|Platforms||PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Nintendo Switch (Cloud)|
|Release Date||February 4th, 2022|
The first Dying Light was one of my favorite games of the previous generation of consoles. It was a game I played almost annually every October, thanks to the wealth of content that came out long after the game’s release. I was already a fan of Techland’s previous work and loved the idea of Mirrors Edge-style parkour combined with the action of Dead Island. Now, seven years later, it’s an honor to bring our readers a review for Dying Light 2, now referred to as Dying Light 2: Stay Human, in all marketing material. Having completed my first playthrough, I believe that Techland has taken things to the next level, and they promise loads of content after the game’s release just as they did with the first.
Dying Light 2 is rated M for Mature and due to a large amount of extra game content, this guide is likely incomplete.
Spiritual Content: One cathedral is a home base for survivors, and a big battle occurs in another. On some occasions, you may find people on the streets holding a vigil while praying to the “god of life and death.” A reference to Vallhalla, the nordic afterlife, is made.
Violence: Dying Light 2 includes large amounts of blood and gore. Players and other characters engage in close-ranged melee combat. Players have the option to acquire and customize weapons that shock, poison, and burn their enemies. During a battle, critical hits may occur that dismember enemies, creating a bloody mess. An early cutscene has the player gets hung from first-person before being let go. A player may find others being hung or put in cages as zombie bait throughout the world.
Language: If you can think of a swear word, it’s likely in here: “d*mn, s**t, f**k, c**k, c**t.”
Sexual Content: This game is full of suggestive themes. One guy claims he “gets all the p**sy,” as another response with “maybe your mother’s.” The player walks in on a guy and a girl making out about to have relations. Later, the woman and another guy are lying together, fully clothed. A side quest has players searching for ingredients of a perfume that the character calls “turn me on.” A character accuses another of “shotgunning beers and screwing bartenders.”
Drugs/alcohol: You’ll find multiple instances of characters drinking or getting drunk. Players can attend a party and drink with some of the characters, but that is optional. On more than a few occasions, characters will try to hand the player a beer, but it is optional to take the offers.
Other Negative Themes: Child experimentation is a heavy topic in the game. Some cutscenes show a child being strapped down and getting shots with a syringe.
Positive Themes: It was nice to see two characters spend time with one another overnight without implied sex factored in. Another positive scene depicts a prominent character telling the player that he’ll never go back to drinking, which occurs after seeing them using drinking as a vice.
A big part of playing the game is to bring hope to the city. Players will help many people throughout their experience.
Dying Light 2 takes place twenty years after the first game. The city of Harran is no more, and despite Crane’s efforts, the world has headed back to the dark ages thanks to the continued experimentation of the GRE. The setting feels too familiar since the media is littered with zombie apocalypse stories these days. However, this sequel is rich with characters that have their own stories to share as you traverse one of the last existing cities in the world. Aiden, the player-character, has a story that I found myself interested in as he looks to solve some mysteries of his past while dealing with his inner demons. As we saw at E3 some years ago, your time in the city of Villedor will have you spending time with the people that reside there and make you responsible for how the city evolves.
After a single playthrough, the choices I made felt like an illusion, and none of it drastically changed my gameplay experience. Many of your choices depend on which of the game’s factions you want to help. Capturing landmarks determines whether objects such as turrets or ziplines become placed in certain territories. Supporting those factions in the story felt like it only changed who you answer to in the game’s final moments. Other scenarios had me deciding whether characters lived or died, only to watch them die anyway or to have them return later. As I expected, none of those choices determined how the final minutes of the game would play out, as I had one last choice to make which decided what ending I would get. This is me being reductive and doing my job as a critic because, as a player, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.
The first fifteen hours had me believe that I was in the middle of a faction war between the Survivors and the Peacekeepers and that I would be the deciding factor on who had control over the city. I found myself in quite a pickle because neither side was inherently good or bad, and both had endearing qualities and good people. Just when I felt completely torn, the plot dictated that the stakes were more significant and that deciding who had control would be more of a side objective. After those fifteen hours, the game blew wide open and gave me a metric ton of more side quests and activities. So, I found merit in what Techland was trying to say when they put all those gameplay numbers out there on social media.
My playtime at the end of the game was 36 hours. I did a handful of sidequests and activities to get a feel for how they work but ended up running straight through half of the story for the sake of time. If you enjoyed the gameplay of the previous game, you’d have even more fun in Villedor. Techland made improvements to both the traversal mechanics and the combat while leaning further into some RPG mechanics. Progression handles the game in such a way that helped me improve as a player in both categories. By the end, I could take on rooms full of bandits and zombies with ease and move through rooftops and buildings without accidentally plummeting to my death. Reaching the flow state was the ultimate reward for me as I turned from a stumbling rookie into a master of the arts.
The progression mechanics have been much more focused this time around. The skill tree now only includes combat and parkour, with the gains of the survival skill tree achieved through raising your rank/level, shop items, and faction rewards. With the use of a special key that Aiden acquires early on, you’ll want to locate inhibitors that will help upgrade your health and stamina. The skill trees will be very familiar to fans of the first game because of most skills. It didn’t take long for my muscle memory to kick in when I started playing, but it felt like I hadn’t had the use of my legs in a long time—forcing me to learn to walk again. However, I felt back in my element as the shackles would slowly remove as I relearned each skill. That feeling is one that veteran players may share, but I’d be curious as to how new players feel about this type of progression as well.
I must applaud how Techland handled the weapon system this time around. I found myself unable to repair the first one that I wanted to keep but learned that getting attached wasn’t an option. The inability to fix weapons introduced me to some of my favorites that had more durability; a few of them even stuck with me to the final battle. One of them was a glaive that reminded me of the Klingon weapon in Star Trek, while another was a walking stick that could occasionally shoot fireballs out of the top. Another I held frequently was a handgun attached to a large shaft categorized as a blunt weapon. Lastly, I should mention that I never found any firearms but eventually acquired a bow that worked best for taking out ranged enemies. Some of these weapons already have mods on them, but you have the option of buying blueprints from a craftsman to enhance the less rare ones.
I previously mentioned side quests and activities—which are plentiful. Sidequests usually involve going to rescue someone or fetching a particular resource. Though less frequent, military drops make a return, and challenges make a late-game appearance to test your skill. My favorite side activity is the dark zones. These zones are buildings ridden with infected and encourage players to do them at night since these locations become heavily populated during the day—think I Am Legend. The night/day cycle is much more balanced this time around, too, with a chase mechanic that loosely resembles a wanted system from GTA in which the more dangerous infected variants pursue players. Techland also wants us to go out at night more often by locking some sidequests to that time of day. The gamble of spending time in the city returns as well, meaning you’ll gain some XP and skill points by surviving at night while being able to lose any that you acquire upon death. I spent very little time running around at night in the first game, but the newfound balance and incentives made that a different story this time.
Another of my favorite side activities is the random encounters. These encounters involve helping people attacked by zombies or bandits and other varieties. Aiden becomes a local hero as people grow to know him throughout the city. When you make your way through the rooftops, you might see a blue marker or hear people calling for help. One situation I came upon had a guy trapped in a cage hanging high above some infected; the next had me save a survivor from being hung by a group of bandits. Those moments made the city feel alive rather than simply running into survivors at safe zones. I felt like a genuine apocalyptic hero doing his part in making the world a better place.
In conclusion, I believe that only players who find themselves invested will genuinely take in the amount of content that Dying Light 2 offers. It will take another playthrough for me to see how all of the choices play out and affect the city of Villedor, but I’m already considering starting a second. The one time I truly felt my actions make an impact was when I had Aiden suggest that a survivor I helped name their firstborn after him. Later on in my journey, another grateful survivor mentioned they would do the same. Everything I did for the city and the choices I made for the city ended up being all flavor, but it was nice to know I had a hand in shaping this world in some way.
The end of the game left me wanting to do things differently, mostly because I couldn’t go back and redo that final choice. I looked and didn’t see an option to reselect that last mission or reload a previous save state. The fact that I can’t instantly go back would normally hinder my desire to do it all again a second time. However, I will atone by doing so. It was the first time in one of these choice-based video games that I felt I made the wrong choice, not because it was the obvious non-canon one—I made a selfish choice, and people suffered for it. I know it’s early in the year, but I won’t forget my time with Dying Light 2, and I hope that returning players feel the same way and new players enjoy the ride and return to see where this series started.
Review copy generously provided by Techland and Stride PR
The Bottom Line
Dying Light 2 is an immersive experience that rewards players with a touching character-driven story.