Yeah, I absolutely adore Dying Light 2.
I remember enjoying the shit out of the first Dying Light and its excellent massive expansion The Following. Parkouring around that city, demolishing hordes of zombies and running away for my dear life from a couple of Volatiles at night - that was one heck of a good time. Dying Light 2 is exactly the sequel I was expecting, improving all of the elements that made that original so special.
Set years later after the events of the first game, you play as a new character called Aiden Caldwell. He is a member of a traveling group of people known as the Pilgrims and is on a personal quest to find his sister, who is the key to a past he cannot remember. His quest points him towards Villedor, one of the last remaining cities where humans are still surviving. After an unfateful encounter with a vicious Volatile, Aiden is infected with the virus. So apart from trying to find his sister, he now has to well, survive and stay human hence the subtitle of the game.
The interesting thing with Villedor and the humans who live there is that everyone is infected and is always mere minutes from turning into a zombie if they don't stay in the light. This whole thing plays a bigger role when it comes to the gameplay, but more on that later. Light is really important in this world, UV light to be more precise, as that allows humans to stay human and not turn. Everyone is safe during the day but during the night or where there is darkness, no one is safe. That's where UV lights and lamps come into play. Camps, homes, and big settlements where humans live are lit up by said UV lamps during the night and that keeps everyone safe. It's a really cool concept to be honest and one that we haven't really seen explored before.
Back to Aiden, he searches for his lost sister and asks around for help. But the thing is that no one really gives a shit about Aiden or his quest cause he is just another survivor who's looking for a lost relative or something. Everyone still alive in this city has lost someone or something, everyone is basically on the same boat and hence, no one really gives a shit about helping you or each other for that matter. That's when you as Aiden start to put your parkour, combat and surviving skills to action by completing missions for many different survivors and people who might know a thing or two about your missing sister or the bad guy Waltz or the experiments that the Global Relief Effort (GRE) did with the virus and cure. Basically, you will collect a bunch of "IOUs" by completing said missions, doing favors etc., so these survivors will have to help you.
I really like Aiden as a protagonist, his journey and all of the crazy shit he has to deal with, and how he interacts with the rest of the characters. The main story is really big and will see you interact with tons of people, many of whom you will help, save, maybe even betray them depending on the situation as it's kinda up to you what you decide to do. I liked interacting with Hakon, which dons the face of David Belle aka creator of parkour. I absolutely loved Rosario Dawson's portrayal of Lawan. I adored interacting with the sleazy Juan which gives off strong Littlefinger vibes. Very frequently during dialogues with other characters, the game asks you to choose what you want to say or which side do you want to join or betray, and sometimes it even puts a countdown forcing you to make a choice.
The interesting part with all of that is that you never know what might come out of your choice. The choice of saving a character early might come to bite you in the ass later in the game where that character betrays you. Another choice you make at one moment will lock you out of an entire series of quests a little bit later. This system is not only for the main quests though as many side quests also include choice. For example, you might accuse someone of poisoning water and he'll die to only later find out that he didn't really do it, but it was someone else altogether and this last one didn't deliberately do it to just poison the water. All of that happened just cause you didn't really put anytime into properly investigating what actually happened and following all the leads.
You never know these things first hand and that's the beauty in this system. And Aiden reacts as one does, you know. Life in Villedor is harsh, where yes there are human settlements, but everyone looks for themselves first. Different factions have different agendas. People will try to use you for their own benefit. People will try to use you to cross, spy, and even murder other people just so they can increase their own standing in Villedor's hierarchy. People who seem trusting and helpful at first will backstab you later. But honestly, you will do about the same. I loved every second of it.
The city of Villedor is, in my opinion, a masterclass of open-world world design. It's a fictional European location that features both a major urban center with modern skyscrapers and an old part filled with 19th-century townhouses. Traversing around Villedor is just a treat. The original game had a revolutionary first-person-perspective parkouring system that allowed you to jump and climb nearly everything you saw. That whole system is back in Dying Light 2 and, of course, it is improved a ton in all directions. Running across rooftops never gets old, 50-100-150 hours in the game. It is always satisfying trying to find the right path and chaining dashes, jumps, mantles, wall rides, and using monkey bars, poles, airbags, roper, the grappling hook, and even a damn reusable paraglider for some big air time - it is so so good and it just works.
Now, to be honest, the early hours will see you fail a lot of the jumps or climbing sequences cause your stamina is really low and most of the parkour abilities are locked behind a leveling system. But by just playing the game and completing main/side missions, Aiden gets better and the whole experience of running around the massive city gets a heck of a lot better. The same can be said about combat, while you start really weak, the more stuff you complete the stronger you will become. It becomes a total power fantasy.
There's a lot of stuff to do, see and complete in Dying Light 2 and everything you do builds up Aiden and his abilities. The day and night cycle is back again, but, you guessed it, this time is even better. While in the first game, I mostly skipped the night cycle cause it was harder, Volatiles and other special infected just murdered your ass and it wasn't that rewarding to play it. In DL2, you are "forced" to play during the night cycle as the game has a lot of missions that take place during the night. It also has a lot of expeditions that are way easier to complete during the night. Circling back to Aiden being infected, another new thing with the night cycle this time around is that you can't just stay in the night indefinitely. In the beginning, you can stay out in the night for a limited time, around 5 minutes, before you die. You can replenish this meter by finding a UV light source or by using some immunity boosters. Early in the game, you need to be mindful of that limit, but the more you play and level up that limit increases. And while finding said immunity boosters is hard at first, by mid-game you'll have enough to last you a lifetime.
During the night the zombies will roam the streets leaving only a small number of them still lurking in the shadows. These expeditions will see you go inside small stores, metros, and big buildings to explore, salvage, and loot anything that's not nailed down from materials to use for crafting, armor pieces and weapons, to special inhibitors that allow you to increase your overall health and stamina which in turn allow you to unlock new skills and abilities. I was just as excited to go into the tenth GRE Quarantine Zone as I was during the first one. I was just as excited to climb the twelvth skyscraper to scavenge that new (but same) military drop. I was just as excited to turn on the lights of the fifth metro as I was for the first one. And I was just as excited to go and scavenge the thirtieth store or pharmacy or whatever to scavenge for materials as I was for the first few. It helps a lot that loot replenishes in all of these locations so the next time you go in, there's something for you to collect. This whole gameplay loop never got old for me.
Do you know what else helps with that high replay value? Combat. There are a lot of spiky, rusty, blunt, and sharp melee weapons for you to use to decimate both the living and the undead. There are also a lot of throwables like grenades, C4, molotovs etc. that you can use to blow or burn everything and everyone that wants to do you harm. Weapon degradation is back and while you can't repair weapons like in the first game, by modding them you increase their durability. There are a lot of mods to be applied to nearly all of the weapons. Do you want a spiked bat that can cause both burn and bleed? You can do that. Do you want a police baton that shocks and freezes? Yup, you can do that. Some of these effects activate on critical hits and some you can choose to use whenever you want. Weapon damage scales along with your level so later you will find some that do a lot of damage and when you mod them you increase their capability for carnage. While scavenging, I found an Enso Katana, an artifact weapon, which I modded to dish out electric shocks. Yeah, I was basically cosplaying as Zenitsu from Demon Slayer and slashed everything that come within my range in a flash.
I also bought a pair of spiky artifact knuckles, cause the shops in this game sell actual good stuff, and modded them basically adding a blast ability to them. Then, I went inside a metro station, during the day mind you. Two Volatiles attacked me and I basically blast one-punched them so hard that they flew a couple of meters away from me. Then I progressed by punching the rest of the zombies and dropkicking them to oblivion. I felt like a god. I didn't have to wait for the night anymore, I could go melee blazing in the middle of the day and still succeed.
4 player co-op is also back from the first game and this time around, other players can join you, vote on what to do next, and any progress made carries to the single-player. Oh, also the loot is player-specific so you don't have to fight on who gets that legendary weapon. The difficulty, mainly enemy health also scales up depending on the number of players. I tested it for a couple of hours and well, it needs some work done to improve the matchmaking as there's a lot of disconnecting/reconnecting happening.
Man, I enjoy playing this game so so much. It helps a lot that the game offers up a Performance 60fps mode on PS5 and XSX. There are also two other modes, Resolution and Quality, but they are locked at 30fps so yuck. Performance is the way to go and even though the resolution is at only 1080p, the game still looks really good. Gone are the grey/brown colors of the first game. Villedor is a decrepit, yet quite beautiful place where the streets are basically dead since they are filled with roaming zombies, while the rooftops are full of life as nature has taken over them. Based on your actions, Villedor will change too. Depending on what faction you choose to grant control over a water tower or electric station, either Peacekeepers or Survivors, the city will change. Offering it to the Peacekeepers for example will unlock car bombs you can use to blow up zombies while offering it to the Survivors will unlock zipline, airbags, and other things which will make traversing easy. Again, it's up to you and there's no right or wrong choice.
Dying Light 2 was well worth the wait and it easily gets a recommendation from me. The stories you will experience and the people you'll interact with are great and your choices will play a big role and well, you have to live with any consequence. The gameplay loop *chef's kiss* never gets old and is probably one the most satisfying loops ever. Yeah, 2022 just started and Dying Light 2 is already a Game of the Year contented in my books. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a code provided by the developer. Dying Light 2 is available now on PC, Playstation, Xbox and soon on Switch.