Hands-on Impressions of Dying Light From E3 2014

Parkour zombies

Techland’s Dying Light is an ambitious multi-platform title set to release during February of 2015 that features the tried and true zombie motif that has become quite popular in the gaming industry these days. Unlike other zombie games, Dying Light isn’t just about hacking and slashing your way through hordes of the undead with the various tools you can find in the world around you. This take on the first person zombie genre is all about strategy and tactics thanks to the inclusion of a parkour system and the time of day system, with both promoting thoughtful approaches to zombie encounters while you push forward with mission objectives. I got to spend 30-minutes with the game at this year’s E3, and I must say that Techland’s new take on the zombie genre is both refreshing and fun to play, and it should definitely provide a unique experience for zombie infused video game fans.

Dying Light isn't just about killing zombies

Dying Light isn’t just about killing zombies

When the game ships during February of 2015 it will offer 4-player co-op, but for my E3 demo I played alone, and that’s just fine because I got to experience more of the tactical side of Dying Light. The first map I played is the same map that you’ve probably already seen in most of the gameplay footage released in the game. Here I learned the nuances of the gameplay, which are fairly similar to most FPS games with one fundamental difference, which is the inclusion of a jump/mantle button.

This shoulder button is your key to scaling walls, buildings, and then jumping from rooftop to rooftop to ensure that you remain out of the line of sight of the undead that are milling about on the city streets. In Dying Light you’re not an unstoppable force of power that can kill any zombies that cross your path, so you must rely on your parkour skills to traverse the game world to make sure you don’t get stuck in a hairy situation involving more zombies than you can take on at once. Having the “parkour” button on the right shoulder did make jumping and climbing a bit cumbersome at first, but after a few minutes of mixing it into my session it felt natural and fits well with the overall gameplay to keep you as tactical as possible. You essentially have to hold the button down anytime you want to climb something, and if it’s a climbable surface your character will proceed to climb it as long as you hold the button down.

Level design opens up the parkour aspect of Dying Light

Level design opens up the parkour aspect of Dying Light

After getting acquainted with the parkour aspect of Dying Light I got to test out its melee combat courtesy of a bat and a zombie’s face. The melee combat is brutal and full of gore, but does require a bit of strategy thanks to the fact that none of the zombies are truly just cannon fodder, so you must constantly be bobbing and weaving, especially if you’re being attacked by multiple zombies at the same time. This is usually the case though, because once you make noise by bashing in zombie brains the undead in the immediate area will join in on the fray to take a swipe at you. If this happens there’s no chance of winning the brawl, so you must hightail it to the rooftops to reassess the situation.

Herein lies the tactical and strategic aspect of Dying Light’s gameplay. You absolutely can’t just hit the streets en route to your objective and hack your way to victory. During the daytime you have a much better chance to win a zombie battle here and there, but you’ll still have to sneak your way around using your parkour abilities to have any chance of survival while you make your way to mission objectives. Once the day turns to night the art of getting around on the map gets even more challenging because super zombies begin to roam the area, and they absolutely can’t be attacked head on. When I came across these zombies I was instructed to use a decoy, which is a device you can throw in any direction to call zombies to it so you can make a run for it, or to access a location they’re inhabiting in force. I got to use this decoy very effectively while trying to restore the power to a survivor camp during the nighttime, because a group of super zombies were blocking my path. Luckily, with one toss of the decoy I was able to shift their attention elsewhere so I could sneak into the power station to restore power and complete the mission.

Fighting isn't always the best strategy to employ

Fighting isn’t always the best strategy to employ

Every time I came upon a new location in Dying Light I would essentially scout it out using my zombie sonar vision (can see the super zombies through obstacles) to get a lay of the land. If it was a daytime scenario I’d figure out if I could survive a skirmish, or if I should avoid one and move one to my objective. If it was a nighttime scenario I’d essentially go into stealth mode and avoid contact at all costs by using the parkour abilities, or by throwing decoys to clear the path I needed to take. I love smashing in zombie brains, and did spend plenty of time enjoying seeing digital brain giblets fly into the air, but I appreciated the fact that I had to think about bashing in brains before doing so. The open world setting and element of choice really do make Dying Light feel much different than Techland’s first zombie game, Dead Island.

Old Town map

Old Town map

Towards the end of the demo I got to play on a brand new map called Old Town, which is a city that you’d expect to see in Spain, or another hispanic oriented location. Just like the other map I played, this one is setup in a way that promotes rooftop travel and exploration. Techland really wants you to use the environment to your advantage, and both maps that I played worked well for this style of gameplay. The tall buildings and hastily thrown together scaffolding for easy climbing and traversal will tempt you away from trying to be a tank-style zombie killer, and turn you into a parkourist with deadly zombie killing skills and battle strategies that don’t just involve yelling “CHARGE!”

All encounters should be planned out, even those with other survivors

All encounters should be planned out, even those with other survivors

After getting some hands-on time with Dying Light at E3 2014 I have to say that it’s shaping up to be a somewhat unique zombie-centric video game. The focus on strategy and tactics through the inclusion of parkour abilities really alters the way players can tackle missions, and the fact that you aren’t a super powered zombie killing machine is very refreshing when you think about the plethora of zombie games that have been released over the past five years. I can only imagine how much fun and tactical the game will get while playing with 4-players, so I’ll definitely be looking forward to playing the finished build when it drops next year during February. Dying Light may be another zombie game, but Techland appears to have changed the formula up enough to shake things up for a unique zombie survival game experience that doesn’t just involve mindless killing and over-the-top gore.

 

If you have any questions in particular please use the comment section below and I’ll do my best to get back to you with an answer if I have one.

 

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