E3 2014 Impressions: Dying Light

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Techland are leaving the Dead Island franchise behind and now working on a new zombie franchise called Dying Light. Dying Light looks to build on the experiences learned from Dead Island and hopefully improve on some of that franchise’s shortcomings. Overall the feel of the game is similar to their previous zombie game with the controls relying heavily on a melee action with a light attack and a charged heavy attack. The one feature that can help differentiate Dying Light from the Dead Island franchise is the addition of parkour to the gameplay. Navigating this world will require a lot of rooftop jumping and other creative ways to reach your objectives. 

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In the first section of the game, Josh was playing at an early stage with the character being relatively under-powered so he had to rely on avoiding combat as much as possible. With that in mind, using the parkour elements to navigate around the map to complete the mission was very much the key to success. At first glance I was worried that the parkour would be too floaty, but when you see it an action you can see and feel that there is weight to the jumping. Jumps were realistic and the player’s exhaustion from lifting their body weight could be seen in each movement. This impressed me as it made the character feel more real as opposed to many games that have the player taking unrealistic jumps and showing no signs of fatigue outside a stamina meter.

Being a lower level character it was important to avoid conflicts so when Josh arrived at his destination only to find multiple humans equipped with guns he was given two ways of dealing with them. He could try to lure zombies to the humans and hope they’d take each other out or wait until night and finish the mission when everyone would be gone since humans tend to avoid the darkness. Josh chose to attempt the mission at night under the advice of the developer so he headed off to a safe house to advance time forward.

When nighttime fell he headed over to his destination again, but this time more than ever he had to avoid conflict because the zombies at night are way more aggressive and powerful. It was explained that a hunter zombie species prowled the streets at night and at the current character’s level he would be no match for them. After hopping around the rooftops the mission waypoint was reached and your run of the mill plug A into B mission was complete and that ended that particular section.

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The second section is where I got my hands on the game and this section was more combat focused as the character had been leveled up significantly and equipped with some pretty cool crafted weapons like an electric ax which zapped and completely wrecked anyone it swung at. When the melee button is held and charged, each weapon does a crazy over-the-top action that gives a very satisfying result. The combat felt very much like you’d expect from the developers of Dead Island. The parkour element is again the hook with this game. With my leveled up character, jumping and navigating the rooftops was easier and in my section there were more visible ways to get around using poles and wires to get across large distances.

A new tool was also introduced to us at that point and that was the grappling hook. Just like you would expect, the grappling hook made reaching higher up areas accessible with ease or just moving forward quicker and that much easier. At one point in the demo I even used it to pull down a zombie that somehow found itself on a nearby rooftop. The grappling hook felt awesome and added an extra element of fun to a world that felt like it went to hell. The mission I was on was to reach the highest point in that particular level and it was done so with ease using the grappling hook mostly. I can’t really say more about what happened once I reached the highest point because it ended on a cliffhanger. But that section did a good job of showing off how fun traversing the environment can be in the game.

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Dying Light is an interesting title especially with the announcement of Dead Island 2. Having two open world zombie games isn’t strange, but both games having ties to one developer is interesting to say the least. With Techland moving on to Dying Light and Yager now taking over the Dead Island franchise these two games will need to find ways to differentiate themselves from each other. I will say based on the trailer of Dead Island 2 and my time with Dying Light, Dying Light does seem to be a way darker game in tone. The world felt like it had been through hell and there won’t be much time for joking around as you try to survive its harsh environment.

A Note from Josh:
Having seen both games in action I can weigh in here. In Dying Light, the few environments we saw were very reminiscent of a Dead Island game. In fact, if you took the parkour elements away, it would feel like a direct sequel. Dead Island 2 on the other hand felt different, mainly because it’s set in sunny California. The colors were brighter and the humor more apparent. The suburban setting of the demo really set it apart from the other games.

Dying Light is expected to release in February 2015 for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 and is being published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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