Photo Credit: Techland
Dying Light 2 Stay Human — out now on PC and consoles — might have a “2” in the name but it's not really a sequel. If you are new to the Dying Light series, worry not. It isn't absolutely necessary to play the first title because there aren't a lot of connections to it in the “sequel”. Sure, they mention some familiar names back and forth — and there are similarities in gameplay, combat, and interactions, but Dying Light 2 Stay Human works as a standalone title. The story here is set around 20 years post the virus outbreak in Harran (from the first game). Scientists were able to find a vaccine for the original virus, but somehow managed to mess up some chemicals and create an even deadlier virus that created a new outbreak of zombies, of course.
The game starts with you running in the middle of an unknown jungle, fleeing from the bloodthirsty zombies, jumping bridges, climbing ledges, panting for dear life — the usual routine — before meeting a friendly face, Spike, who helps you pick up some honey and chamomile while he reminisces about his younger self, the situations he had faced while also reminding Aiden that he is getting older and slower for a pilgrim. Oh, I forgot to introduce you to the new lead character of Dying Light 2 Stay Human — Aiden Caldwell (voiced by Jonah Scott, Legoshi in Beastars) is a pilgrim who has been in the business for a couple of years now. Aiden travels from one city to another just like your everyday wanderer. However, his story is filled with zombies and a quick guide on how to stomp them.
Aiden is looking for his little sister Mia, whom he lost contact with after a certain doctor was conducting dastardly tests on children of their age in a closed facility. He manages to reach a city called Villedor, which is teeming with the undead and with buildings standing on their last legs. The city is also divided into factions that are fighting for water towers, electricity substations, and other resources. Two factions, the Peacekeepers (PK) and the Survivors, are about to go to war because the former think that their leader, Lucas, was killed by the latter.
The locals are sceptical of people from outside the wall and Aiden has to earn their trust. He soon finds himself tangled in what seems like an everlasting war. Aiden's only goal is to find answers to Mia's whereabouts and to take revenge on the evil doctor, Waltz, who is likely to have information on Mia. As Aiden travels through the broken city of Villedor, he is struck with flashbacks of Mia and him in the facility. Along the way, Aiden makes a lot of foes while making a handful of friends.
Zombie games are usually known for slashing at the undead with guns, swords, and whatnot. While Dying Light has all of that, this is not entirely its selling point. What is? Parkour. Aiden is able to swing from one rooftop to another with ease, though the stamina mechanism in the game is a bit frustrating — it makes sense from a story standpoint. Locals have built safe houses on rooftops and have equipped themselves with UV light, vegetation, and weapons for when the need arises. The undead haunt the streets and just like the first Dying Light, it is better not to cross streets but jump from one rooftop to another. As night falls, the zombies grow stronger and step out in search of fresh blood. For the unafraid, missions executed in the night yield good returns in the form of XP.
The first few hours of Dying Light 2 Stay Human are really tedious, shaky, and wobbly because of the low stamina and rookie climbing skills. Even climbing a four-foot ladder completely drains out Aiden. After spending some time in the game, you unlock a slew of abilities. The skill tree consists of a parkour section and a combat section. There has a lot of nifty skills that can be used during combat or while outrunning a horde of zombies. Love drop kicking a zombie from the rooftop and seeing it plummet to its destined death? Well, go on and unlock it. Another combat skill lets you use an enemy as a jumping ledge while you vault straight into the face of an unaware enemy kicking him into oblivion.
These skills can be unlocked by completing story and side quests. Each quest gives you a certain amount of XP that later on builds up into a single point. Performing multiple parkour movements adds to the parkour points while thrashing enemies and the infected adds to the combat points.
The original Dying Light had a decent storyline but the combat felt a bit wobbly. Techland seems to have worked on it over the past few years to make combat and parkour look and feel much superior. Slinging weapons at the infected or human enemies does not feel jarring anymore. Couple that with some of the combat skills and you'll be having District 13 level action.
Human enemies do not seem to be that smart when compared to zombies. In a battle of 1v3, humans prefer to attack individually rather than in a group which makes your job easier. This makes it look like a Bollywood action scene.
Zombies, on the other hand, are always alert and aware of their surroundings and attack at will — there's a chance that they might catch you off-guard as well. There are around 10 different types of zombies, all lethal. Starting with Biters, who are the most common form of the undead, to Bolters, who possess rare loot. Spitters, as the name suggests, spit gooey acid at you. The Volatile are the Alpha zombies — the only way to “defeat” them is by running away.
Passing through pitch dark tunnels while the infected are taking a short nap is a scary sight, and kept me at the edge of my seat, literally. When passing by half-asleep zombies — it shows a bar below every zombie indicating if it is able to sense you. Some zombies also show a certain level at the top of their head, if it goes a level higher and you manage to grab its attention, it's best to panic and run or else you might end up being their dinner.
Speaking of running, there's a certain type of zombie apart from the usual Biters, called Howlers. The Howlers call on their zombie mates upon spotting you. This triggers a chase which you have to complete in order to run away from the horde safely. It's better to stick to the rooftops as the streets are always teeming with the infected.
During the chase, you can also run towards one of your safe houses which has UV lights placed outside. The zombies cannot enter the area with UV light as it burns their skin. You can create safe houses by doing tasks. Fixing windmills and water towers gives you access to safe houses. Performing these tasks are fun as they hold some kind of a puzzle or boss fight inside. For example, connecting wires from one outlet to another using your amazing parkour skills, to fighting a brotherly duo who mean evil.
Some missions also make you choose whether to assign a certain water tower or an electrical station to one of the two aforementioned factions. Choosing whether to hand the building to the Peacekeepers or the Survivors determines the quests and people you meet going forward. The factions reward you by either laying down airbags and ziplines across the city or by laying down traps in the street.
Kicking people off the roof is not the only solution. You get to hoard an arsenal of melee weapons as you invest hours in the game. The weapons range from the two-handed axe, baseball bats on steroids, and many more. Unlike Dying Light, you do not get to repair a broken weapon. Worry not, you will be able to find a ton of them as you progress. Dying Light 2 Stay Human also lets you modify weapons in a sparkly manner. By sparkly manner, I mean literal sparks — power shots generate a wave of electricity that will stun the enemy, giving you enough time to hit a couple of more blows.
The best weapons have three mod slots: grip, shaft, and tip. To install a weapon mod, it is necessary to have the right weapon and a blueprint along with some craft parts.
There are also a couple of one-time use weapons that you can find around the city. Spears are one of them, and can be acquired from dead bodies lying on the streets — to throw at enemies for a one-shot kill. You also get to craft throwing knives, among other things. This is very useful when an enemy is somewhat far away and you want to take them down while staying in the shadows.
The crafting section gives you a lot of options to modify things and build them from scratch. The entire city can be scanned for loot that might contain scraps, electrical boards, weights, bottles, cigarettes, honey, chamomile, UV mushrooms, and more. These items can be used to craft health materials or even certain tools that can come in handy during a battle.
Aiden is able to single-handedly, without a care in the world, extract honey from a beehive. Honey combined with chamomile is used for healing purposes. Meanwhile, electrical boards can come in handy for quests. UV mushrooms are used mostly during the night when you are away from the safe house and out in the dark. These mushrooms help increase your immunity for a short period of time. Scraps can be used to make lockpicks that are the key to opening doors and loot boxes. As you progress, you will also come across temporary consumables such as immunity and health inhalers.
As you advance in the storyline, you will also get to fiddle around with some nifty tools such as a grappling hook and even a paraglider. The paraglider is a bit tough to control and as you can guess, drains out your stamina. However, the game smartly includes a way to gain altitude by adding fans to the ground, which helps you stay in the air longer.
There are over 20 combat and parkour skills to unlock while you roam the streets of Villedor. Parkour skills help you perform new stunts that can be very useful while on the run or while performing some rare tasks. Once the skill tree is filled up to the brim, Aiden can scale the entire city — nothing is beyond his reach. You are required to have a certain amount of health and stamina level to acquire some of the skills — these can be unlocked by using inhibitors. These are GRE-provided serums that help boost health or stamina. Upon nearing an inhibitor care package, an automated voice lets you know that you are close to the case. A single package contains three inhibitors and you can use that to either increase your stamina or health. A balance of both is advised, but I invested most of them in the stamina section, as it made the monotonous task of climbing ladders and ledges a bit easier.
The Dying Light 2 storyline is fairly average. The game introduces choice-based dialogues that add a little more flair to the story but unfortunately, not enough. Aiden is made to run back and forth in the city doing the dirty work for the factions, who do not seem to give away information even after gaining trust. Seems like a way to stretch the game out. Thankfully, the characters in Dying Light 2 Stay Human are quite good and you get to meet a ton of them during quests. Some characters stay for a while, and some are just there for a single section of the story.
Dying Light was known for its day and night cycle, with the latter naturally being scarier. This is also part of the sequel. Dying Light 2 Stay Human also has separate night-time only missions that yield good rewards since the zombies are much more powerful in the dark.
Aiden's “survivor sense” is a nifty add-on for players like me who sometimes get lost in places. The investigation mechanics are a brilliant way to highlight footsteps in the dark apart from hidden files and boxes.
The sound design is great and the background score is brilliantly embedded into the game. During chases or high intense parkour movements, you can hear the music build up and slow down as you come in and out of stealth. This nuanced choice of music helps improve the gameplay too.
The skill tree is a good touch and makes you want to spend hours in the game in order to unlock each and every one of them. And you can spend as much time as you want — Techland recently took to Twitter to reveal that Dying Light 2 Stay Human can give you a whopping 500 hours of playtime, if you go through the story and all the side quests, exploring the different choices and endings.
Rating (out of 10): 7
Dying Light 2 Stay Human released February 4 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Available later in 2022 (via the cloud) on Nintendo Switch.