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Dying Light 2 hands-on: Parkour in a post-pandemic wasteland

We went hands-on with Dying Light 2 and survived to tell the tale.

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In Dying Light 2, the zombies aren't the only thing you'll need to worry about, there are even rogue survivors who will fight to get what you have.
Techland

The original Dying Light made waves for its clever blend of parkour-style action and survival gameplay in a city overrun by zombies. It was a massive hit upon its release in 2015, becoming one of the defining zombie games of the 2010s. The sequel, Dying Light 2: Stay Human, looks to not only build upon the foundations of a fast-paced survival action game but kick things up a notch by letting you decide the fate of one of humanity's last remaining cities.

It's been some time since we've seen such a substantial look at Dying Light 2. Techland, like many game developers, hit COVID-19 related snags in the making of this sequel, which itself is set during a global pandemic. That irony is not lost on the game's creators.

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Dying Light 2 less of a focus on guns and more emphasis on close range combat with zombies and bandits.

Techland.

I got to speak with lead game designer Tymon Smektala about the challenges of making the game and releasing it during a time where the game's tone hits a bit different than expected.

"I don't think Techland's story is anything special when you look at the state of the industry, but I will say that all of us had to go through hard times," said Smektala. "It's been surreal working on this game during times of COVID, not just for the real-life issues that affected us but also because our game is about a large-scale infection spreading across the world. But I think we managed to get through development in good shape."

The popularity of the first Dying Light can't be understated. It was a game that managed to come out at the right time, riding the wave of different trends within pop culture. In 2015, open-world games' popularity was rising, The Walking Dead was TV's most-watched show, and a massive surge of parkour videos took the internet by storm. Dying Light fit into all three of those categories nicely, and it hit at the right time. However, its sequel, while still leaning heavily into the spirit of the original, will have more work to do. The plan: Make you a more active participant in an evolving world.

Much like the previous game, Dying Light 2 puts you in the role of an outsider in a city filled with infected humans, zombies essentially. The sequel is set 20 years after the first game, with the world falling into a dangerous new era called the "modern dark age." Isolated communities are now at odds as they scavenge for supplies, electricity is hard to come by, and guns and bullets are now rare tools that are almost mythical in status.

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Lawan, played by Rosario Dawson, is one of many characters protagonist Aiden Caldwell will meet throughout the game.

Techland

One of the more intriguing points of interest for Dying Light 2 was the setting itself. I got to explore one of the early game settings, meeting different side characters -- including the ally character Lawan, voiced by Rosario Dawson -- and it was interesting seeing just how eerie a setting a ruined European city can be. With the state of the world and the scarcity of resources, Dying Light 2 feels more like a post-apocalyptic thriller, but maintains the fast-paced parkour and melee-focused combat from the original. It's an effective blend.

There's a constant sense that you have to find resources and build tools to effectively fight against the hordes of the undead, and it's far more pronounced in this game. There's more focus on collecting armor and loot to deck out your character, which sometimes felt like busywork, but I appreciated the flexibility. It reminded me of an approach similar to Destiny 2, it's clear that Dying Light 2 is moving closer into the territory of a loot-driven game.

At critical moments, you'll be asked to make big decisions about which faction to side with, which leads to changes in the makeup of the city. In one instance, siding with the militaristic Peacekeepers led to more soldiers in one area, along with new gadgets and tools to use. Siding with another faction can sometimes have the opposite effect. It was difficult to see the differences from our short session, but these key choices potentially make for dramatic changes in the game's environment, which has me intrigued.

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Dying Light 2 totally embraces the style of a post-apocalyptic thriller.

Techland

Dying Light 2 feels on track to be a solid sequel, and getting to explore the rooftops and fight zombies with cobbled together weapons managed to hit right the beats. 

Dying Light 2: Stay Human will release on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and the Nintendo Switch via a cloud release on February4, 2022.