When it comes to games, originality doesn’t seem to be a very valuable trait. On both the AAA and indie sides of things, if something hits it big we’re going to see dozens of clones. Minecraft made some money, so now Steam is suffused with Early Access indie pixel-art and survival games. DOTA was big, so now there’s hundreds of basically identical copies floating around. Between DayZ and the popularity of The Walking Dead, it stands to reason there’s going to be quite a few zombie games shambling around out there, many as decrepit as their rotted inspirations.
Behold he latest in that shambling, carnivorous pedigree: Dying Light, another zomb-’em-up from the makers of Dead Island. The real shocker – this one might be worth your attention.
Dying Light stars you as secret agent Kyle Crane, a superspy sent into the zombie-infected city of Harran to retrieve a file folder containing dangerous information. Crane promptly takes the “super” out of “superspy” by botching his entrance and getting infected by the zombie plague. Now he has to balance his own interests with his mission and the well-being of the innocents he encounters.
He’ll do this by engaging in crazy amounts of parkour and zombie murder, of course. Dying Light is best described as “Dead Island meets Mirror’s Edge” – it’s so similar to the latter, in fact, the two even have similar control schemes if you’re using a gamepad. The emphasis on free movement an interesting twist on a very tired genre and it does a lot to make gameplay a little more palatable.
From the start, Crane is able to sprint around and clamber up walls; as you continue to parkour all over the place, you’ll gain Agility experience that can be spent on more advanced moves like slides, tackles and vaulting over enemies. Moving around is very fluid and you’re able to seamlessly link together your techniques in order to conserve momentum. Since the average Biter zombie is kind of dumb and slow, this is pretty much all you’ll need to avoid the hordes. More advanced types of zombie, such as the Viral, can do a better job of chasing you around and forcing you into a fight.
When it comes down to that, you’ll be glad you loaded up on some weaponry. Much like Dead Island there’s a strong emphasis on melee combat, particularly early in the game. There’s a wide variety of close-combat options available; you’re also able to use a simple scavenging-based crafting system to build upgrades for your weapons along with other consumables. Guns are also available and do an appropriately large amount of damage with an appropriately small supply of available ammo. Melee weapons degrade over time, eventually permanently falling apart, while you don’t need to worry about this with guns. Carrying a variety of gear, along with earning Strength experience and upgrading your stats, will help you stay alive when things get rough.
There’s a third type of experience as well – Survivor experience, which covers crafting and more general abilities and is earned by completing story missions and bonus quests. The story isn’t anything out of the ordinary, though it’s kind of neat to play as a secret agent in the typical zombie apocalypse setting. While it won’t blow you away with originality, at least there’s a ton of content and you can play nearly all of it with a co-op partner or three. Sidequests abound, largely of the fetch-this or kill-this variety, but fortunately the writing and gameplay are competent enough that you won’t hate your time fetching and killing.
Finally, a PvP mode is available called “Be the Zombie.” Originally this was a pre-order bonus, because this is 2015 and it’s completely acceptable to sell consumers an unfinished product unless they pay for it in advance. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, so now everyone gets this feature, which is how it should have been in the first place so no cookies for the devs. It’s a fairly standard invasion-type mode where invading players control a zombie with their own zombie skill trees; since this is a consensual mechanic, it’s anyone’s guess as to if you’ll be able to find a game to invade, and when you do it tends to be a little unstable. It’s not terrible for what it is. Zombies will have a hard time since they need to work up the zombie skill tree against enemies that will already have some skills unlocked, but it’s not overly frustrating. Still, it definitely merits a black mark on the game and the industry as a whole that the “pre-order only” aspect of this was even considered.
Dying Light looks and sounds fantastic, of course. You’ll need some fairly beefy hardware to get decent performance out of it and the game has some issues with multicore CPUs, but if your machine can run it you’re going to be impressed. The lighting effects in particular are noteworthy and look fantastic; as for the sound, it’s all in order and the voice acting isn’t too embarrassing. No complaints here.
Looking at the big picture, Dying Light is honestly a pretty decent game. Perhaps the best compliment I can give it is that it’s actually finished, and playable withouta myriad of bugs and glitches mucking up the experience; there’s tons of similar zombie games floating around, but most of them are Early Access cashgrabs. Dying Light offers a complete, enjoyable experience for your money. And tons of zombies There really aren’t too many of those combos left these days. Go for it.