E3 2018 Preview: Running in Dying Light 2’s Narrative Playground
Back in 2015, Dying Light brought a brand new style to zombie games. Combining the first-person parkour of Mirror’s Edge with the melee combat of Dead Island, Dying Light’s open world was fun and terrifying to run around in. Techland continued support of the game, as recently as this year announcing various events and expansions. The recent resurgence of Dying Light support–most of it free content and updates–now makes sense as we saw Dying Light 2 announced at E3. Curious how the team is innovating on what they learned from the first game? We got a chance to check out nearly an hour’s worth of gameplay with commentary from the developer.
First of all, we’re stepping away from the city of Harran. It’s 15 years later, and we’re in a European town, so obviously the virus didn’t stay confined to Harran, despite the first game’s best efforts to do so. It’s no longer a recent pandemic. The world has lived with this problem for years, and societies are beginning to crop up, creating what Techland refers to as a narrative sandbox. Dying Light 2 is twisting and branching. Your choices will not only impact the story, but will also transform the world around you.
Our gameplay demo looked at the same portion seen in the trailer. A couple of thugs have taken over a water tower, and the Peacekeepers (one of the many factions in the game) want us to check the situation out. After some close calls, walking into a nest full of walkers (more on them soon), and a ton of Dying Light’s signature parkour, we reach the top of the water tower ready for negotiations. These two thugs make it clear that they weren’t about to negotiate with the last guy, so we have a couple of options. First, we can choose to kill the smugglers, returning control of the water tower to the Peacekeepers. On the other hand, we can strike a deal with them in exchange for a cut of their business.
Games having us make these kinds of tough decisions aren’t new, but Dying Light 2’s narrative branches don’t merely change the story or impact the reward. They actually change the entire state of the world. Side with the Peacekeepers and the water will flow freely, giving you another option to heal at fountains in the area. There’s a more organized structure to the city and devices are erected that allow you to quickly scale buildings and get around the city. The Peacekeepers also have a very militant method of control, so the people in the area get to live under the thumb of the government.
If you opt to strike a deal with the thugs, conditions are very different. Water is a scarcity obtained only through the black market. The land is lawless, but the people are free. They don’t need to live under a governing influence. You might find it a bit harder to get around, though. The pulley systems that the Peacekeepers would have installed aren’t there, so climbing becomes more of a chore. Even the appearance of the surrounding area changes based on this decision, one looking dusty and deserted while the other starts to look more civilized and bright.
Where are the Zombies?
The vast majority of our demonstration focused on the daytime and human interactions, but this is still a zombie game, right? During the day, most of the zombies retreat into their nests, dark places that hold a lot of loot. You’ll want to come back to explore nests at night, when the zombies are out and about, but that’s just the problem. The zombies are out and about. Wander into a nest during the day and you risk waking the horde, which will chase you until the light. Escape to the outside and you are free. One or two shambling husks might follow you out, but the difference between daytime zombies and the ones in the dark is drastic, much more so than the first game.
Players will find that the day/night cycle is actually woven into some of the major narrative decisions as well, so waiting for darkness could offer alternate solutions for problems you need to solve. It’s not clear how many decisions have the “city-changing” effect that the demo mission had, but the entire game is huge. Techland said this new city is four times the size of all of the maps from Dying Light combined, and with their focus on the narrative sandbox, there are sure to be plenty of decisions that will impact big parts of the game.
Getting around the sandbox of a city is now twice as fun with twice as many parkour moves. Some areas feature parkour puzzles that you need to figure out how to climb, all while keeping an eye on your stamina meter. There are some physics based elements in the parkour, like swinging from ropes, and all of those little things come together to play the most fun and fluid Dying Light experience Techland has ever made.
There aren’t many games where my choices feel like they have genuine consequences. Not since Fallout 3 forced us to choose whether or not to blow up Megaton have we had to make the kinds of decisions that will physically change the game that we are playing. Dying Light 2 wants you to think about each and every choice you have to make. It wants you to see the direct impact that your decisions have on the game world. While many of the choices you will make in Dying Light 2 will present a moral dilemma, making the decision to keep an eye on Dying Light 2 doesn’t have any downsides.