And now, we move on to a game I bought during the Steam sale that I am fully enjoying; Dying Light. It’s an action-combat parkour zombie sandboxy game, so super original and exciting! Kidding aside, Dying Light really is fantastic, and not because it brings something super fresh to the table, but because it does all the basics really, really well.
Let me start with the zombies. I love the traditional zombie; slow, dumb fodder that’s only a problem when you are cornered or face a horde of them. Those are the basic and most common zombies in DL, and it just works perfectly. You run around the huge map, and zombies are everywhere, but most of the time you can run right past them because they are slow and dumb. They also can’t climb, so that is also an easy escape most of the time. They can be a problem when you need to pick a locked door on the ground floor and they just keep coming, or when you fight another human, the fight makes too much noise, and suddenly you are both surrounded and the situation is a mess. That whole interaction is a huge core principle to a good zombie game, and DL has it down.
Which is not to say all of the zombies are dumb or the same. You do have faster zombies (recently turned humans) that can climb, zombies that spit toxin at you, exploding zombies, bigger tougher zombies, etc. The variety is really nice and ups the challenge, but those special zombies never replace the core zombie in terms of what you mostly see and deal with.
I generally dislike parkour in games, because more often than not it’s a tacked-on gimmick. In a lot of games, you can only run/jump/slide in special spots, the ‘now we do the parkour level’ spots. That’s not the case in DL; almost the opposite really. In DL you can jump and climb almost anything, and the game gives you a lot of leeway in those areas as well in terms of jumping/grabbing accuracy. Also the spots that you can’t climb are obvious, such as fences with barb wire at the top or smooth walls that clearly don’t have a spot to grab onto.
Parkour so also a tool in DL rather than a focused feature. It helps you get around and escape zombies, or climb to search for loot, but aside from some side challenges, the main focus/point isn’t around how neat the parkour is, which I appreciate. The game having passive health regen is also an important factor, because it allows you to run around with less concern over a slightly too far drop that damages you a bit, or when you run past some zombies and they nick you. If health didn’t regen, all of those things would be more noticeable and annoying.
Combat is very similar to games like Dead Island, where it’s mostly melee and pretty over-the-top (You bash zombie brains with pipes that have saw blades attached, or electrified baseball bats), though in DL you can’t endlessly kill everything like in other games due to weapon durability and the general concept of eventually being overwhelmed. It feels good though, and the weapon selection is impressive, as are the modification options. Facing the special zombies is also generally a challenge, especially when the environment is limited. For example, there is one encounter that places you in a small, closed-in area facing a large brute of a zombie, meaning you can’t just run away at will to regen or recover.
Production value is very high in the game. The graphics are great, the game supports ultra-wide 3440×1900 resolution, and it runs smoothly maxed out on my machine. The voice acting is top-notch IMO, and the story so far has been surprisingly engaging. Sound plays a huge role in situational awareness, from hearing zombies coming to detecting which special zombie is around based on what sound they make. Zero complaints at all in those areas.
The only negative so far is that the game is a console port, and while it’s not nearly the worst, it still suffers from things like nested menus in the UI and the checkpoint save system. For the most part the in-game controls are good, but more mouse-based interaction would have been nice too.
Overall DL has been a blast so far, really surprising me in how engaging it is and how well everything works together. Even if you are tired of ‘yet another zombie game’, I’d still recommend it, because even a tired idea is enjoyable when executed perfectly.