Dying Light 2: Stay Human’s ability to allow you to feel at ease one moment, and then fill you with dread the next, is one of the game’s most gripping features. During the game’s daytime cycle, life within the fictional city of Villedor is pretty quiet; the city is almost silent, aside from a little noise from some of the few human settlements that are spread throughout it, which echoes through the desolate streets. The dead are still walking during the bright sun-lit daytime hours, but they’re much fewer in number and are relatively quiet as they shamble along in their pursuit of a snack. It’s a pretty safe time to travel around the city, and aside from the odd encounter you experience with bandits — or the game’s anarchy-loving faction, the Renegades — it’s almost relaxing, and offered me the perfect time to take in the sights and practice my parkour skills. Villedor is beautiful to look at, with its mix of decaying human architecture and natural foliage that seems to capture the city’s return to Mother Nature’s bosom in a way that’s reminiscent of Will Smith’s I Am Legend film. I was extremely disappointed to see that there isn’t a photo mode included with the game because there are many picturesque moments. Hell, even a quick button in the menu that removes the UI would have been a perfect addition, I think.
Of course, this is Dying Light, so the peaceful moments are more of a reprieve than a constant, and that isn’t more noticeable than when the city is plunged into darkness during the night. Much like its predecessor, once the nighttime cycle begins, you’re alerted by the howls of Villedor’s creatures, but Dying Light 2: Stay Human turns it up a notch by adding the ringing of bells and whistles from the human settlements. While the dead seem to hibernate indoors during the day and make it deadly to venture into buildings, the night sees them swarm onto the streets in search of a human-sized bite to eat. It’s not only the shambling braindead zombies we’ve grown to love over the years, though. No, other mutated creatures litter the city streets; Howlers are a mutation that let out a horrific screech when they spot you (and there are a ridiculous number of them around), alerting nearby Virals of your position and kickstarting a ‘Chase’ from Virals — I’ll talk about these in a moment. While Virals were fairly scary to come across in the first Dying Light, they’ve been given a grotesque facelift this time around; they’re faster, louder, and will knock you to the floor by diving at you. Sure, a few well-timed swings with a melee weapon will cut them down to size, but having even just a couple attacking you at once can easily end with you dead on the floor. Once you get a little further into the game, you’ll also find Spitters and Bolters during the evening hours, with both acting pretty much exactly how their names suggest.
While the daytime hours in Villedor have a relaxed and adventurous ambience to them, the nighttime can only be described as a nightmare. Groans from the dead can be heard no matter where you go, the screams of Villedor’s populace fills the air as they cry out for help, constant howls from mutations can be heard, and the soundtrack completely switches to a more sinister theme. If you’re going to travel to Villedor in Dying Light 2: Stay Human, I suggest you play it with headphones, because Techland has absolutely nailed the game’s sound design. So much so, that portions of the game actually made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. The sound design gives the game an open-world adventure theme during the day, and then introduces the survival-horror aspect during the night, which doesn’t really allow you time to get comfortable with one theme before being plunged into the other — especially now that the option to sleep through the night is almost pointless.
Unlike its predecessor, Dying Light 2: Stay Human forces you to experience its night cycle — which comes as no surprise considering the day/night cycle is one of the game’s core pillars. Many of the activities sprawled around the map can only be safely accessed during the night, and any attempt during the day is incredibly challenging. Villedor is massive, not just in map size, but also in verticality. Once you enter the second area of the map, known as the Central Loop, you’re greeted by skyscrapers and high-rises, and many of them are explorable. Due to the size of the map, Techland has filled it with a ton of different activities that will keep you occupied when completing one of the many side quests available or experiencing the story. Some of the activities, such as Forsaken Stores and Evacuation Convoys are purely optional endeavours, with only a few of the side quests asking you to explore them. Others, though, are tied to achievements: GRE Facilities are three-level laboratories that offer exceptional loot, but are also challenging to complete because they’re chock full of enemies, and if you don’t complete them by the time the sun comes up you’ll be in a world of hurt. Metro Stations offer you fast travel locations after being cleared, GRE Anomalies introduce the Revenant enemy which is a type of mutation that can raise the dead — or the dead undead, something like that — and while they’re challenging to beat, they also offer a bounty of rewards like gold-tier weapons. The caveat to these activities is that you can only safely attempt them during the night, and for that, you need to get to them without being ripped to shreds.
There are plenty of other activities to complete during the day, such as clearing out Bandit Camps, completing puzzles within electrical and water facilities, unlocking windmills (safe zones) and the like, but the completion is going to cost you many nighttime adventures. Travelling during the night is best undertaken by using the parkour system to climb across Villedor’s rooftops. Dying Light 2: Stay Human’s parkour system feels fresh compared to the first game’s system; movements are smoother, climbing animations are more precise, and there are a wealth of abilities for you to unlock that offer a better experience. In the latter portion of the game, you can access the paraglider and grappling hook tools, which allow you to move about the city with even more style. Although you have the tools and skills necessary to make your way around the city with relative ease during both the day and the night, mistakes do happen, and sometimes you’ll hit the floor. Do this during the night and there is a good chance you’ll upset one of the many Howlers patrolling the streets, which will kick off a ‘Chase.’ Much as the name suggests, a Chase has you pursued by ravenous Virals, and is made up of four levels. Chase levels one to three continuously add more Virals to the pursuit, but level four introduces Volatiles — the deadliest infected in the game, and an enemy that is almost impossible to kill. Standing your ground against a Volatile is certain death, so I found the Chase sequences to be adrenaline-fuelled moments of terror.
I’ve come across many different bugs during my time with Dying Light 2: Stay Human, such as animation glitches, floating people, various objects not loading correctly, and the like — I even had one amusing experience where a character’s arms were swirling about when I was talking to them, and another that was talking to a wall instead of me — but there hasn’t been anything game-breaking, aside from a few crashes during my first couple of days playing. Sure, some of the bugs definitely take away from the game’s tone, but it’s Dying Light 2: Stay Human’s ability to continuously elicit an emotional response that has had me hooked from the moment I started the game. Whether I’m laughing at an odd character — I’m looking at you, Space Cock — filled with dread from a tense moment, feeling the weight of guilt or regret at the consequences of an earlier choice I made, or any other emotional response, the game has had me wanting to explore it some more, and that’s no small feat.
‘Choice and Consequence’ is a slogan that Techland has used many times since the game’s reveal, and it heavily influences your experience with the game. The main storyline follows Aiden Caldwell, a ‘Pilgrim’ — someone that travels from settlement to settlement — who makes his way to Villedor in search of his missing sister. Your journey will have you interacting with three factions inside the city: Survivors, Peacekeepers, and Renegades. Survivors want to self-govern themselves, Peacekeepers act like a military unit, and the Renegades are all about anarchy. What’s great about Dying Light 2’s main storyline is that I could write all about my experience and the chances are that you’d have a completely different sequence of events when you play.
Every decision you make matters, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time, and the main story is loaded with those moments. I have to hand it to Techland, the way that the choices are presented almost always had me torn between what I should or shouldn’t do, due to the fact that there isn’t a clear-cut right or wrong option. Half of the game’s story is influenced by your own morals, the other half is dealing with the consequences of those decisions. The only time that I felt a bit lost with the story was during the transition from the first area, Old Villedor, into the second area, Central Loop. It almost felt like I had somehow missed a mission, as I scrambled to catch up with what exactly was happening. The rest of the game’s story, though, was an absolute pleasure to experience from start to finish.
While discussing the story, now might be the best time to chat about achievements and give you a fair warning. At a certain point in the story, a pop-up will appear in the middle of your screen, letting you know that you should finish anything you have outstanding in the city before you continue. Heed that warning, because continuing seems like it can stop you from completing many of the achievements if you haven’t already finished them. Being the silly boy that I am, I continued without a second thought… and bam, I was hit with another consequence caused by a choice that I had made. That’s actually quite poetic and rightly deserved. The achievements in Dying Light 2: Stay Human are mostly cumulative challenges that require you to unlock most of the areas in the game, find airdrops full of loot, and the like. There definitely isn’t anything too challenging about the list, but I’m certain that I can’t find some of the stuff due to ignoring that warning. I’ll obviously continue on to find out for sure, though.
I’ve mentioned loot a fair few times now, and for good reason. Techland has introduced an armour system reminiscent of RPGs, with armour that is aimed at different classes: Ranger, Tank, Medic, and Assault. Each gives you various buffs to your resistances, regeneration, and damage, and you can mix and match as you please — you can even see your character in the menu, which is an improvement over the first game. You don’t really need the bonuses on the game’s easier difficulty setting, but the higher difficulties absolutely rely on you having the correct gear for your playstyle. The other loot resource that’s important to find when travelling around the city are inhibitors. Collecting three inhibitors will allow you to increase your health or stamina, and levelling through those will unlock more options in the combat and parkour skill trees. You’ll also increase your immunity timer because in Dying Light 2, you’re infected.
You can no longer leave the light willy-nilly because UV light is the only thing that’s keeping you alive, and preventing you from becoming some brain-munching halfwit. Your immunity level dictates the amount of time you can spend in the dark, which is not very long in the earlier portions of the game and increases to around 16 minutes at full strength. Once your immunity timer has run dry, your health will deplete rapidly, so making sure you’re well-stocked with immunity boosters and UV mushrooms is essential for surviving in Villedor.
General gameplay in Dying Light 2: Stay Human will earn you XP that is split between the combat and parkour skill trees, with ever-increasing XP thresholds unlocking a skill point upon completion, to be used within its defined skill tree. There are other skills and bonuses to be earned by allocating unlocked facilities to either the Peacekeepers or Survivors, modding your weapons with various elemental effects, crafting resistance boosters, and upgrading crafting blueprints. There is so much to do in this game, so many ways to play it, and it all culminates into an incredibly in-depth, but personal experience.
One thing I was unable to try was the co-op, due to the servers not going live until the game launches on Friday. It’s a shame, really, because I’m sure that it would make for some awesome evenings, but I’ll just need to wait, I guess.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human is more than a sequel — it’s an evolution that keeps everything that is integral to the franchise intact, but builds on it with enough engaging content that it’s incredibly hard to stop playing. There have been bugs, there have been comical glitches, but my experience has generally been smooth throughout, exciting, and emotionally motivating. I’ve put in around 60 hours so far, and it’s not lost its appeal, even though I might have to play through it again. If you’re looking to explore Villedor later this week, then you’re in for a treat.
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