Nick and I spent almost four hours with Dying Light last night, which was more than enough time to form some first impressions of the game. I’ll get this right out of the way–I thought it was decent when we first started playing, but by the end of our session I was really enjoying the game. Dying Light is a lot of fun.
Mechanically, Dying Light feels like Dead Island with a more elaborate traversal system. The combat feels almost exactly like Dead Island, although I can already tell from the skill trees that there are more layers to it, including a variety of combat moves you can unlock that will make melee combat a lot more satisfying.
Much like Dead Island, you begin Dying Light very under-powered. The weapons you have are very simple and break easily. You’re better off staying away from zombies instead of confronting them, especially if there’s more than one or two in any given area.
But like Dead Island, there’s a crafting system that allows you to repair and modify the weapons you find, and scavenging for materials is extremely important when you’re out in the city completing missions.
So as you can tell, my first impression was that Dying Light was pretty much a next-gen version of the Dead Island series. But there are a couple of major differences, and they really add to the Dead Island formula.
First, the traversal system. As you can see from the trailers and the video below, it’s very Parkour-inspired. Scaling up buildings and vaulting across rooftops is a little clunky at first, but as soon as you get comfortable with it, there is a smoothness to traversal that allows you to cover a ton of ground in a short amount of time. It also reinforces a major theme in Dying Light–stay off the ground whenever you can. The zombies are attracted to noise, and they swarm pretty quickly. Individually they seem slow, but as soon as you’re surrounded, you’re pretty much dead (at least early on). Your best bet is to navigate around groups of zombies.
The second big change from Dead Island is the day/night cycle and how it affects the threat level you face in the city. As you might imagine, nighttime is much more dangerous, but what surprised me is just how dangerous and truly scary it actually is. There are much more powerful enemies that come out at night, and it leads to some frantic chase scenes as you try and scramble away from something that can pretty much kill you in one hit.
I had commented to Nick early on in our co-op playthrough how there wasn’t that “Left4Dead moment” in Dying Light that I had been hoping the game would provide. But the chase that came near the end of our session provided the same kind of thrill I got when I was racing toward the evacuation point at the end of a Left4Dead mission. It was a panic-induced blast, and that was just with two of us. I cannot wait to get four friends together in Dying Light and venture out into the city at night.
So, what seemed like a bit of a slow start was really just Dying Light giving us time to get familiar with its traversal, combat, crafting and mission systems. There is a lot of fun to be had in this game, and once you start to experience the city at night, everything gets dialed up a big notch.
Look for an episode of “Co-Op Plays” featuring the co-op portion of the playthrough Nick and I did, and you can also expect a lot more Dying Light to be streamed on our Twitch channel over the coming weeks.