Dying Light 2 Hands-On Preview

After a slightly turbulent development period which included a handful of delays, staff exits and a pandemic, Dying Light 2 is almost upon us. Launching in February 2022, the game is a follow up to 2015’s Dying Light and takes the beloved Parkour/Zombie formula from the first game into the next generation.

Ahead of its impending launch, I was lucky enough to go hands-on with the title and after around four to five hours of playtime, I can safely say there’s a lot to get excited about.

When the title was revealed during the Xbox Showcase at E3 2018, Techland billed Dying Light 2 as its “most ambitious game yet” and after getting some playtime with it, that’s almost certainly not hyperbole.

It was already pretty apparent that the stakes would be higher in Dying Light 2, as seen in the many promotional videos we’ve received over the past few years, however, I wasn’t really prepared for how much things had changed since the first game.

The first game, in its simplest terms, was a quest for information and a cure. Dying Light 2 on the other hand felt like so much more than that. With humanity now on the brink of extinction, there’s a struggle for power, control, morality and ultimately, survival.

Being set 15 years after the original, the world of Dying Light 2 is drastically different both visually and tonally. During the preview session, lead game designer Tymon Smektała stated that humanity had regressed to medieval times or what he called “the modern dark ages” and it’s hard to argue with this assessment.

While the regression clearly hasn’t sent humanity back to the 15th century, with UV lights, vehicles and technology is a stark reminder of a time gone by, the mentality and nature of the survivors aren’t likely too far off their Middle Age brethren.

Within Dying Light 2, resources are scarce and allies scarcer. This means that each of the game’s pockets of society are wary of outsiders and the threats they may pose. Unfortunately, as the “pilgrim” you have the tough job of siding with as many of these factions as possible while making minimal enemies. You’ll find out pretty quickly that that’s not always possible though.

One of the biggest selling points of Dying Light is the fast-paced parkour action and, while it needs a little fine-tuning before launch, it’s clear that much of the world has been designed with this in mind.

It was only apt that I was thrust into the first part of the demo around the point the game’s choice and consequences system was shown off at E3 2018. This meant I got to play the game’s infamous water tower quest.

Prior to that, however, I was given free rein of Dying Light 2’s city, a city that had clearly been crafted with player freedom in mind.

No matter where I went, there was always something, be it infected, a faction, sidequest or something else. While that’s not particularly uncommon in open worlds these days, what made this one different to so many others was the verticality.

One of the biggest selling points of Dying Light is the fast-paced parkour action and, while it needs a little fine-tuning before launch, it’s clear that much of the world has been designed with this in mind.

Rooftops play host to supply caches, an open window at the top of a building could be a goldmine of crafting materials and a ledge or windowsill your last-ditch attempt at surviving an infected attack. It’s clear a lot of thought went into it all.

It should also be noted that I only got to play a part of the first area and a small part of a later one. This means that it’s likely there will be a whole lot more crazy world design, especially when you factor in the fact the game contains a grappling hook and glider, the latter of which I got a bit of playtime with during said later part of the demo.

While I won’t go into too many details about the water tower mission, I will mention how much your choices matter. After climbing your way to the top of the tower, you are faced with a pair of antagonists and you can choose to free them or spare them.

After making your decisions, the water tower will then fall into the hands of either the survivors or peacekeepers. These are the two core factions that everything boils down to in the game, with each having a significant impact on how the city is moulded.

Described as “creative” and “brutal” by the devs, Dying Light 2’s combat is exactly what you’d expect.

If you side with the survivors, the city will become more of a playground for you, with the faction adding zip lines and other more parkour-friendly equipment for you. Peacekeepers on the other hand plan to do exactly that, laying out traps and other hazards for the infected.

With the ginormous city being split into a multitude of different areas, you can really begin to shape it, and the story, in the way that you choose.

Alongside the parkour, the combat was one of the key components of the original Dying Light and that is all set to return in the follow-up.

Described as “creative” and “brutal” by the devs, Dying Light 2’s combat is exactly what you’d expect. Dropkicks, modded weapons and an array of different special moves are available across the game’s skill tree. Again, I was limited to what I could use, but there’s more than enough potential for some serious infected killing hijinks.

In my short session, there were multiple times where I set of a chain reaction of flaming infected, or I was able to dropkick a human off a bridge and that’s what this game is all about – the hilarious chaotic action in an otherwise terrifying landscape.

Now, no matter what time it is, you can’t rest easy.

Like the crazy combat, the day/night cycle returns from the original game, with the infected being more active, and dangerous, at night. However, while the night was always the most intimidating time in Dying Light, the day now feels just as perilous.

Of course, running around in the dark is terrifying, but as humanity becomes more desperate, the struggle has become more apparent. Dangerous factions patrol the street, guarding their turf and fighting anybody that dares step foot near them. Now, no matter what time it is, you can’t rest easy.

With the early 2022 release schedule, Dying Light 2 might face a bit of a tough time. It’s competing with the likes of Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring and many more.

That being said, from what I got to play, there’s a genuinely interesting world, heart-racing encounters and a deep story and mechanics that will appeal to Dying Light fans, both new and old.

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