It seems like every year the entertainment industry gets more and more saturated with zombie apocalypse lore. Movies, music, video games; each venue has multiple options for anyone. With this amount of saturation, the odds are that not all of them are home runs. A select few manage to create experiences that are engaging enough to resonate with people and keep them watching, playing, or reading. World War Z, The Last of Us, The Walking Dead, and now Dying Light; sit atop a sea of mediocre titles as the best of the best. The bar has been set, and they’re the ones that set it. A few key things differentiate these apart from the other fodder.
The Stakes Are High
The goals generally have to be bigger than staying alive. Most zombie scenarios involve keeping a small group of people alive and getting them somewhere, but, almost always, the goal becomes saving the human race as a whole. Save all of humanity? That’s a pretty tall order for anyone. Dying Light throws you into the middle of this Middle Eastern city and helps you to bond with the characters around you. You initially want to fight for the city itself, but the main goal is to save the world. The virus needs a cure, and you need to find it.
The Scenic Route
A zombie apocalypse has to have a certain look to it. No matter the amount of time that has passed between outbreak and epidemic, the world is generally going to look terrible. Grime and trash will be everywhere. Kitchens will be full of dirty dishes and spoiled food. Bathrooms will look like someone might’ve literally crawled in there and died. Nothing ever looks clean and sanitary. Dying Light takes a lot of cues from Mirror’s Edge for its travel and parkour system, but it takes nothing from its clean and colorful setting. The city of Harran is a dirty place.
There Is No Hope
Anything that can go wrong in a zombie apocalypse will. Rays of light may shine throughout the clouds, but expect the clouds to come back and cover those elusive rays of goodness back up. Did you enjoy meeting that side character? They’re dead now, or you did something to piss them off, or they’re just not a team player, or they’ve betrayed you; the opportunities are endless.
The odds of you succeeding are generally insurmountable, which is why little dashes of hope are sprinkled throughout the experience. The Walking Dead gives you new friends and locations. World War Z has protection for the main character’s family and a team of soldiers with the scientist. Dying Light gives you new weapons, upgrades, and abilities as it slowly picks off everyone around you. They’re just little rays of light in a dark world, and that works.
Dying Light combines the best elements of zombie survival horror games with a unique mesh of several different gameplay elements. The story is appropriately bleak, yet has enough moments to get you to bond with the characters and the world you inhabit. It deserves its spot among the handful of truly great zombie experiences in existence.
Check out our review for more opinions on Techland’s successful parkour zombie title.
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