Dying Light 2 Review

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Dying Light 2

By Paul Hunter

Techland brought life back to the tired zombie genre back in 2015 with their open-world survival horror Dying Light, a hugely successful game that would go on to attract over 20 million players worldwide. Seven years later the developer is back with their much-hyped sequel starring a new protagonist and set in Villedor (a.k.a. The City), one of the last bastions of humanity. Does Dying Light 2 take the story, combat and parkour-style gameplay to new heights? Let's venture into Villedor to see for ourselves, here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: The Progression Loop

The best part about Dying Light 2 is its addictive day/night gameplay loop that keeps me coming back for more, even after over 50 hours of logged game time. During daylight hours the more powerful zombies burn up when exposed to UV light, so they hide away in abandoned buildings leaving the streets filled with only the slow, slumbering Biter zombies that are easy to kill and even simpler to avoid. It's the ideal time to trek across the city completing story missions, discovering new survivor outposts, night shelters and other areas of interest. During sunlight hours I also enjoy taking on the game's many leisurely activities, like climbing windmills or doing across-city parkour runs, all while unencumbered by the zombie hordes.

When nightfall hits that's when things heat up: the stronger zombies emerge from their concrete shelters and flood the streets, making the city of Villedor a far, far more dangerous place. There are many deadly special infected creatures to watch for, like the Howlers that scream to attract all nearby zombies and the brutish Demolishers with Hulk-like super strength. Even the common Biters get faster and more aggressive with the UV effects no longer slowing them down. Nighttime also brings opportunity, specifically it's your chance to loot the inside of buildings while most of the special infected are busy outside. And a lot of the game's best goodies are tucked deep inside these abandoned structure so the risk is often worth the reward.

I thorough enjoy this day/night cycle as it keeps the gameplay fresh and can often lead to risky edge-of-your-seat situations. When the crack of dawn is approaching you often have to decide whether it's safe to keep exploring the inside of buildings knowing full well the zombies could return any minute, or to hightail it out and potentially miss collecting some good loot. This is especially true for the GRE medical facilities that are among the best places to scavenge but these buildings can be four floors or more and take awhile to pick clean. A few times I got three-quarters in when daylight was mere minutes away and I had to scramble out fast before the most deadly special infected retreated back inside. The clock can also work in your favour: if you engage the powerful special infected horde outside right before sunrise you can laugh and watch as they begin to burn up and rapidly lose their strength. It's moments like these where Dying Light 2 really shines.

Liked: The Skill Trees

Dying Light 2 features dozens of unlockable skills and the vast majority of them add even more fun and flavour to the gameplay. Skills are divided between Combat and Parkour, but it's the latter that really hooked me the most. Parkour skills are all about making you run, jump and move around the environment faster and more efficiently. There are skills to make you jump higher, run horizontally across walls, have safer landings and smoothly slide under gaps. The traversal mechanics—especially once you bank several upgrades—feels much smoother with wider variety compared to the original game.

Combat doesn't fare as well in Dying Light 2, which mostly revolves around awkwardly swinging sharp or blunt weapons to slice, slam and subdue the zombies. Still, there are some fun Combat skills to unlock like the Dropkick, my personal favourite because I love the thud of smashing into the infected and sending them flying. Plus, it's supremely powerful and can hit multiple zombies with a single kick. There are other extremely useful Combat skills as well, including the tried-and-true ground pound, or the Windmill sweep attack that hits all enemies around you.

Not only are the skills great, but I really enjoy how you gain XP for literally everything you do. Clamber up a wall, get XP, swing on the rooftop monkey bars, get XP, slide under an exhaust system, get XP. All these actions and more will net you Parkour XP and it's cool that you can see the experience gains in real-time right on the HUD. The same goes for Combat XP, everything from stealth kills or in-your-face zombie head smashing nets you experience points that you can later cash in to buy new skills. I really appreciate games that reward you simply by playing, and Dying Light 2 does that in spades.

Liked: The World Variety

Another huge plus for me is the wide variety of activities you can undertake, depending on your mood. One of my personal favourites is the Ultimate Fury Cricket where you have bat 20 zombies off a roof in under a minute to capture the gold. It's challenging and hilarious, great for when you just want to beat a few zombies to a pulp. I also love the parkour challenges that range from following checkpoints as fast as possible to deliver water to citizens to challenging the fastest times set by Nightrunners. These parkour missions really put your jumping, swinging and sliding skills to the test—and it's great that you can revisit these challenges after you've upgraded your parkour moves.

Another favourite activity of mine is climbing the city's many windmills, which again put your parkour skills to the test. Some of these windmill climbs are ultra hard as they require your entire stamina bar and precise jumping, and any miss sends you crashing to the ground. There's also military airdrops to collect and these often require you to find creative ways to scale tall building, working your way up scafolding and rope swinging across risky gaps.

I also had fun taking on some of the game's more interesting combat challenges like GRE Anomalies where you face off against a terrifying Revenant to gain Combat XP and loot inhibitors, the syringes used to upgrade your health or stamina. Revenant boss fights are particularly challenging because this special infected has the ability to revive and buff other infected so you have to contend with an unrelenting horde as well.

Didn't Like: Story Falls Apart

A few years ago I had a chance to preview Dying Light 2 at E3, and there the development team explained that the city has three factions (Survivors, Peacekeepers and Renegades) and you'll need to make big decisions that impacts on the city and story in major ways. As it turns out though, story decisions are far less impactful than what was explained and game does a really poor job of acknowledging past decisions. In several cases I'd ally with a rival faction or outright backstab a faction, only to have their leaders later speak to me as if I did nothing wrong. This inconsistency made for an unconvincing story that feels like it mostly plays out the same regardless of your choices.

It was also hard to get into the story of Aiden, the lead character, who journeys to Villedor in search of his sister Mia. She has very little screen time and is mainly shown during flashbacks of their time at a GRE facility. She's essentially a MacGuffin that propels Aiden's story forward, despite never giving the viewer a chance to really connect or care about her. While I don't need Dying Light 2 to have an Oscar-worthy narrative (I play these games mostly for the engaging gameplay and exploration), it would have been nice to see more thought and care put into Aiden's story.

Didn't Like: The Bugs

Another downside to Dying Light 2 is the occasional poor performance, whether that's frame drops, stuttering or even the rare crashing. These issues tend to crop up when battling the larger zombie hordes and make the already so-so combat more of a chore. The glitching is even more apparent when you try to do the game's much-hyped ability to leap over zombies and perform a flying kick. I found the hit detection to be very off, and when you add in the frame drops it made me want to avoid the move altogether. To the developer's credit, the day one patch fixed a bunch of the issues and they've released a few patches since, such as one that fixed the nasty infinite-death loop bug. Very likely we'll continue to see better performance as more patches release, which is appreciated.

The Verdict

I'm having a blast playing Dying Light 2 and could easily see myself breaking the hundred hour mark, or more. It's too bad the developers didn't add a new game plus mode—but it does seem like they're considering it and if so I'll be there day one. The parkour moves are the real highlight of this game: it's so much fun jumping, swinging and sliding your way through the city. The combat starts out just alright, but it gets much better as you unlock new moves and get weapon mods like adding fire or electricity. All in all, Dying Light 2 is an enjoyable experience and it's a strong recommend from me.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Dying Light 2 Stay Human details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Techland
Publisher: Techland
Genre: Action role-playing, survival horror
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher. Last updated March 2022.