I’ve been a massive fan of Techland’s brand of zombie slaying for over ten years, starting with the release of Dead Island. That game was known for having you build creative weaponry to kill zombies. Techland followed up Dead Island with a spiritual successor Dying Light, which proved that the best way to survive the zombie apocalypse isn’t just with crazy weapon modifications — but with prodigious use of parkour.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is a first person action adventure game and the follow-up to the massively popular and insanely fun Dying Light. In Dying Light 2 you play as Aiden, or as I like to think of him, Kyle Crane 2.0. Aiden is looking for his sister, and to find her, he travels to one of the last cities on Earth. To accomplish this, he’ll have to navigate two factions trying to survive, and come face to face with his past. He’ll also have to fight through hordes of ravenous infected, and groups of armed thugs that you can defeat with the power of parkour. If you’re coming into Dying Light 2 hoping for great melee combat and fun parkour, you won’t be disappointed.
Combat in Dying Light 2 will be familiar to anyone coming from Dying Light. You equip yourself with (often homemade) melee weapons to dispatch infected “biters” and any aggressive non-infected people you might come across. The melee combat feels great, which is good, because you spend the vast majority of your time in Dying Light 2 swinging a melee weapon. Melee combat sticks and slices where appropriate, and is one of the best examples of first person melee combat I’ve encountered.
The weapons of Dying Light 2 play a major role. Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much fun modifying and finding new weapons in Dying Light 2 as I did its predecessor. While combat feels great, finding high quality weapons isn’t as exciting as it was in the previous game. And while you can’t repair weapons like you could in Dying Light, the weapons in Dying Light 2 last far longer—I think I completely replaced my weapons five times or less in my playthrough.
Weapon modifications aren’t as exciting in Dying Light 2, either. Previously, you could turn a mundane sword into a fire belching weapon of doom (for example). While that’s possible in Dying Light 2, there are a few more steps. Each weapon has several modification slots, which allow you to mix and match weapon mod types. However, weapon mods themselves must be applied through the use of blueprints, and these blueprints must be upgraded through a special vendor called a Craftsmaster. It doesn’t seem possible to find ridiculously overpowered blueprints in the wild—you have to grind out every upgrade. I ended up beating the game with a couple of basic weapon mods I kept throwing on my weapons—but if I had more time before the review embargo, I probably would have spent more time upgrading my weapon mods, and scouring the city for materials.
The City—humanity’s last bastion—is a parkour playground. It makes sense in-lore, since people have had 15 years of experience with surviving against the zombies with parkour. It has ramps and platforms that make getting around a blast. There are lots of activities to partake in, too—from running challenges, to side quests. I even managed to find a few interesting locations off of the beaten path. The City is huge, and full of goodies and secrets to uncover. The City itself also changes as you play and align yourself with one of the two major factions. The more sections you grab for one faction, the more faction-specific changes to The City you’ll see, either in forms of ways to protect yourself or ways to stay off of the street level.
Dying Light 2 has a lot of familiar gameplay for those returning for the sequel—but some significant changes. The biggest one is the paraglider. This upgradeable tool allows you to use The City’s awesome verticality to your advantage as you soar high above danger. There is also a grappling hook that works much differently than the original game’s—it’s no longer possible to grapple to the ground to save yourself from falling to your death, for instance. Instead, it acts more like a grappling hook should, merely allowing you to swing from one point to another.
Just like in the original Dying Light, the infected are far more dangerous at night. The super dangerous Volatile infected type return, and while they seem even deadlier than they did in the first game, night just isn’t as scary as it was. Even with Howlers causing other infected to chase you down, night time never approaches the same level of peril in Dying Light 2 as it did in the first game.
The skill tree returns from Dying Light, and it works much the same way as it did in the previous game. You can increase your skill in either parkour or combat by merely jumping and climbing or engaging in combat, respectively. The skill tree is a little disappointing, and while there are a few essential skills to grab, I rarely found myself anticipating my next cool ability.
One of the main draws of Dying Light 2 is its story. I feel like one of the weakest aspects of the original was its lackluster story, and even after teasing a robust narrative that relies on character choice, I still felt underwhelmed. Dying Light 2 sure tries earnestly to invoke emotion, and to connect you to its characters—but even good voice acting by a stellar cast can’t elevate hammy dialogue and juvenile characterizations. Another major selling point for Dying Light 2 is the effect play choice has on its world—and I would say that’s true, but only to an extent.
Often when I made a choice in Dying Light 2, it felt like the “right” one. Choices that are supposed to come off as morally grey, to me, felt like a choice between helping a group of desperate people who happen to be jerks, or authoritarians that are nicer but just trying to use Aiden to gain more control. These choices are usually between two major factions: the authoritarian Peacekeepers, and a group of loosely organized survivors called “The Free People.” These “Free People” aren’t really a faction as they are just “everyone else,” though the game treats them like one. While Dying Light 2 tries to paint these two factions as morally grey, one faction stood out to me as the most obviously evil.
Dying Light 2 had the potential for great, impactful storytelling, but its inclusion of a third faction, the Renegades, completely undoes any nuance and conflict having two morally grey factions would. Instead, the Renegades act as almost Saturday morning cartoon style villains, screechy voices and all. It’s strange that Techland would take all of the effort to make a story that had the potential for some tough choices, only to throw in a group of cartoonishly evil psychos.
Choices do seem to matter in Dying Light 2, however — at least, most of the time. I would have loved to go through a second playthrough and make all of the opposite choices to see how much the outcome would change, but I didn’t have the time. I’ll just have to save that for my impending co-op playthrough.
Dying Light released all the way back in 2015, but Techland is still releasing updates for it. Thankfully, they have come out and made a similar pledge for Dying Light 2, with DLC (both paid and free) planned for the next five years. With five years of promised support, there is some seriously exciting parkour meets zombie killing days ahead.
Dying Light 2 may not have lived up to my expectations in regards to its story, and I would have liked a few more exciting weapon mods, but it excels at absolutely everything else. The City is large, beautiful, varied, and interesting. Traveling around The City is pure parkour bliss, and combat is equally fun. I’m already champing at the bit for more Dying Light 2, and can’t wait to jump in with friends—and sink my teeth into their upcoming DLC. Dying Light 2 is here, and it’s exactly what I wanted.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.