Title : Dying Light
Publisher : Warner Brothers, Interactive Entertainment
Developer : Techland
Genre : Survival Horror
Players : 1
Release Date : 2015
Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $59.99
A few years back, a little game by the name of DEAD ISLAND surfaced out of the muck and grime of pitiful modern gaming. It's hard not to forget that title, not for the game, but for the absolutely epic trailer the game released. Oh, the hype that surrounded DEAD ISLAND before the game came out thanks to that trailer. And it was well deserved. It is, to this day, one of the best zombie video game trailers that have ever hit the mainstream. The only one I feel that even remotely came close to that trailer was ZOMBIE U.
Two games. Two brilliant trailers. Two epic flops. Okay, maybe flop is a bit harsh, but they definitely fell completely short of what was expected of those two games. Then again, I am not all that surprised when it comes to open-world zombie survival games. There just isn't enough variation or unique gameplay elements to keep me absorbed. Not to mention the extreme lack of story.
How many times can the same story be done over and over again? A new viral strain turning victims into zombies. I love a good zombie story, but I feel like the market is getting more and more saturated with unoriginal ideas. Sure, it's hard to come up with different variations of zombifications, and that's where video games( and other forms of media ) need to work on story and development to draw their potential audience in. As for me? I'm still waiting for that moment to arrive. But until then, I'm just going to have to keep trying everything that's thrown at me until I find it.
Enter DYING LIGHT. Another attempt by the developers over at Techland to create an open-world zombie survival game, this time sans epic-trailer. Well, if there was a trailer out there for this game, I never saw it. And it couldn't have been that good if there was one, because I would have heard SOMETHING about it. You can say that DYING LIGHT is also the first attempt at a next gen survival horror, if you discount THE EVIL WITHIN. But my hopes weren't that high for it, especially after the horrid release issues they had with the physical release, and potential delays. Those were never a good sign.
So, after waiting on other people to make reviews, and hearing some word of mouth feedback, I finally decided to give it a shot. I didn't pull the trigger and shell out the $60+ on it though, and instead snagged a friends copy to give it a whirl. I had my fingers crossed that I was in for a better trip than I had gotten with my last two zombie survival experiences. Well, I can just say I wasn't disappointed, but I wasn't blown away either.
DYING LIGHT revolves around Kyle Crane, and undercover operative sent to infiltrate the fictional plagued city of Harran in an attempt to find evidence of a corrupt politician attempting to "bad-mouth" his agency. Interesting concept to have when you're dealing with a zombie game, but whatever, I'll roll with it. As Kyle, you'll come across moral issues where you'll need to decide whether or not to continue your pursuit, or help those in danger of being overcome by the zombie plight.
Let me get this off my chest immediately, because I really don't feel like talking about it again later on. The story, while sounds interesting on paper, was very poorly executed in the game. It gave me the same feeling as it did in Dead Island. They tried to come up with something unique, but it ended up turning into something bland and forgettable that left a bad taste in my mouth. It's like you have a story that is just setting the stage, and most of the game is all about playing the same type of mission over and over again while leveling up. Don't get me wrong, a lot of open-world games do the same thing. Look at Far Cry. You're basically doing the same thing the entire game, but at least the stories are more developed. Far Cry 3, more than Far Cry 4, but I digress.
It's a damn shame too, because DYING LIGHT was definitely attempting to break into some new grounds here with this game, but for me, it's all about connecting with a characters and a plot. Unfortunately, I didn't get that here. Needless to say, it didn't totally ruin my enjoyment of this highly addictive game.
If you played DEAD ISLAND, welcome to the reboot. DYING LIGHT follows the same basic gameplay mechanics as it's predecessor, with the addition of the highly addicting parkour elements and a day-night cycle. Most of the game is spent scrounging around for resources, while avoiding the ever-re-spawning Zombie horde. Resources are good for numerous things, from crafting health items, to upgrading your weapons, to of course finding "quest-based" items that'll let you move on to different areas.
Parkour is a highly entertaining addition to the game. There is nothing quite like leaping from building to building, jumping down into a horde of zombies, and then hopping on to a bunch of cars only to make a brilliant escape as an explosion echoes behind you from a bomb you just dropped. (bomb being a match in a barrel). This mechanic brings back memories of playing mirror's edge, and I have to say they did a brilliant job. Of course, there's always moments where it glitches out, which are also entertaining. Seeing your legs fall through a wall is always good for a laugh.
Crafting weapons and combat, are of course one the highlights of the game, and probably what makes me keep coming back for more. Weapons act like a lot like they did in DEAD ISLAND. The more you use it, the more it degrades until it eventually breaks. Of course, you can modify weapons do become something better and more durable, and there's never a shortage of items to work with scattered across the ground. Break your axe? Pick up a pipe. Add an electrified wire to it, and boom..zombie guts everywhere.
I'm always a sucker for a game that lets you experiment with taking out enemies in as many methods as possible. Do I want to jump off the top of a building and attempt to a land a zombie to crush its skull? Maybe I want to lure zombies into a back alley stocked with gasoline drums and fling a set of firecrackers into their midst, thereby causing a massive explosion. Or, do I just want to run head first into a horde equipped with only an electrified stick? You can pretty much do anything you want, and with the sheer number of abilities at your disposal with the games crafty leveling system, you'll find yourself having more fun just exploring and killing zombies in various ways than going through the actual story line.
Although, with every game (especially open-world) with a leveling system, there comes a point where your character is just a tad too overpowered. By the time I learned all of my character's skills, I was a force to be reckoned with, and the fear factor just wasn't as apparent as it was in the beginning of the game. Trust me, when I first started playing and you're left with little to survive, an annoying but effective fatigue system, and barely any guns (I didn't even find my first gun until an hour or so into the game), you end up playing on the edge of your seat. However, that feeling of intense fear, doesn't last past a few minutes.
So, you're overpowered. You've mastered crafting, and you have a slew of items at your disposal. How do you add to the fear? Introduce a day-night cycle.
The first time I saw the message about night-approaching, I admit, I got a bit clammy. But that effect only lasted one time, when I realized that the night-cycle is pretty much a poorly executed attempt at varying the gameplay. It doesn't really do much to the game besides make the screen darker and introduce more zombies into the mix. In fact, it feels more forced, and not a natural day-night cycle as I expected. It's hard to explain, but I feel like the cycle was meant to move the game forward based on where you are in the story.
Long story short, there was so much more they could have done with that element, that it really felt like they missed the mark. Which ultimately brings to how I feel about this game. DYING LIGHT tries a lot of new things, and while some are effective, none are groundbreaking. Parkour is fun, but a bit gimmicky, and most of the other elements are just re-hashed versions of DEAD ISLAND (without the ten thousand bugs plaguing them).
Needless to say the game is still a lot of fun...for the first few hours. Then the repetition sets in. Oh look, another horde of zombies. Let me jump around and mess 'em up, and hop away. On to the next mission. More zombies. More jumping. More crafting. More leveling. I admit. I didn't finish the game, but after playing over 10 hours of it, and spending most of my time exploring, I didn't really want to. The story felt like it wasn't moving, and the gameplay grew tiresome.
Visually however, the game is rendered quite beautifully, and my time spent exploring the city felt rewarding. There was nothing quite like jumping to the top of a building and overlooking the entire city scape....and then leaping off and falling to my death for a laugh. If you were a fan of DEAD ISLAND, you'll enjoy the game as a reboot, but I can't say that you won't get annoyed by the repetitive gameplay and lack of story. It's a fun open-world zombie slaying game, but it's by no means what I've been waiting for, and what zombie-survival horror gamers have hoped for.
Close....but not quite.
Final Score (out of 5)
Until Next time, Remember. Aim for the HEAD!