Dying Light 2: Stay Human Review – Refined Zombie-Slaying Parkour Action
Title: Dying Light 2
Release Date: Feburary 4, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
I’ve always believed that the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Sequels seem more evident of this philosophy than anything else in life. Therefore, a great sequel needs to add new content while retaining the core identity of the series. Dying Light 2 manages to capture the essence of the original while adding enough new features to make the experience feel fresh.
Aiden, a lone pilgrim, makes his way to the city of Villedor in search of his sister, Mia. He remembers fragments of his past. However, only one memory echoes in Aiden’s mind, a promise he made to Mia to never leave her. So now he is trying to pick up the pieces of his past and keep that promise.
The story this time around feels more personal, with a goal that hinges on being able to put yourself into Aiden’s shoes. While I could do so quite easily, many players will feel it hard to connect with Mia, primarily because they don’t interact. Instead, I felt more loyalty to the citizens of Villedor and the characters that I was interacting with the most.
The search for Mia feels more like an excuse to get into Villedor and start the story rather than the story’s focus. If players could interact with Mia before she goes missing, there would be more urgency in finding her and make her feel more important to the story. As it stands, Techland could have excised Mia from the narrative, and slim clarity would have been lost, especially when it comes down to making important decisions for Aiden.
Players spend the bulk of their time with two factions, the survivors and the Peace Keepers. Survivors aren’t officially a faction and instead are pockets of communities that want to survive. On the other hand, the highly organized Peace Keepers attempt to maintain law and order within a lawless land.
Choices tend to favor one side with little impact on the story. For example, in the first half of the story, I made a decision that made the Peace Keepers my enemies, with the faction leader of the area confronting me. However, when I arrived in the new location, their enmity reset, and we were working together again.
This lack of long-standing consequences makes decisions feel like they have little to no weight. Nothing happens even when choosing to revive the previous faction leader that could crumble the tenuous relationship between Aiden and the Peacekeepers. Instead, you see him again, and everything you did just went away. He even thanks you for helping him and doesn’t mention that he was ready to kill you the last time you two saw each other.
This realization was when I started making decisions based on gameplay benefits rather than what I would prefer for the city. For example, the survivors tended to make free running easier, while the Peace Keepers lay traps for you to lead infected and aggressive humans. I felt that the best choice for my playstyle was to make it easier to move around the city and avoid combat.
Even though I tended to avoid combat, it still felt good to bash in enemy heads. Human enemies are easier to deal with while still challenging with a specific change; no guns. In the previous entry, human enemies were irksome because they would use firearms and lead more infected into the area. If they didn’t outright kill you, then the infected rushing to the scene quickly finished you off.
Whereas in Dying Light 2, it was still a risk to fight human enemies, but it was much easier to get the drop on them and quickly kill them before calling more of their friends. In addition, there were now more choices to blend parkour and combat. Allowing players to quickly vault over enemies to kick another while dodging and blocking attacks felt thrilling. These techniques also enable players to swiftly escape if they decide that a situation is too much for them to handle.
Another way to shake up the combat formula is the weapon’s durability, which has them break after frequent uses. This system encourages players to pick up weapons and strategize how to properly use them in situations. However, during my time in Villedor, I barely noticed my weapons breaking as there was always something just as good, if not better, in my inventory.
This problem eventually led to me not using up my weapons fast enough that I ultimately needed to sell off any weaker items that were taking up space. In addition, you can craft upgrades for each weapon that repairs weapons. So, I eventually had a weapon I favored that would only break after hours of use.
Crafting isn’t limited to only weapon upgrades. Players can also craft healing items and lockpicks that you will find yourself requiring for many missions. An important aspect is that you can level up your recipes by trading in trophies obtained from dead infected. I would constantly stop and fight in hopes of getting a few more trophies to upgrade my medicine recipe.
These rewards made traveling at night important as players could only obtain some of the more exotic trophies by killing infected that only appears during the night. This is a risk-reward system given that these enemies are much stronger. In addition, some buildings can also only be explored during the night, which often contains inhibitors that allow you to upgrade either your health or stamina once three have been collected.
Upgrading these stats allows you to survive longer without needing light and unlocks skills that enhance combat or parkour. These skills make up your kit and are separated by individual points gained by fighting or running around the city. Completing quests also give you a certain amount of points for each variety.
Despite this division of the skills, there isn’t much choice in deciding if you should try to level up your parkour or combat skills. Eventually, players will max both trees out, resulting in the same character abilities in the end. So even gear that is supposed to help differentiate playstyles doesn’t seem to change much.
While leveling doesn’t offer much choice, parkour feels more refined and is where Dying Light 2 has decided to double down on. Keeping players in a more urban environment turns city exploration into a puzzle of staying on the rooftops, only dropping to the street level to transition to the next rooftop. The newer additions like the sky-glider and wall runs feel like natural upgrades.
I spent most of my time running around, seeing how fast I could make it to the next section of the city or my next objective. There is a fast travel system, but I never felt the need to use it as I could miss out on a new pathway around the city or a new building I could raid for supplies. There always felt like I was discovering something new, and even now, I want to go back.
Dying Light 2 gives us a sandbox to live and die for. This is the premier adventure game that marries combat and parkour systems for an exceptionally thrilling experience. And while there are moments where the narrative stumbles in terms of consequences, it doesn’t matter as waves of zombies move in for the kill. I look forward to the many more hours of content that await on the other side of this campaign.
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