Dying Light 2: Stay Human expands and improves on its winning formula
- Developer: Techland
- Publisher: Techland
- Release date: 4th February 2022
- Genre: Open-world Adventure, Looter
- Platforms: Xbox One/Series XS, PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
- Reviewed on: Steam (RTX 3080 16GB, R9-5900HX, 32GB DDR4-3200)
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Dying Light 2 Review
Zombies and Parkour.
It’s such a simple premise, but it works so well. Take an expansive open world, cram it full of zombies to smash, and give it arguably the best movement system to have been put into a game, and you get Dying Light 2.
The story behind Dying Light 2 Beyond Human may not be the most cerebral, but I’m really enjoying it. The voice acting is pretty decent throughout, and although some characters are a bit forgettable, there are some memorable villains (everyone hates Barney). There are also some engaging side quests that go beyond basic fetch quests, allowing you to make some moral decisions and feel like it’s your own story, but these are joined by fun one-shot activities like parkour challenges, where you have to dash from checkpoint to checkpoint and find the fastest route across the rooftops.
I particularly enjoyed the missions with puzzle elements, like finding and connecting cables to restore power to a building. Whichever mission or quest I was doing, though, it kept me engaged and interested in what was going on and fleshed out the game world very well. I like the randomised activities, too, which range from survivors needing to be rescued from bandits to special infected that you have to hunt down and kill. They can be ignored if something more pressing is going on, but it all helps fill out the world and make it feel more alive.
Many missions have choices to make that affect both the available main and side missions, as well as the overall story beats. Although some don’t make a huge difference to how everything plays out, it still feels like you’re making big decisions. It’s a tricky thing to pull off but Techland has nailed it.
If you see Dying Light 2 through to the end there are a few different endings based on choices you make, which gives Dying Light 2 replay appeal. Techland is, hopefully, going to be bringing out a new game + mode (a much-requested feature from fans), but at the moment, if you start a new game you’ll be going from scratch.
The game world is, as you’d expect in a zombie apocalypse, derelict and run down, but it still has visual appeal, as there’s a huge amount of foliage growing on and around buildings as nature takes back the city. The aesthetic has shifted in Dying Light 2 from the gloomy, dreary and overused post-apocalyptic collection of dulled colours and shades of grey we normally see to a bright, colourful and vibrant palette. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, I love the almost cartoony vibe. When you throw in ray tracing and ramp up the visual quality, the overall effect can be breathtakingly gorgeous.
It’s also a surprisingly good looking game even if your PC has more in common with a potato. The art style still works well without all of the detailed textures and fancier effects, and aside from some irritating jaggies at lower resolutions, it’s still immensely playable. Both FSR and DLSS support is available, with DLSS offering the best balance between FPS and visual quality, but for those without Nvidia GPUs, FSR manages to squeeze out enough frames to make it smooth, albeit at the cost of making some far distance objects look a little smeary.
The map itself is very big, with plenty to do, and it’s an absolute blast leaping from building to building, shimmying up drainpipes and plunging from rooftops to dropkick enemies off ledges. They’ve been very thoughtful with the design; Traversing the world is huge amounts of fun, and it’s possible (and advisable) to cover most of your journey without ever touching the ground. It’s kind of like a giant game of ‘the floor is lava’, but where the lava is actually flesh-hungry zombies trying to eat your brains.
There is an excellent use of verticality in the level design, and there are lots of buildings with interiors that can be explored, exteriors that can be scaled, and some interesting unique locations, but I’m still a bit disappointed at how much asset reuse there is. You’ll frequently find the same buildings popping up in streets and on rooftops. We’re not just talking similar, either, these are the exact same things in a different place, with trashcans and bags to search in exactly the same places. You can sort of excuse it for a game of this scale, but it still feels a bit cheap when you see the same assets time and time again.
As much as I’m disappointed by seeing the same out-buildings, I genuinely don’t care, because the parkour is so goddamn fun. I can’t say this enough, the traversal mechanics are awesome.
In addition to the basic climbing actions and super smooth mantling, upgrading your stamina unlocks epic parkour moves that can be chained together giving you remarkable freedom of movement. You can use wall runs both on horizontal and vertical surfaces, and with the right upgrade, you can even chain these together. It’s not exactly realistic, but it’s fun as hell.
You can tell a major focus was on making getting from point A to point B as entertaining as possible. There are zip lines all over the place, crazy airbags that launch you into the air, these big punching bag looking things that you can grab onto as you throw yourself off a roof and use to cushion your fall, and even a paraglider and grappling hook. It’s completely over the top, and I love it for it.
I love the little movement buffers they’ve added, too. If you are a little bit off with a jump towards a ledge you’ll still grab it if you’re a little bit away from it. It does a really good job of giving you the illusion of thinking you’re a parkour master and disguises the frequent helping hand it gives you.
Sometimes you can’t (or don’t want to) run, and that’s where the combat comes into play.
As varied as it is, combat can be a little awkward at times; Most often you will be fighting groups of enemies, and they have an annoying tendency of trying to surround you. Because the field of view is quite narrow, this means you frequently get attacked from off-screen, hampering your ability to counter or dodge incoming attacks. Despite this, hacking zombies and other humans into pieces is simple but fun and has vastly improved since the most recent update.
Ragdolls, which were infrequent and a bit lacking, have been improved in both appearance and frequency, and enemies now react more realistically to not only your weapon type but also where you hit them. Smacking someone with a big heavy blunt weapon can send them flying, whereas if you whip out a lighter, bladed weapon, you can literally hack pieces off them and sometimes even chop them in half. They have also increased the blood splatters a lot, making it much gorier, but in a fun, Splatterhouse kind of way.
Most of the weapons you find can be modified with some cool effects, too. Electro and flame mods are amongst my favourite; some have a timer between uses and can unleash a big flame blast, whilst others activate with critical hits. It all adds up to a great variety of ways to dispatch your foes: Spears you find lying around can be chucked for effective one-hit kills; Big Red Barrels™️ can be ignited and used to blow up large numbers of enemies, made all the better when you throw down some meat bait to lure a group of zom’s together; spike traps are dotted around the place for you to punt enemies into, and drop-kicking enemies off rooftops never gets old.
Character models are a mixed bag, though – the faces generally look very good, however, I found the animation of the bodies to be a bit stiff, repeating similar motions and not having the fluidity you’d expect. There’s plenty of variety in the NPCs, but the human enemies seem to be a bit cookie-cutter, both in appearance and the way they attack. The zombies have more variety but again suffer from slightly repetitive attack patterns. This is of course negated by the variety of attacks at your disposal, so it’s only a minor complaint.
Day becomes night
Dying Light 2 uses a very clever day/night mechanic. During the day, there are far fewer zombies outside, but the indoor locations, which are home to the best loot, are chock-a-block with infected.
Exploring buildings is where the stealth elements come into play, and it’s implemented quite well. There are loads of zombies sitting around having a nap that, unless you make a load of noise or bump into them, will generally ignore your passing. Accidentally trigger a fight, though, and it can get messy very fast. That’s why you really don’t want to go into buildings in the daytime, as one wrong move can spell death pretty fast.
Comparatively, running around during the day is quite peaceful. The zombies you do encounter are shamblers and don’t put up much of a fight, and it’s fun for sightseeing and exploring.
The night is a whole other animal – the streets are packed with infected, and your torch, although bright, only lights up a small area in front of you – not to mention it gets the zombies’ attention. You are also far more likely to encounter special infected outdoors at night, such as Howlers (that get zombies to chase after you until you find a good hiding spot or reach a UV safe zone), and a big bastard nemesis looking mo-fo who tries to smash you with his sledgehammer like appendages.
It’s not just the encounters that change at night, either. In the world of Dying Light, everyone has the virus, and the only thing stopping you from joining the ranks of the undead shamblers is UV light. At night or in the darkness of buildings, you have a countdown meter that tracks your level of infection and can be measured in a few scant minutes early in the game. Let the meter run down, and you’ll turn into an infected. This does a good job of ramping up the pressure early on; without any aids, you’ll be rushing to UV soaked sanctuaries dotted around the map, often making it with zombies in tow and with mere seconds to spare.
As you progress further it becomes less of an issue, though, as every health and stamina upgrade prolongs the time you can spend in the dark, and you can use the plentiful UV mushrooms, glowsticks or craft boosters so you never really feel that concerned, as long as you don’t get caught out mid-battle.
If you have a mission that requires it to be nighttime or you want to free the streets of zombies and switch it back to daylight, you can rest in a bed in one of the many safehouses. This also doubles as a game save trigger, which is helpful, as it’s the only way I know to reliably save your progress.
Why is this important? Not to beat around the bush, but the save system sucks – during normal gameplay there is no clear indication if it has saved your progress or not. For the most part, Dying Light 2 is very generous with its auto-save and checkpoints; if you die during a mission, you can respawn at a nearby safe house or often get put right back just before you died.
Where it becomes a problem is when you’re just running around exploring. If you haven’t hit any autosave triggers you can travel a long way and find some cool loot, but you’ll have no idea of whether your save covers your recent expedition. The only foolproof way, then, is to find a bed and rest in it, which can mean backtracking away from where you want to be. There’s also no way of loading a previous save, so if you make a mistake or get trapped by a glitch, you can’t just revert to a previous point in the game. Techland has said it is working on improving the save system, which is much needed in my opinion.
Patch to the future
Like most big games nowadays, Dying Light 2 Beyond Human launched with a few bugs. Some minor, some potentially game-breaking. There have been several patches released which have addressed the most egregious of them, but considering the scope of the game, I was probably lucky to have only encountered two significant bugs. I experienced a couple of very minor glitches, such as interactive items like bricks and bottles floating just above the ground, but this was relatively rare.
The worst problem I experienced was during a mission, where I had to activate an elevator; There was a switch to press to activate the lift, but it didn’t do anything – in order to fix it, I had to climb inside the building, jump up on a pipe and clip through the ceiling spamming the interact button to hit a separate switch.
Of the many other reported issues, most have been patched now, but alongside these fixes, Techland has also made other balancing adjustments and QoL changes, some of which have been better received than others. The new brutality update in particular has significantly improved the combat, allowing enemies to ragdoll more frequently, and you can now lop off limbs much more easily than before.
Conversely, some changes have been met less favourably; The grappling hook nerf has upset a lot of players, and the endgame changes have made it harder to acquire high-level items. Hopefully, Techland responds to players’ concerns – they have proven very responsive to fans’ requests, and with their five-year plan of support, it’s likely they’ll want to retain as much of their player base as possible.
There’s a mod for that…
Dying Light 2 has been proving very easy to mod, with hundreds of mods available to use. Some of these are flat-out cheats, such as infinite health and stamina and OP weapons, but there are others that work well in favour of the player without ruining the spirit of the game. Heck, some even make it harder, increasing the number and strength of enemies or limiting the height of your jump.
I’ve played the majority of the game vanilla, but I have installed a couple of useful mods. One removes some of the more dramatic visual effects which can give everything a reddish hue in bright sunlight and creates unrealistic over-applied highlights and light reflections. It’s a relatively subtle change but makes it much easier on the eye.
Another mod I have enjoyed is one that keeps objective markers on-screen without having to spam survivor sense. It’s only a small change but I find it’s made the game flow better for me.
Outside of those that I use, there are some other great mods. I was using one that improved ragdolls (which I no longer use since the brutality pack update), but other mods specifically sort out some of the problems people have had. Take the grappling hook, for example. Players complained about it being nerfed, but already a mod has been made that restores its pre-patch functionality. Want to go a step further? There’s a mod that essentially turns you into Spider-man.
If you want to mod Dying Light 2 to make it super easy, we won’t judge, but for every mod designed to make you a superhero, there are plenty more that make the game just that bit smoother to play or can tailor it just the way you like.
Better with friends
I’ve been having a great time playing Dying Light 2 in co-op, and have had no issues joining my friends. Not everyone has had such a smooth run, unfortunately. There are reports of various glitches cropping up, like the day/night cycle becoming stuck or people just straight up unable to join anyone.
I can only review based on my own experiences, though, and I’ve had no co-op specific problems. Running through the world with a friend is so much fun, and I love that the game dynamically increases the encounters dependent on how many players are in your party. I’d have liked an option for actual game progression to carry over to those joining the game and not just the host, but I imagine it being tricky to implement. You do, however, get to keep any loot and XP you find whilst in someone else game, so you always feel like you are making progress.
An exception to the host-only rule for progression is the Inhibitors – if you find them in another player’s game, they will be replaced by a med-pack or other high-end consumable instead. I understand this from a game design standpoint, as it stops people just farming easy to find inhibitors indefinitely.
Dying Light 2 takes what was established in the first game and expands and improves on it in almost every way. There are some purists who won’t like the more exaggerated jumping abilities and more vibrant colour scheme, but for me, the slightly over the top look and feel has made it far more enjoyable. There’s loads of content to get through, a lengthy albeit unspectacular story, plentiful side quests and easter eggs to find, and a bucket load of loot to collect. It’s not without its problems, but it’s a very enjoyable game that’s easy to recommend.