Dying Light 2 Stay Human

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Techland
Release Date: Feb. 4, 2022

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'Dying Light 2: Stay Human'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on March 7, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Dying Light 2 is a novel vision of the post-apocalyptic experience will bring everything players would expect from a new, radically improved installment in the series.

Buy Dying Light 2: Stay Human

Dying Light 2: Stay Human takes a lot of time to assemble the game it wants to be. The original game from 2015 took the general zombie-slaying gameplay from its predecessor series Dead Island and added a parkour element and a day/night cycle that made for risky travel in the dark. Dying Light 2 is a refinement of those ideas, expanded into an even larger world with even more tools to traverse it. It's also a game that at times feels at odds with itself. The gameplay, story, and setting are rarely on the same page at the same time.

The game is set 22 years after the outbreak in Harran, which ended with the death of that city. The virus was contained, and further development officially stopped after the GRE created a vaccine, but of course, virus research continued in secret. A virus variant escaped the lab, but this time, it infected the entire world and caused entire countries to collapse. Humanity now lives in pockets of scattered shelters and cities, often separated by hundreds of miles. Travelers, known as Pilgrims, are often the only means of these shelters communicating with each other, since they're the only ones brave and skilled enough to make the dangerous journeys.

The city of Villedor is one such city, walled off from the outside world early in the outbreak to contain its own infection only to later find that the same wall protects it from the outbreak and hordes. You play as Aiden, a Pilgrim who has traveled a great distance to Villedor in search of his sister Mia. GRE experimented on Aiden and Mia as children and later separated them, and a man who contacted Aiden over the radio claims to have information about what happened to Mia.

Upon reaching the city, Aiden finds that control of the city is contested between factions: the survivors, who live in the city and are trying to get by; the Peacekeepers, who want to restore law and order through military rule; and the Renegades, who are the standard violent, postapocalyptic psychos because reasons. Aiden is laser-focused on finding his sister, and to accomplish that goal, he ends up getting involved in the fight between the factions because he needs their aid to continue his path.

I lay out all of this to make the point that rarely does Dying Light 2 seem to keep all of these plot elements in mind at any given time. For example, the game frequently touches on the "war" between the survivors and the Peacekeepers, but one mission shows the two brutally fighting each other, another (later) mission shows the Peacekeepers coming to their aid, and the gameplay outside of story missions forgets that the two are supposed to be antagonistic. Aiden is supposedly intent on finding Mia … right up until you're tasked with side missions to find missing clothing or gather ingredients so a woman can make perfume.

You start the game relatively weak, same as in most games of its type, and you progressively become more capable as you level up in combat and parkour and put points into their respective trees. You gain a pittance of experience by simply "doing them"; fighting zombies or hostile humans grants combat experience, and leaping across gaps and clambering around obstacles gives parkour experience. However, to make meaningful progress toward leveling up, you must complete missions; some missions involve settling disputes about people stealing flour, while others might have you tracking down something regarding paint.

It's all disjointed, and this disconnect continues with Aiden. Pilgrims are touted as survival badasses who are capable of traveling through the vast wastes alone, safely navigating hundreds of miles of terrain filled with untold horrors. Aiden, ostensibly a Pilgrim who is physically hardened from his travels, is tossed five feet backward if he so much as gets shoved. The game relies upon cut scenes filled with exposition to lurch the narrative forward, and so often feature Aiden getting "surprised" by a blow to the head that you could make a drinking game out of it. Take a drink every time it happens, take a shot every time you call it before it happens, and enjoy a hospital visit before you reach the game's Central Loop area.

It's worth sobering up for the Central Loop because this area is where Dying Light 2 finally starts to make good on the promise that the previous few hours of the game have been teasing. The early area of the game that you are locked into is a relatively numbing expanse of wide, relatively short buildings that are boring from a parkour standpoint. The Central Loop is a significantly larger area, with entire skyscrapers to navigate above and around, and by then, you've unlocked additional parkour skills and a paraglider to make it fun to do so.

Parkour was a big feature in the previous game, and in Dying Light 2, you end up feeling even more capable as you make your own path through Villedor. Parkour elements such as handholds are somewhat subtly painted yellow, so it's easy to spot important ones. Otherwise, nothing stops you from grabbing just about any ledge or running along any vertical surface. Most of my time with the game was spent far from ground level, and the game is at its best when you're skillfully playing your own little game of "the floor is zombie-lava."

The day/night cycle is a bit different this time around. The night is still dangerous, as the zombie horde is not only greater in number but also takes more dangerous forms. However, you also must contend with the notion that early in the game, Aiden gets infected with the virus, and the lack of exposure to UV rays can only be endured for so long before he turns. As such, you end up bouncing from UV hotspot to hotspot during the night, venturing out into the darkness to reap its rewards only as long as your timer can last. It's a fun dynamic, and while it never feels punishing, it often adds enjoyable suspense and stress as you navigate dark environments.

Where the game truly falters, especially in its interior environments, is with its combat. It's mechanically sound, but it often boils down to a boring loop of whacking at a zombie's head, backing up, and hitting them again until either they fall over or you have to retreat to regain stamina. Fighting against human foes is more entertaining and makes better use of the blocking/countering/dodging system. It also provides a greater opportunity for "parkour combat," which tends to boil down to "counter the first person to stagger them, leapfrog them to jump-kick someone else to stagger them, and repeat." It is an effective means to win a fight without wearing down your irreparable weapons, but it feels unrealistically silly in the context of a game that features zombies.

When it isn't silly, the combat usually ends up being boring. I lost track of how many times that I perched upon a rooftop gazing down upon a military convoy that contains some rare loot, only to realize that it wasn't worth my time to wear through a couple of weapons to slap some zombies around, and circle-strafe a bigger one with hits until it falls over. Most fights against zombies aren't pitched battles for your life; they're a war of attrition where your most finite resources are the durability of your favored weapon and your ability to care.

As such, you're better off sticking to parkour and keeping to the relatively safer rooftops, if only because that's also where you get better views. Dying Light 2 is an impressively detailed game, and the effort put into its characters and environments was clearly substantial. The title also supports ray tracing, which looks amazing, but it sometimes brought the frame rate into the teens, even with DLSS active. Even without it, the game remains incredibly vibrant and makes effective use of lighting and shadows.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human isn't a bad game, but it can't help but get in its own way. For all the freedom of its parkour system, you'll have to sit through cut scenes and fumble through the interior environments. For all the talk of conflict between the factions or that the choices you make matter, the game only recognizes them when it is convenient to the narrative and forgets about it entirely in the next. Much like the undead that populate the streets below, the gameplay is best avoided by sticking to the parkour as much as possible as you work toward the conclusion.

Score: 7.1/10

Reviewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia GTX 2070 Super

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