6 years later in our world, 20 years in their's, Dying Light 2: Stays Human returns to tell a new post-apocalyptic story.
You’ve likely heard about it; Techland’s first-person action-RPG, post-apocalyptic, zombie horror-survival game Dying Light 2: Stay Human looms large in preparation for its February 4th release date. It’s been getting on four years since the game’s announcement at E3 2018, a time frame parallel to many of the memorable triple-AAA titles in the past decade. Ahead of that glorious cinematic trailer and the ‘A Place To Call Home’ gameplay peek released this week, we put our heads on the ground to give the dark and harrowing, but at the same time immensely pleasurable, game a shakedown before its launch to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.
What is the context of Dying Light 2 Stay Human?
The new Dying Light 2 title follows Aiden Caldwell, a parkour genius with superhuman powers, but not in the magical sense – in the sense that he is just a genuinely gnarly dude. A sequel set 20 years after the events of the first Dying Light game, the Stay Human world is a place dramatically different to that we encounter before; the virus is still rampant and the undead have developed a stubborn predilection for night-time feeding. Any remaining human survivors are firmly set in the barbaric ways necessary to survive the hordes, presenting an equally matched adversary as the zombies. It looks almost a crossover between Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Fallout with a generous sprinkling of auxiliary zombies. It’s no coincidence much of Dying Light 2: Staying Human harks our thinking back to Fallout games; writer Chris Avellone (and the guys who helped write The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt) wrote both stories, therefore impacting the overall feel and setting of the non-linear game. With staff of this calibre behind the scenes, the Stay Human plot arc is therefore saturated with poignant and provocative themes – let’s explore that for a second.
Can you tell us a bit more about the non-linear aspect?
Critics and company alike are dubbing Stay Human a ‘narrative sandbox’, implying the setting or plot can be significantly influenced by choices made in-game. In between scavenging for components and resources, Aiden will encounter several established survivor factions whom he will have to ally with or rally against, factoring in relationships and dependencies on various NPC characters while doing so. This isn’t the get-off-the-ground zombie-apocalypse game that Dying Light was, Humans have grown well-accustomed to this world and have re-built their own infrastructure populated by packs of people the size of small armies. Speaking of, I have a feeling the ilk of this writing team will do a good job of having us inevitably invest our emotions in NPC characters, an addictive aspect of RPG games when done right. The title ‘Stay Human’ alludes to more than just resisting the zombie threat; the morality of your decisions, the humanity even, matters too – will you opt to become as barbaric and unforgiving as the undead? Dying Light 2 doesn’t shy away from difficult decisions, some junctures presenting some genuinely weighty consequences. It is in part these decisions that earn the game the title of a ‘narrative sandbox’ for access to certain areas of the city is contingent on choices made by you; the people at Techland were keen for players to experience the brutality of post-apocalypse life without too much airy-fairy milieu surrounding it, striking a balance – I’d be confident in saying they’ve achieved that.
Where is the Dying Light 2 set? How does gameplay feel?
The abandoned metropolis home to the events of Stay Human, known plainly as The City, is a rambling urban environment four times bigger than the original game separated into seven districts each with noteworthy features, including the tallest skyscrapers and viewpoints the game has yet seen. Considering Techland’s aims to include allegory into the game, the oft makeshift layout and features of the city is said to denote the global societal situation as a whole. Whilst The City looks immaculately pieced together, it is how you traverse your surroundings that are the icing on the cake. Consisting of an impressive 3000 strong Mirrors’ Edge style parkour animations, myriad gadgets, paragliders, grappling hooks, Stay Human renders no area is out of bounds, and how you get there is up to you. All this adrenaline-fuelled freedom would be mired by insufficient graphics, though – it’s a good thing Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a gorgeously designed world brimming with detail; brilliant sunsets, miles of draw distance, fantastic character animations, a vivid and undulating, breathing cityscape with enough nooks and crannies to explore, such as broken windows in buildings uncovering entire floors, that it will take likely hundreds of hours to experience all – it’s just magnificent. How can we not revel in Stay Human? You get to parkour about a rustic city, brutally execute the undead, immerse yourself in some compelling social situations all while accompanied by some of the best graphics I have ever seen in a game. Even re-living those emotions felt when watching those trailers has floored me again.
What does Stay Human combat involve?
Combat places a heavy focus on close-quarters melee battle, dodging, blocking, countering, using martial arts and projectiles; throwing knives, Molotovs, bows and what have you, though upgradable shotguns, spears, and crossbows feature too. Naturally, Aiden will have to contend with various enemy types from differing factions, preferring varying combat styles; Bosses too, the leaders wait eagerly to have a go at maiming our diligent protagonist. It’s not the guns-blazing, somehow lasers have come out of nowhere sort of game, Dying Light 2 Stay Human, it portrays a refreshingly realistic attitude to combat where infinite bullets aren’t just lying around – Baseball bats and machetes are, though. You'll need them, with hordes of creepy and slow Walking Dead style zombies by day and deadly rapid World War Z zombies by night, toxic zombies, crawlers and Brutes too, the greater your weapon arsenal you the better.
Dying Light 2 could quite easily be the game of the year for some – it has all the required ingredients to be considered among the finest games of the post-apocalypse horror genre. Better still, Techland has brought back fan-favourite elements of the 2015 original Dying Light; the four-player co-op mode a prime example, and the same docile day-time zombies that go berserk once the sun has set, but all else, even despite being along the same lines, is either completely novel or greatly improved. A month sits between us and this brilliant game’s release – too long, but patience is a virtue I am told.