Dying Light 2 had an extremely bumpy ride during the production period. Departures of key people in the project, the multiple postponements of the release date and an unfortunate marketing ploy in an attempt to latch onto the well-known slogan: “We’ll give you 500+.” This, in addition to high hopes for great success, also led to concerns about what the sequel to the Polish post-apocalypse zombie game would actually be like.
We had mixed feelings, as well, but after watching the credits of the reviewed version, all I can say is that I regretted not having at least a third of those 500 hours to play at my own pace, finishing many more missions and activities on the way to the finale.
That is because the world of Dying Light 2 sucks you in like a swamp! The gameplay naturally pushes you to explore every nook and cranny. It evokes emotions when you make difficult decisions, and the combat gives you immense satisfaction! So do we have another Polish hit and a hit on a global scale?
Yeah, it seems so, but… It is true; it’s not so rosy that you can’t do without some, even many. Dying Light 2 is a huge production and a huge open world, so of course, not everything was perfect, everything was not implemented or tested correctly, and a few essential features seem to have been completely forgotten.
A pleasant story but full of holes
Dying Light 2: Stay Human takes place chronologically 20 years after the events of the first chapter. It changes the protagonist, changes the city, and somehow also changes the physical and mental state of the survivors and the infected, clearly affecting the whole setting and the tone of the events told.
All of this entails an obvious consequence: that this sequel can be played and tackled even by those completely unaware of the background and what happened in the series’ debut title. Still, of course, those who are aware of the background will enjoy some small historical references and appreciate the evolution of the world created by Techland.
A short introduction at the beginning of the game allows us to immediately familiarize ourselves with the post-apocalyptic world, the military nature of the virus that turns humans into zombies and the new social structure of the survivors.
At the same time, familiarizing us with the gameplay and with Aiden Caldwell, a Pilgrim that we will find ourselves controlling, will be provided by a good tutorial and a whole series of hints that will accompany us for most of the game as we will take possession of weapons, Gadgets, Parkour movements and deal with all the most varied activities.
A good part of the narrated events takes place within the fortified confines of Villedor, for friends, the City, which is one of the very last strongholds run by the few survivors where a semblance of normal life still manages to unfold.
The town settlement forms the backbone of Dying Light 2: Stay Human’s open world even though the developer has adopted a technical contrivance to avoid having to manage the entire game world all the time by having broken the town’s structure into two parts.
An early portion of Villedor is, in fact, composed of 4 districts and will keep us company for a very long initial phase of the game. In contrast, the so-called Central Line, which we will reach later, is split into 8 districts. Both zones can be navigated freely, but to get from one to the other, we will need a quick trip through the subway.
While the story told in the game is long, at times even compelling and with some pleasant twists and turns, it also serves as the first reference to everything that went wrong during the development of Dying Light 2.
Now it is clearly not our goal to engage in metrology and rehash the old proclamations of the development team back in the days of the partnership with Chris Avellone. Still, just the first few hours of the game are enough to start feeling a sensation that will then tend to deepen as we progress through the narrative arc until it hits us violently at the moment of the epilogue: something is always wrong.
Reactions of certain characters, several changes of scenery and points of view, lots of dialogue, chronological order of events, all the way down to the same motivations behind a long series of choices and actions of the co-protagonists often come across as unclear, not to mention unjustified or inconsistent with the unfolding of the events.
It seems as if parts are missing, something has been brutally cut out, or never explained knowledgeably by those involved in the scene. Even the motivations that drive our antagonist, which we shall, omit for spoiler issues, appear superficial and not very credible in more than one context.
This “unfinished” feeling is also reflected in the concept of causes and consequences, highlighted at such length in the development team’s communications, depending on the choices made by the player during their experience with Dying Light 2.
There are clearly effects related to our behavior. Still, these often run out in the immediate term, leading us perhaps to carry out small portions of one mission instead of another or causing a particular character to leave. At no time does there ever seem to be any real change to the plot unfolding, which therefore appears “nailed down” on a single track written and scripted by the developer.
Three factions fighting over a fistful of rubble
Villedor is land at constant war: not just against the infected that roam the streets and inhabit most of the urban structures, but also, and especially, among the three factions that fight each other with no holds barred in search of a very fragile balance always about to blow up.
In Dying Light 2, in fact, most of the events that will see us as protagonists will lead us to interrelate and even side with the Survivors or the Peacekeepers: the first aim at the slow reconstruction of a social structure without too many rules but that allows each inhabitant to perform simple jobs to ensure the subsistence of the human species; the latter are instead strongly militarized and push on the martial management of urban activities and settlements.
These alliances barely endure each other while seeking a tentative attempt at co-existence. Next are the Renegades: partly structured thugs who want total anarchy and who, due to reasons we initially ignore, began indiscriminately attacking the structures of the other two factions after a long period of relative peace.
Whereas the Renegades somewhat represent a kind of common enemy that we will have to limit ourselves to fighting at every opportunity, the Survivors and Peacekeepers, along with their leaders and prominent figures, are the groupings that will provide us with missions to carry out and with whom we will relate throughout the game.
But even here, one can sense the hollowness of the cause-and-consequence system mentioned above. Despite trying hard to side against the Peacekeepers, an entire series of steps in the main plot we will still have to do them in their company, also catching praise and appreciation as if nothing had happened, the same being true for a good part of the characters with whom we will interact.
If we remove very few sporadic cases, favoring a faction or a co-star will never result in a substantial change in the story leading, for instance, to the inability to interact with the harassed alliance.
But so what specifically, you might be wondering, does it mean to side with a faction in Dying Light 2? It merely means assigning the nerve center structure present in each district: a water tower or a power plant. In fact, after we conquer them by completing some environmental puzzles, we are called upon to “grant” it to either the Survivors or the Peacekeepers, which will determine a permanent bonus applied to all other districts assigned to the same faction.
In the Survivors’ case, we will earn ropes, airbags and other ammunition to make parkour easier and more effective. In favor of the Peacekeepers, on the other hand, we’ll find installed traps, guns and fortifications that will allow us to have the upper hand against the infected during our wanderings through the streets of Villedor.
And there will also be numerous windmills that we will have to climb and activate with very clear reminiscences of the first Assassin’s Creed, as well as these will be used to unlock a series of safe havens run by the faction that controls that district, as well as to highlight the various points of interest that identify the many secondary activities that you can do.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human Gameplay
And thus, we come at last to talk about the gameplay of Dying Light 2. This game, we recall if it is still not clear, is an action game with a first-person view with a strong role-playing component and a lighter adventure soul. It also can be played entirely in co-op up to a maximum of 4 players.
All are grafted onto an open-world structure that pushes hard on exploration and traversing the city, making the most of handholds and ledges to perform parkour. Besides the main storyline, there is a sea of side quests, optional activities to do, and tons of loot to unearth and retrieve.
Think of it as a combination of an Assassin’s Creed and a Mirror’s Edge but with zombies in the way to bore us. We took 42 hours to finish it, but we don’t find it hard to imagine that it is really possible to invest more than 100 hours in the title to see all its content.
The infected represent one of the two enemies we will have to face for the entire game. The other opponents are the Renegades and a few sporadic gaggles of thugs that sometimes thicken on rooftops in the streets.
These challengers’ presence is governed by the day/night cycle on which Villedor’s daily life is based. By day, the surviving population will tend to go about its main activities and sometimes venture into the City’s alleyways, profiting from the fact that most of the zombies are hidden inside the structures, with those few that wander around the streets rambling heavily weakened by the sunlight.
By night the situation is turned on its head with the humans perched in their safe havens and the infected swarming the streets, even arriving on rooftops at times, prepared to chase and attack anyone who comes within range, strong in their numbers and the unprecedented violence that animates their movements.
That dynamic has deep roots in a whole range of gameplay aspects: aware of the fact that much of the interiors will be emptied of zombies at night, many of the search and rescue missions, just as many of the secondary activities that contemplate resource gathering, will need to be carried out at night.
This way, Dying Light 2 manages to naturally stimulate the player to abandon the safety of daylight in favor of darkness to get their hands on the best equipment and earn a whole series of extra bonuses that we will activate by carrying out our raids at night, and that will have direct repercussions on unlocking talents.
However, going out at night at the same time activates an additional danger due to Aiden’s infection. Indeed, unless irradiated by the sun or ultraviolet light, our immunity will begin to wane and will always be well indicated by an overhead timer.
Once this countdown is over, we will start to lose health until we die. This way, Dying Light 2 succeeds in properly managing our nighttime raids by preventing us from being too thoughtful and forcing us to constantly look around in search of a saving source of light or gadgets and items that can restore some of our immunity.
Precisely speaking of the progression of our avatar, we will have to deal with two different areas of enhancement. On the one hand, fairly classic equipment management contemplates the usual sampler of weapons, apparel, Consumables and throwing items, with lots of level and rarity.
Nor is there any lack of traditional crafting with blueprints to be purchased and the resulting products that can be created, providing you have the necessary reagents. Then there are 2 peculiarities that we personally appreciated, but that will probably cause discussion: that our general level will determine that of the items we can find and buy.
To put it bluntly, we will never be able to get our hands on an offensive tool that we cannot use because it is above our values. As you level up (which happens very slowly by doing quests), they will automatically change all the items in the vendors and chests scattered around the city. Second, the weapons wear out and cannot be repaired. Some bonuses we can apply to increase their longevity, but all are bound to break down with use sooner or later.
The second progression element relates instead to talents. In comparison to the first Dying Light, Techland has missed out on a branch of skills since we will now only have two at our disposal: one focusing on combat and the other on a parkour with a good selection of perks that we will be able to unlock by investing the talent points gained as we, concretely, either fight or walk around town.
The more effective we are in these two areas of the game, the quicker we will gain experience in that branch and then get an activity-related talent point that we can then invest in that tree. Perks are manifold, although there is a strong imbalance between some that are truly essential and others that seem to be there more to make up the numbers than for real repercussions on how we play.
One very interesting variable, though, that will somehow hold our progression in check: the inhibitors. They are very special collectibles scattered in crates and safes well hidden in the riskiest or most inaccessible areas of Villedor. These will be used to boost our vital energy and vigor: themina that we will consume by performing any parkour move and using weapons.
Some talents can, in fact, only be acquired by possessing a certain minimum value of health and vigor, and, in this manner, this game will also keep at bay our ability to go to higher-level areas without first being powerful enough since, for instance, we cannot perform long climbs until we have recovered enough inhibitors and thus improved our vigor.
If therefore, at the level of structure, progression and as far as the density of the open world is concerned, we can consider ourselves adequately satisfied despite a whole series of smears that we must consider. It is in the combat that lurks part of the game’s most conspicuous problems and those related to the plot.
Like its predecessor, the game features almost only melee action with a long array of blunt and sharp weapons. There is also no shortage of bows, crossbows, and numerous throwing objects; however, the core is the constant alternation between melee attacks and quick moves or escapes by taking advantage of parkour.
The major problem is in the opponents who, besides never posing a really complex challenge, create a very simplified, almost arcade-like type of combat, aided by the lightness of the physics that intervenes to exaggerate the power of our blows and the consequent momentum of the opponents.
There are many moves, it’s true. Still, except for a couple of special enemies who are part of the infected ranks, you’ll be able to get away very easily by simply attacking and dodging with basic moves, and even when surrounded, you won’t struggle to get the upper hand by taking advantage of serious deficiencies in your opponents’ reactions.
Shortcomings that are also clearly visible in the stealth implemented a la carte by Techland and which hardly ever becomes a truly pursuable option except in those plot contexts where the game makes it practically mandatory for us.
The enemies very easily forget about us, don’t take into account comrades’ bodies on the ground, and even often remain dumbfounded if we target them from afar with arrows. The moral of the story: throwing full speed into an opponent’s camp without worrying about tactics or strategies or secondary access always yields good results, resulting in a lowering of the quality of the challenge offered by Dying Light 2.
Targeting the highest difficulty level of the three available right away may help. Still, fundamentally the very nature of the progression, which encourages grinding through loot and the performance of secondary activities, tends to make our avatar quickly and easily become stronger than the level required by the missions, further increasing that feeling of overpowering that has accompanied us throughout the game.
PC System Requirements
- Processor: Intel Core i3-9100 or AMD Ryzen 3 2300X
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or AMD Radeon RX 560 4 GB
- RAM: 8 GB
- Operating System: Windows 7
- Disk Space: 60 GB
- Processor: Intel i5-8600K or AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
- RAM: 16 GB
- Operating system: Windows 10 64 bit
Rough technical compartment
And we arrive at probably the biggest Achilles’ heel of Dying Light 2: Its technical compartment. Here again, we had expressed more than a few misgivings at our previous encounter with the game, but holding it in our hands for dozens of hours demonstrated that this project has had an incredibly troubling development path.
Despite the strong PC with which we tested the game, we had a hard time getting it to run even at 30 FPS, accomplice to NVIDIA’s DLSS and AMD’s Super Resolution support that arrived only in conjunction with the game’s release.
Although we had at our disposal the brand new MSI Optix MPG321UR-QD monitor, which is one of the first displays to arrive on the market with 4K resolution and 144 Hz refresh rate (whose review you will be able to read very soon), we could not run the title beyond 1440p resolution with the graphics settings not at maximum and with only basic Ray Tracing.
Again, in this situation, we encountered huge slowdowns in the most crowded contexts and, more generally, an abundance of system crashes that left us baffled on more than one occasion. Incidentally, this title does not provide free savings. Still, it relies exclusively on automatic checkpoints that insist on a single profile slot.
Even leaving aside the serious optimization problems (and by the way, we also feel like maintaining a reservation for the old-gen console versions that we were not able to test), Dying Light 2: Stay Human looks dirty and sloppy with a lot of missing animations, occasionally absurd movements of infected and humans that try to exploit jumps and verticality at will with results that in no way respect the laws of physics and especially very sloppy handling of collisions that often results in frustration and a feeling of lack of control.
Sometimes in combat, we will feel as if we do not adequately understand why a parry or a dodge did not go in or stand there wondering how a given enemy could reach us and hit us so quickly. However, it is particularly in parkour that we feel the greatest consequences of this approximation.
Racing through the city is the cornerstone of Dying Light 2’s fun. Still, on far too many occasions, we get stuck somewhere, slammed, tripped, and Aiden doesn’t cling to the correct surface or, on the contrary, gets hung up when we try hard to get him down. Perhaps during an escape or a chase. And that’s not good because, too many times, it generates frustration: it never makes the player feel in control of his movements, the flow of parkour.
And that is clearly a shame since Techland’s work is commendable in terms of level design and the vastness of the environment. We have really appreciated the structure and especially the verticality of Villedor with its skyscrapers to climb, perfectly structured geometry that makes moving on foot as well as on board the paraglider or perhaps taking advantage of the best handholds with the grappling hook enjoyable.
Also, the characters we will meet on our way, although not shining for polygonal count or quality of expressions, still turn out to be credible and well animated, except for the standard models very often duplicated at very little distance from each other.
The sound effects are excellent, and the musical backing that sometimes takes on body and substance during the more violent encounters is pleasant. We finally report that Dying Light 2: Stay Human does not feature dubbing in Italian: only the lyrics are in our language. And also, in this case, unfortunately, the promotion cannot be with full marks presents numerous translation errors, also gross, and several spelling mistakes.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human Trailer
Dying Light 2: Stay Human
Dying Light 2: Stay Human is the living emblem of the I'd like to but can't, that aiming too high can sometimes cause one to fall ruinously. It is a game that can be very fun and satisfying, with a good progression and an overflowing amount of content that will thrill all fans of the first chapter. It is, however, clear in too many contexts that something in the course of development did not go right, which forced the team to make cuts in the story, rough edges in the physics engine and in the management of artificial intelligence, just as it forced it to spend less time than expected on the cleanup and optimization phase of the code. Suppose you're looking for a dense, original action that knows how to stand out in the sea of open worlds of the last few years thanks to some peculiarities. In that case, you can jump on this game, but consider our criticism since you will necessarily have to pass over a whole series of issues.
- Villedor is vast and features interesting geometry with great verticality
- Between the side quests, optional activities, collectibles, loot and main storyline, this game will keep you busy for a very long time
- Although it relies on some post-apocalyptic clichés, it can offer an original and exciting point of view
- There are issues with balancing difficulty and progression
- Too often, it did not make us feel like the creators of what was happening on screen
- There needed to be more cleanup and optimization.