I’ve had a lot of fun with Dying Light 2, mainly dues to its fantastic parkour platforming and engaging story that can be shaped by your in-game decisions. Those hoping for a terrifying zombie slasher will likely be disappointed, but the thrill of escaping a zombie horde by hopping from rooftop to rooftop ensures this is still an exhilarating action game.
- Parkour platforming is incredibly fun
- The open-world city is a great playground
- Your decisions shape the story
- Great cast of characters
- Combat is hit and miss
- Immunity timer will be divisive
- Not scary enough for horror fans
- Genre: Action role-playing gameDon’t expect Dying Light 2 to be a horror game, as it leans more towards the action RPG genre due to its heavy focus on platforming.
- Release date: February 4, 2022Dying Light 2 launches on the majority of platforms in February 2022, and will arrive on Nintendo Switch later in the year.
- Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S
With the undead roaming the streets, the best option for survival is to stick to the rooftops, allowing you to leap from building to building, and climb the tallest skyscrapers in sight. You wouldn’t expect a zombie game to feature one of the absolute best first-person perspective platforming yet, but here we are.
There’s even a day-night cycle in play here, with zombies becoming more hostile and dangerous at night, and hiding inside buildings during the day to prevent you from scavenging loot.
This may sound very familiar to those who have played the original Dying Light, but with a brand new story and protagonist, as well as a greater focus on action over horror, Dying Light 2 feels like a very different beast. After hitting the credits with 33-hours of gameplay under my belt, here are my thoughts.
- Simple yet engaging story
- Great cast of characters
- Your decisions have an impact
Dying Light 2 focuses on a new protagonist called Aiden, who is roaming the post-apocalyptic world in search of his sister Mia. A series of corny flashbacks show us that a barbaric scientist called Waltz conducted scientific experiments on both Aiden and Mia when they were young. The two siblings are eventually separated, with Aiden spending the rest of his life attempting to track down his sister, while also obsessively seeking revenge on Waltz.
This central story thread is pretty simple, progressing at a snail’s pace throughout the 30-hour campaign. In the meantime, Aiden finds himself embroiled with the conflicts of various factions in a fictional European metropolis, completing quests in return for information on Waltz’s whereabouts.
With the zombie outbreak occurring several years ago, survivors have begun to rebuild the city with towering windmills acting as the main source of power and a cathedral converted into a community hotspot that’s crammed full of families, traders and sketchy thugs. With a medieval vibe to the city, it feels like you’ve stepped into a fantasy game, akin to The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, and is therefore more memorable and less bleak than the majority of fictional post-apocalyptic wastelands.
The city is in the middle of a tug of war between the two factions: the Free People and the Peacekeepers. The former takes a communist-esque approach, with residents allowed a great deal of freedom and everyone sharing a similar status in the community. The Peacekeepers, meanwhile, are more militant, using tattoos to assign each member a rank in their clan and dressing in intimidating armour.
Throughout the story, you’ll be required to carry out missions for both of the warring factions, but you’ll eventually be confronted with consequential decisions that can be hugely influential on the success of each faction, as well as the fate of the characters involved.
This is where Dying Light 2 really shines, as it features a number of engaging characters, with contrasting personalities and beliefs. Developer Techland smartly staggered the introduction of each character, allowing you to develop bonds with each person before meeting the next. Some characters will join missions with you, while others will speak to you through a walkie-talkie at a safe distance from the zombies.
I genuinely cared about the fate of every character, making each story-based decision even more impactful. Of course, certain characters are willing to stab you in the back too, so sitting on the fence and being kind to everyone won’t necessarily prove successful.
- Excellent first-person platforming
- Stamina meter makes climbing a challenge
- Can unlock further abilities as you progress
Techland has done a great job of making this immersive post-apocalyptic world a memorable and visually stunning location, but it’s not just good to look at. The city is also a fantastic playground for your platforming parkour skills, as you scamper up drain pipes, vault off poles and leap from rooftop to rooftop as you traverse across the map.
Unlike the Uncharted or old Assassin’s Creed games where you could only climb up specific structures, Dying Light 2 seemingly allows you to grab any kind of ledge poking out of a wall or structure. But to ensure climbing doesn’t become too easy, Techland has introduced a stamina meter that depletes over time – spend too long hanging on the side of a building, and you’ll fall to the hordes of zombies below.
With limited fast travel options, you’re forced to spend a great chunk of the game moving between quests, but I enjoyed the free-running so much here that I never minded. You’ll also be able to unlock additional free-running abilities later on in the game too, such as wall-running and sliding under low-hanging pipes, which helped to keep the platforming fresh from beginning to end. The game also smartly uses the colour yellow to gently nudge the player in the right direction.
Dying Light 2 is split into two separate open-world maps. The first is effectively a suburb, with medium-sized buildings proving fairly easy to climb. Wooden planks will also bridge the gap between buildings, reducing the need for death-defying jumps. It’s essentially the ideal environment to hone your platforming skills, while still challenging enough to be enjoyable.
But progress the story far enough, and you’ll reach the centre of the city, which is full of cloud-piercing skyscrapers to increase the platforming difficulty tenfold. Fortunately, you’re given a glider at this point, which allows you to glide between buildings until your stamina bar hits zero. I really loved the decision to switch up the environments, preventing the open-world map from growing stale before the credits.
Techland clearly recognises that the parkour platforming is the biggest strength of Dying Light 2, as it’s included in a number of story missions, with a countdown timer occasionally testing your speed. These were my personal favourite missions in the game, even if they have little to do with zombies.
Of course, the parkour skills do blend well with the zombie encounters occasionally. If you’re spotted by a Howler zombie at night, a large pack of infected will start to chase you, with more powerful flesh eaters joining the pursuit as time goes on.
With so many zombies flocking your way, the best option is usually to run away and find the closest location with UV light protection. Mistime a jump and there’s a high chance you’ll be torn to pieces. However, I was able to escape most chases with ease, and there weren’t many consequences if I did fail since the auto saves are so frequent.
Techland’s decision to limit the use of the ultra-powerful Volatile zombies has also made Dying Light 2 less scary than its predecessor. There are still plenty of other powerful zombies lurking the streets, but they’re usually easy to avoid, especially if you forgo the experience points bonus and complete your objectives during the day.
Instead of the fear of a zombie snacking on your brain, the biggest reason to avoid the dark is the on-screen ticking clock that signals your immunity since Aiden was previously bitten by a zombie. Spend too long in the dark and you’ll end up turning into a zombie and encountering a ‘game over’ screen. While this feature does tie up with the story nicely and has seemingly been introduced to hype up the tension, it proved incredibly frustrating when trying to explore areas at night. Fortunately, you’re able to lengthen your immunity timer later on in the campaign, but I can still see it being a hugely divisive feature.
Dying Light 2 tries to make night-time ventures more tempting by making lootable areas more accessible, but I rarely found the loot worthwhile, aside from the odd chest that increases your health and stamina bars. Since you can easily avoid the jump-scares by sticking to daylight hours, Dying Light 2 feels more like an action-adventure RPG than a horror game – I didn’t mind that, but can understand the frustration for those who loved the horror aspect its predecessor.
- Hack-and-slash combat is simple
- Boss encounters are a low point
- Can craft both weapon and items with loot
When you’re not showing off your parkour skills, you’ll most likely be hacking and slashing bandits and zombies. I have to say that I found the combat to be hit and miss for the most part. Anyone who’s played The Elder Scrolls or Fallout should have a good idea of how the first-person combat works here, as a press on a controller’s trigger will see your character slash at the foe in front.
Techland has made it a little more complex, by adding in dodge and block functionalities, but the latter requires such perfect timing in order to execute a deflection that it was rarely worth the risk. You can also unlock more moves as you level up, such as throwing enemies aside and leaping in the air to execute a nose-crushing high-jump kick, although I found Molotov cocktails and standard melee attacks to be far more effective.
That said, combat still felt repetitive during my playthrough, with a small variety of zombie types, and human enemies generally acting the same aside from archers and axe-wielding brutes. There are a couple of boss encounters, but I personally found these to be the low points of Dying Light 2, as the enemies were either too slow to prove challenging or kept spamming the same attacks like an annoying Street Fighter noob.
That said, the combat’s animations are so satisfying that I still enjoyed most encounters. A slash with a sharp knife will chop off a zombie’s limb or even send their head flying – it’s just as gory and gruesome as you can hope for from a zombie slasher. Being able to modify your weapons also allows you to set foes on fire, which can blacken their rotten flesh like an overcooked pizza.
I enjoyed the ability to craft additional weapons such as Molotov cocktails and grenades, which also proved an incentive to raid cupboards for additional supplies. You’re also able to upgrade your crafting recipes to create more efficient weapons, health packs and lockpicks, giving the player a real sense of progression throughout the campaign.
I was slightly disappointed that you only get skill trees for parkour and combat though. Techland could have delved even deeper into the RPG genre by introducing more upgrades for the likes of stealth, crafting and charisma, but I also appreciate that Dying Light 2 has benefited from the intense focus on the free-running platforming.
Graphics and presentation
- One of the best looking games yet
- Supports ray tracing through Nvidia RTX
- Very few technical issues
I was really impressed by the visuals in Dying Light 2, with Techland opting for a bright colour palette to make it look far more eye-catching than the majority of zombie games.
Stick to the streets and you’ll see a grey wasteland with crowds of infected, but take to the rooftops and your eyes will be treated to vivid greenery, with plants and trees growing on top of buildings. You’ll even find survivors growing crops and tending to bee hives on the rooftops, creating a distinctive metropolis that will no doubt linger long in the memory.
The attention to detail is striking in Dying Light 2, with the flicker of an eye quickly showing the emotional state of a character and subtle props placed in a character’s room to provide an insight into their personality.
It’s one of the best looking games I’ve played yet, and that was only at a 1440p resolution with my PC. Dying Light is available to play in 4K on both consoles and PC, and even supports ray tracing if you own an Nvidia RTX graphics card.
I was also impressed by how few technical issues I encountered during my 33-hour playthrough. I did have to restart the game on two occasions after my character got stuck in the environment, but the auto saves are so frequent here that I never lost any progress.
Dying Light 2 features a co-op system that lets you play alongside a friend for the majority of the campaign. I was unfortunately unable to try out this feature during the review process. It’s also worth pointing out that there isn’t a PvP mode here, unlike the original game, although Techland has promised that unspecified post-launch content is in the works.
Should you buy it?
You want a great story and some exhilarating platforming:
Dying Light 2’s greatest strengths are its story and platforming. The former sees a diverse and likeable cast of characters, while Techland has somehow made free-running even more fun than decapitating zombies.
You want a really scary horror game:
Techland has toned down the horror aspect of Dying Light 2 to such an extent that I rarely felt scared when entering a zombie-filled building. There are still plenty of zombies here, but since the majority are pretty easy to hack to shreds, they rarely had me on the edge of my seat.
Dying Light 2 may be a zombie slasher, but it actually feels more like an action RPG than a horror game. Zombies are rarely difficult to take down (especially during the day) and your parkour skills make it fairly easy to escape a horde. But the excellent platforming makes up for the lack of jump scares, as leaping between rooftops and scaling skyscrapers are both challenging and exhilarating.
Combat isn’t the best I’ve seen, with floaty physics and small range of enemy types, but the variety of weapons and upgrades – as well as the gory-tastic animations – keep it fun right up to the end credits.
It’s the expertly crafted post-apocalyptic city and cast of characters that will linger the longest in my memory though, especially since you can shape the story via your decisions. I can’t wait to play Dying Light 2 again and see how events unfold with different dialogue options.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Tested on PC
Played for 33 hours to reach end credits
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Yes, Dying Light 2 is technically a sequel, although it has a completely new story and characters, so you won’t need to play the first to catch up on previous events.
No, Dying Light 2 uses melee weapons, bows and even makeshift grenades, but you won’t find any guns here.
You can’t drive any cars in Dying Light 2, with the game encouraging parkour for traversal.