Dying Light, while still presenting combat that takes effort, has removed the tedium by quite a bit. Sure, you won’t be killing zombies in one hit with a pipe but you certainly aren’t going to be watching yourself chip away at a zombie’s health bar while his friends attempt to overtake you the way that Dead Island and its semi-sequel did. It’s challenging, it’s fluid, and it really feels like you’re fighting something that has a fair chance of killing you if you aren’t careful.
This is helped quite a bit by the fact that the game provides mobility that I didn’t expect in combat, in addition to outside of it. In Dying Light, you can sidestep and backstep, as well as sliding at zombies, possibly tripping them, kicking zombies can send them flying if done right, or maybe just knock them down, you can bound over zombies that you’re fighting...the entirety of combat has been built around the idea that you’re a guy that would possibly want to get around fast. It’s not always about killing the zombies but, perhaps, just making sure that you have enough time to escape their grasp.
And escaping will be an absolute joy, at that. Once you’ve kicked them down, or killed them if you actually had the chance, you can leap and bound over almost anything you can see. If you can see and reach a ledge, you can climb it. It is pretty much that simple. To say I was astounded at the sheer amount of scenery that I could scale wouldn’t cover it. The game rivals Assassin’s Creed’s openness while providing less automation, giving the player the utmost control over their actions. Even dropping down from one ledge to another, a simple action made extremely complicated in many games, is made extremely simple in Dying Light.
Amongst all these great mechanics, you will be spending a lot of time scavenging, though. It is a post-apocalyptic game through and through. Resources for crafting medkits, amongst other items, will be crucial to survival. Simply bounding over enemies won’t always cut it. Eventually, you will slip and fall, or you will need something from a vendor, and, if you haven’t been scavenging, you might be screwed. Sometimes, you may even have to pick locks. The game uses a lockpicking system similar to the Elder Scrolls series, only a bit more forgiving. I was honestly a bit surprised that a system like that was used and not one based more on luck.
This is alright, though. Getting around is easy and scavenging is made easy by “Survivor Sense,” which is essentially a short-range radar for lootable items. If that weren’t enough, if you play in co-op, the game provides “Competitions,” such as collecting the most loot in a specific amount of time or doing the most damage to a larger zombie within a specified amount of time, that you can sidetrack to keep yourselves busy during a long bout of scavenging. Scavenging may be necessary but the game does everything in its power to break up the monotony of running from house to house, collecting things.
Speaking of co-op, it actually works rather well. For the first time in ages, there was no discernable lag during a co-op game, with one of the people being on the opposite end of the country from the others. I don’t know if they use some sort of lag smoothing techniques or something similar but they did rather well hiding even the slightest hint of lag. Every player’s movement is incredibly smooth throughout. It also doesn't hurt that they included in-game VoIP that worked without any extra setup.
It’s also well-designed in terms of gameplay. In addition to the Competitions mentioned previously, players can also sacrifice medkits to heal each other, as well as reviving downed allies. Players can rest easy about their loot, as well. Each player can loot each loot source independently. Zombies, lockboxes, cupboards, you name it; each player gets a separate set of loot from each. This is exceptionally welcome as the resources for critical items, medkits even more so than weapon repair materials, are scarce enough to begin with. Imagine four players fighting over a single player’s medkit resources. That doesn’t sound all that enticing.
I wish that, at this point, I could talk a bit about the story but, put simply, four hours into the game, I still have no idea what is going on. All I know is that you’re undercover, attempting to get back some stolen file, and some of the local residents are less than reputable. The cast seems rather well-balanced personality-wise and I have yet to meet a character that felt boring or out of place, other than those that don’t talk at all, but the fact of the matter is that, four hours later, I still don’t have any idea what is going on in the city of Harran. It gives me a bit of hope, though, that the game will be lengthy and the story rife with commendable plot twists.
Now, I’ve said quite a number of words about my thoughts on Dying Light after four hours of play but the most important of them come down to this. If you had told me that the first game of the new year to suck me in for a four hour first play session would be a zombie game, I probably would have laughed at the notion. From the outset, Dying Light exceeds all expectations and creates an experience that is genuinely fun and well-designed. It remains to be seen what will happen once my character has been upgraded a bit more but I am more than hopeful that it will only become more entertaining from here.