Yes, I know still catching up from E3! Anyway, my goal here is to tell you everything I know about Dying Light 2. This is particularly important since technically Dying Light 2 was not on my official schedule for E3 2019. I just happened to get really lucky and they had a spot for me in one of their time slots.
From there I sat through a 45 minute presentation that revealed some story points, play mechanics, and a whole lot of melee attack action! Like a lot of that stuff, seriously.
Oh, I should probably mention that I will be going into mild spoiler territory. If you want to go into this game completely blind then you should probably stop here. Otherwise read on!
The first major point touched on during the demo is that Dying Light 2 takes place fifteen years after the first game. The world has changed and not really for the better. The developer referred to the world as being in a “modern dark age”. This mostly means that while there are still a few modern things in the world, the people inhabiting it have become more primal.
Tribalism is the order of the day and the main goal is survival. Resources, like clean water, are scarce and whoever controls those resources holds power. This can lead to alliances and/or conflicts.
If you aren’t getting the world picture by now, this place ain’t exactly Disneyland!
The game’s setting is a large city with 7 regions. If that sounds familiar, that is because Cyberpunk 2077 has a similar “large city split into regions” setting as well.
The zombie-like “infected” from the first game have evolved over the last 15 years and from that evolution new enemy types have emerged. Some of these new enemies may require specific strategies to be defeated.
You play as Aiden Caldwell, a young man with some serious skills. Aiden will find himself caught in a conflict between the two main factions in the city: the “Scavengers” and the “Peacekeepers”. The actions of those groups greatly dictate what Aiden will have to deal with. That’s on top of also avoiding the infected.
Speaking of the infected, Aiden happens to also be infected himself. Although Aiden seems to be resistant to the infection but it does take a toll on him. As if this guy didn’t have enough to deal with already right?
Well there’s more. Throughout the game Aiden will be faced with many choices and those choices will have consequences. Those consequences will have an impact on the narrative of the game. The choices that players make can cause issues between them and other NPC characters or help build new relationships.
One example seen in the demonstration is Aiden’s role in brokering a deal with the Peacekeepers to get access to their supply of clean drinking water. Things seem straight forward at first but things go south fast resulting in the death of a character. From that moment on, trying to decide who to trust becomes a major source of tension. It becomes clear that some people are not who they seem to be. Aiden will have differing points of view in his ears and its up to the player to make the right choices.
Consequences also extend past character interactions. The choices players make will determine what regions of the city are accessible. A choice could benefit you in the short term but leave areas locked off for longer than a player may want. Or, a player may opt to make a choice that opens a new area of the city but that can create conflict and new enemies.
To deal with threats Dying Light 2 has a diverse combat and traversal system. Aiden is a skilled in parkour; which can help him move quickly through dense areas. To travel across longer distances Aiden can use a grappling hook and a paraglider.
The sequences of parkour I witnessed were very impressive. They were tense but very free flowing and in some instances seamlessly integrated combat into traversal. Such as using groups of infected to break a fall from a long jump across a large gap between rooftops.
Speaking of combat, Aiden has various melee attacks and there are a plethora of melee weapons available. To add even more combat variety weapons can be modified and combined with other items. For example, in the demonstration Aiden put together a machete that was also a taser which electrocuted foes as he hacked into them. Insane right?!
The downside is that weapons can break from use. This forces players to be thoughtful about what weapons they use and when they use them. This aspect will also keep things from being too easy from players hanging on to overpowered weapons for an extended period of time. When it comes to weapons the key is to not be wasteful. In fact, if the player has a gun, that gun can be turned into a melee weapon when it runs out of ammo.
Hand-to-hand combat looks visceral and is further emphasized by slow-motion final blows that reminded me of the Batman Arkham games.
The attacks are gloriously violent and Dying Light 2 does not shy away from gore. This is definitely a game that you do not want to play in front of your kids or anyone with a sensitive stomach. If you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino-levels of violence then you’ll find a lot to like here.
While Aiden has many impressive combat moves, he also has a limited amount of “stamina” available. So, while he can pull off some impressive attacks, if his stamina runs low or runs out, his fighting ability will be limited.
Aiden will not have access to all of his abilities at the start of the game. Instead, players will unlock them by earning “proficiency points” as they progress. Although it was not made clear how exactly proficiency points are earned and the amount of points needed to unlock new abilities. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that points are likely earned through combat. Finishing off enemies with special movies may be one way to earn points as well.
I just realized I haven’t touched on the visuals yet. Despite the dreary backdrop of the narrative, Dying Light 2 is a beautiful game visually. Obviously the gameplay demonstration I watched was likely running on a very high end PC with the settings maxed out. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the game still looked really good.
Textures, lighting, and animation were all top notch. Environments are dense with architecture and plant life. What I really appreciated was the fact that most of what we saw took place in daylight. It would have been all too easy to keep things dark but you can tell the development team wanted the audience to see all of the detail in natural light.
I’m sure the game won’t look as good running on a console. Although, again expectations should be tempered as the game was being shown to me in an ideal environment.
I should also mention that everything I saw during the demonstration takes place about 7 to 8 hours into the campaign. While I am avoiding story details I can say that things were dense in the narrative by that point.
The developers also made it a point to inform the audience that there will be a lot of content available in Dying Light 2. According to them, finishing the campaign reveals only about 50% of the total content available. That means there will be quite a bit to do even after players have completed the narrative.
Furthermore the developers revealed that they have a “2 year plan” for DLC. They didn’t detail the type of DLC (narrative, multiplayer, cosmetic) nor did they detail if some or all of the DLC will be paid or free. However, it is good to know that the game will still be supported quite a while after release. Hopefully they handle the DLC in a way that is palatable to the intended audience.
On a personal level, I am generally not attracted to post-zombie-apocalyptic, dystopian, type games. Though, I have to admit that the complex story and the cause/effect mechanic really pulled me in.
While what I saw was an early look, I can confidently say that I am interested in seeing more.. Again, it is still early. Currently, the game is set for a Spring 2020 release window.
With that in mind, I am currently reserving judgement until I see and learn more. Though, for now, I can safely say that I am optimistic.