Thursday, June 21, 2018
It’s not always ideal to see a demo of a game behind closed doors – usually we prefer getting our hands dirty and getting stuck in there – but with Dying Light 2 it does make sense. The game is big, full of layered systems on top of systems, builds upon an original that wasn’t incredibly widely played, and – importantly – offers choices with what Techland says will be meaningful outcomes.
As such, being shown is in this case better than us awkwardly muddling our way through something and only seeing one outcome of a situation. It also means less time is spent falling off high ledges into packs of marauding infected, because the developers know how to play their own game.
So what does Dying Light 2 bring to the series? Well this is still a first-person shooter without much in the way of shooting. Guns are loud, ammunition is scarce, and you don’t want every hostile human – or chomp-happy infected – hearing you a mile off and encroaching on your personal space. Could we say probably closer to a first-person survival/exploration game? Yeah, something like that.
Said exploration is carried out through the ever-wonderful medium of parkour – free-running – where players can clamber up, over, and around almost everything in the game world. Rather than just holding a button and going for it, though, Dying Light 2 (just as the original) demands far more input from players, keeping an eye on stamina levels, aiming your jumps accurately, and generally not just holding forwards and an action button.
The team at Techland – this time around made up of over 200 people, with the game itself being worked on for over two years – told us of its three-pronged approach to Dying Light 2: creating a brutal, primal, merciless world which it refers to as a 'Modern Dark Ages'.
The world, for all intents and purposes, ended 15 years ago – what’s left is a scared and scarred world, with Dying Light 2 taking place in an area four times bigger than all of the original game’s maps put together. That’s a lot of scarring. And the things you do, the choices you make, directly impact this world.
We were shown a mission, as featured in Dying Light 2’s reveal trailer, where the player character climbed to the top of a water tower to confront the bandit gang currently controlling the supply to surrounding neighbourhoods. The Peace Keepers force ask the player to remove these naughty water-hoarders, as they’re refusing to let civilians quench their thirst and, so, people are dying.
Speak with the leader of the water gang and you’re presented with a binary choice: complete your mission (resulting in a fight with the gang), or take them up on their offer to cut you in (resulting in no fight). It’s a common finish to a mission with choices involved, but where Dying Light 2 ramps it up is in how the choice directly, obviously impacts the game world.
We’re fast-forwarded a few days to a world where the former option was taken, the gang was eliminated, and the PK forces have moved in. The world map, once chaotic and full of roaming gangs and infected presence, is now relatively calm. Civilians roam, water is freely available (which the player can drink to heal with), and some level of logistical support has been introduced – crane lifts have been installed, for one, making it far easier to navigate.
But it’s not all spiffy and clean and fun: the Peace Keeper forces’ rule might not be as barbaric as that of the water gang’s, but it isn’t light of touch. Gang members are beaten half to death, civilians are arrested and executed for minor crimes, and the doctrine of peace is preached from a makeshift pulpit. Peace has arrived in this part of the city, but at what cost?
Rewind, and we’re back in the water tower, talking over the deal the gang boss offers. It’s simple: let us carry on, and we’ll pay you cold, hard cash periodically. The offer is accepted and time jumps forward in this particular fork in time, this time dropping the player in a world rather less safe than the Peace Keepers’ vision.
Wreckage and fires loot the landscape, with more gangs than ever roaming and civilians without any means simply left to die of thirst in the streets. No water freely available, no structures erected to aid your passage through the city, no safety for anyone – so why would you choose this path? Well for one, the money – this offers significant remuneration, and the cash arrives periodically throughout the whole game. Money still makes the world go around, even when the world has ended.
There’s also the fact that when you let the outright bad guys take over, instead of trying to hide behind a facade of peace and kindness and justice, they just acknowledge they’re bad. So? So: you get a black market. Money and a black market in a world where you need all the help you can get certainly sounds just as tempting as the goody two shoes route.
If this sounds pretty clever, even for a rather binary one or the other choice, that may have something to do with Dying Light’s narrative designer: Chris Avellone. The man behind design and narrative elements in the likes of Planescape Torment, Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, he’s a writer with chops and a proven history for having worked on games that offer both choice and genuine consequence.
All of this and we’ve barely even talked about the infected – Dying Light 2’s zombie element – smarter and more varied than before, their presence at night is something to genuinely fear after you’ve spent a day avoiding negative human interactions. There are the new parkour puzzles, making sure you’re actually paying attention to your free running skills. Four-player co-op, dynamic encounters, improved melee combat – the list goes on.
The original Dying Light managed to build itself a strong support of dedicated fans, and Techland showed it knows how to build upon and add to a project without diluting the core. With that in mind – and with what we’ve seen of the game – Dying Light 2 is beginning life in the public eye strongly.
Expanding, improving, throwing in choices that have an impact, and refining what made the original so much fun – there’s every chance, this time around, Dying Light 2 won’t be a cult hit. No, this time it could well be a monster hit.
Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 02:23 AM
Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 06:43 AM
Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 03:52 PM
Sunday, July 08, 2018 @ 04:14 PM