It’s been seven years since Techland took us from Dead Island to the world Dying Light. The highly anticipated follow-up Dying Light 2 Stay Human is here but does it leap over its predecessor? Yes, it does in many ways.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human keeps the same energy from the first game but adds a bevy of fresh additions to take the sequel to another level. Players take control of Aiden Caldwell, a pilgrim or a runner, who basically navigates through the city carrying out tasks for people afraid to traverse the dangerous world now infested with zombies thanks to a virus unleashed by the GRE (Global Relief Effort), the antagonistic entity fans of the first game will remember. After learning the GRE wasn’t looking for a cure for the Harran virus but instead weaponized it, the world has fallen into the modern dark ages as the virus raged on.
What’s left of humanity now populates The City, the last stronghold for survivors who now live on rooftops to avoid flesh-eating creatures while trying to live some semblance of normalcy. Also, as an added twist, everyone is infected with the virus but staves off turning by staying in UV light and wearing a bracelet that monitors their infection levels. Aiden, a mysterious figure trying to piece together his past at the same time searching for his lost sister, gets entangled in a battle for control of the city that your actions can determine.
A Massive World
Right from the start, The City’s massive size can be overwhelming to your relatively weak character at the time. Unlike most games that have large worlds, one thing is Dying Light 2’s world is never a dull moment. Even though the dead primarily roam the streets, it’s teaming full of life. Oh, and there are human bandits, aka The Renegades, you also have to worry about.
There is also plenty to do in the game. Techland revealed that it would take about 500 hours to complete the game, later clarifying that it only takes 20 hours to beat the campaign. The 500 hours referenced the game’s side quests and full city exploration. For our review, we went straight for the game’s campaign that sees Aiden taking on numerous missions giving you a taste of the different side quests you can embark on.
Players will be tasked with activating windmills that become safe zones. Powering up electrical stations, turning on radio towers, clearing out the infected from metro stations allowing you to fast travel, and other side quests from individuals you meet at different locations.
When we did embark on side quests, we were happy to see Techland did an excellent job of bringing variety to the missions because normally, in games like this, they tend to feel a bit repetitive. That was never the case while playing Dying Light 2. You will also have to explore the city to find weapons and gear that can be customized and upgraded. Players can find better parts and mods by hitting certain locations at night, but that’s when the world of Dying Light 2 becomes even more dangerous, offering you a bonus for killing infected and navigating the city during the treacherous nighttime hours.
Dying Light 2’s world is both a beautiful and terrifying place as the haunting screams of the infected fill the night streets while you traverse across rooftops trying to them.
Your Decisions Matter
One aspect of the game Techland really emphasized is choice. Your decisions will determine who you side with and who will control the city. Aiden will meet two factions, the people of the Bazaar and the Peace Keepers, the de facto law enforcement of the zombie apocalypse.
Aiden can start out doing a mission for the Peace Keepers, but once you reach the goal, you could be hit with a choice to either complete the task as instructed or go a different route affecting that established relationship. For example, one mission saw us activate a radio tower and gave us a choice to either let the PK control it or return control to a character named Frank so he can bring back his radio station. Players will also be in charge of how resources like water and electricity are spread among the people of the Bazaar and Peace Keepers.
When you assign control of either a water tower or power plant to one of the factions, you unlock perks like bomb traps or well-placed trampolines to help you get around. Many times, our decisions came down to the final second because we couldn’t choose immediately out of the fear of the implications that would impact the game later.
Techland’s decision to include choice in the game to help push the campaign’s story was a great decision to keep it from suffering from the same issues that Dying Light’s campaign endured. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the great performances from Rosari0 Dawson, Nolan North, and others who did an excellent job bringing the characters from Dying Light 2 to life.
The Infected Are Even More Dangerous
The infected are much more intelligent and even more dangerous than before. Not only do the infected look more terrifying than before, they now benefit from an evolution cycle that will see the infected evolve and change based on certain circumstances. Like in Dying Light, it’s not the infected in the day you have to worry about, but the ones that come out as soon as night falls.
Players will encounter many different types of creatures. There are the Howlers whose scream signals virals to chase you, Revenants whose mist empowers other infected in the area, the volatile who you should avoid at all costs, plus other new different creatures that will make your life a living hell.
We also have to mention the new crowd system that will have you encountering bigger hordes that act even more dynamically and have you jetting back to a safe zone to get under some UV light.
Parkour and Combat
Parkour is back and is still your most effective tool to avoid the infected and scale the new primarily vertical environment. While parkour brings a fun element to the game, especially after leveling up your skills, it can be frustrating because one fall can spell doom, especially before you acquire critical items like the grapple hook in the first game, the new paraglider.
Combat is smooth is but still clumsy, more specifically early in the game. You will find yourself sometimes forgetting to parry attacks from the infected and Renegades, but when you do remember, it’s such a clutch feature that makes fight situations fun. We only wished Techland included an optional lock-on feature becuase it can be difficult trying to focus on enemies when you’re surrounded.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human takes all of the fun elements from the first game and delivers an even more polished RPG-like experience. The intense, heart-pounding action is still there, especially when a Howler spots you and initiates a chase sequence. It can be just as terrifying as you explore a building while you are trying to avoid waking up sleeping infected and roaming Volatiles.
Thanks to the addition of choices, the campaign is very enjoyable, and you give a damn about the characters you encounter throughout the game. Even the map is massive, the game does not suffer from dull spots, and there is plenty to do and search for to strengthen your character. The sidequests are not repetitive and, in most cases, just as challenged as the campaign missions.
Our only complaints about the game are the parkour controls, which can be frustrating at times, the lack of the lock-on targeting system, and some minor graphical errors during cut scenes. Outside of the game, the game runs smoothly in either performance or visual modes.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is not a masterpiece, but it’s definitely a great game to help kick off what is going to be a big month for video games. Fans of the first game should love this game as it addresses many issues gamers complained about, while if you missed out on Dying Light, Dying Light 2 Stay Human would serve as a phenomenal introduction to the franchise.
Photo: Techland / Dying Light 2 Stay Human
*Review key for Dying Light 2 Stay Human was provided by Techland and reviewed on Xbox Series X.*
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