Up Close and Personal
It’s obvious right from the start that Dying Light 2 won’t be winning any points for originality. It is, after all, an open-world game with light RPG elements, some shallow stealth, and a crafting system. Oh, and as if that weren’t generic enough, the game is also set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse If you had a computer program that randomly generated video games based on a series of user-defined parameters, Dying Light 2 is what would come out if you just left every option as "default".
Ok, that’s not entirely fair as Dying Light 2 does have some unique attributes that warrant some small praise. For one thing, it doesn’t have any firearms, meaning the vast bulk of the combat is settled with melee weapons. Sure, you can chuck the odd spear or toss a brick at a stray zombie, there are even some crossbows floating around but these are supplements to the bread-and-butter close-quarters combat. As a result, combat bears a striking similarity to Condemned: Criminal Origins, and in an ocean of 3rd person cover-shooters that goes some way towards making Dying Light 2 feel somewhat unique.
Moreover, the dependence on iron-age weapons makes a certain degree of sense given the post-apocalyptic setting. There are only so many bullets in the world and if the industrial processes that produce them vanished as the result of mass depopulation and widespread destruction, then they would quickly be expended. It reminds me of Road Warrior, where even a powerful warlord like Lord Humungus would count himself lucky to have a handful of bullets. Though, a more realistic apocalypse would probably see people using crude muskets and blunderbusses, as such weapons could be built and supplied fairly easily by individual craftsmen.
On the whole, I rather enjoyed the game's approach to combat though your skill tree can quickly introduce combat abilities that break the system. The dropkick is particularly damaging, as it gives you a powerful melee attack that never degrades (unlike your normal melee weapons). If you’re fighting enemies on rooftops its’ even more powerful, as the dropkick can send enemies flying and a drop from 30-40 feet will kill most regular enemies outright. Sure, using the dropkick leaves you prone on the ground and vulnerable to enemy counterattacks but in practice, the NPCs are not very good at exploiting this vulnerability.
The other unique selling point of Dying Light 2 is your character’s ability to parkour across the cityscape, leaping on top of ruined buses and scuttling along gutters. Sure, your move set has been stolen wholesale from Mirror's Edge, but it works far better here than it did there. It was only the very rare occasions where I found myself confused about how to scale a wall, or what a certain action would have my character do. Even the fact that the game was in First Person perspective rarely felt awkward.
Parkour also helps Dying Light 2 solve a common problem for open-world games. You see, having a large world means that the player actually has to spend time getting from point A to point B. So Grand Theft Auto V becomes mainly a game about driving where you occasionally commit a few crimes and Red Dead Redemption is mainly a horse-riding simulator. Making the act of getting around in these huge worlds interesting becomes a matter of vital significance, and fortunately for Dying Light 2, this is never an issue. Leaping across the rooftop, scurrying up walls, and zipping around obstacles was always a pleasure. Hell, the parkour even makes the game’s windmills (Dying Light’s equivalent of radio towers from the Far Cry games) enjoyable.
Indeed, some of the game’s best moments are when you are given a parkour-specific challenge. Be it fleeing an enriching hoard of zombies, chasing down a troublesome NPC, or dashing to a safe zone before you succumb to the zombie plague. Though these bright spots do highlight the underlying weakness of Dying Light 2: Namely that much of the game is rather dull.
Drudgery and Busy Work
The biggest issue facing Dying Light 2 is that so much of the game's content is boring. Sure, there is the occasional melee brawl or thrilling parkour chase, but these moments are broken up with endless tedium. Dialogue sequences for main quests and side quests go on for way too long, even when you ignore the numerous options for additional exposition. Gathering crafting resources is a chore in the best of times and is made infinitely more annoying by the way the game makes you hold down the action button for thirty seconds to rifle through a backpack or mash the action button to open a chest.
Some of this chaff can be interesting in the right context, like the lockpicking minigame that Dying Light 2 borrowed from Skyrim. In most scenarios, it’s just another time sink, and since you can craft near-infinite lockpicks from the scrap metal littering every environment, it has even less tension than usual. This does change in rare moments where time is of the essence like when say a horde of zombies is closing in on you and the only escape is through a locked door, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
There is fun to be had here, but aside from a few moments of joyous parkour, it's the sort of fun you can have in dozens of other open-world games. There is certainly some added fun in co-op with a couple of friends, but in a world where we get another open-world game every week, I just cannot recommend anyone go out and buy Dying Light 2 at full price. Especially not when it came out right before Horizon: Forbidden West and Elden Ring, both of which look far more promising.
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Parkour is a fun way to travel and explore the map, Infusion system is a good incentive to risk dangerous locations, Combat is fun and unique.
The game gets repetitive quickly, Combat is shallow and easily broken, crafting and survival mechanics are half-baked.