Dying Light, the zombie-ridden first person parkour survival (well, sort-of) horror game from Techland, launched today. By the time I got it downloaded (onto my PS4, the video and pics in this post are from the PS4’s share features) I didn’t have a huge amount of time to play, but I did squeeze in about two hours, which was just long enough to get through the fairly linear prologue and get to the meat of the game, unlocking side quests and co-op mode, neither of which I had time to sample.
But that still gave me enough time to bash some zombies and get a feel for the parkour aspect of the gameplay. The zombie bits are pretty familiar; this game came from the same folks who did Dead Island after all. And like that game, this one is really violent, at least towards the zombies. You’re going to be bashing them to bits with pipes and clubs for the first couple hours of the game and it is very much not a game for the kids! It’s a real splatter-fest.
There’s also a crafting system which is also fairly familiar. You find alcohol and gauze and combine them to make a med patch. You can craft lockpicks out of scraps of metal. And so on. You can craft anywhere, at least in these early parts of the game where your blueprints are pretty simple. You can also use bits of metal to repair weapons (which take damage with use). Loot, in the form of basic weapons and components for crafting, comes from searching the environment (a ‘survival sense’ ability takes the tedium out of this), or searching the corpses of the zombies you kill. There’s plenty of it, too.
You’ll also find locked chests that you can pick via a mini-game where you rotate the lockpick with one analog stick and turn the key with the other. If you don’t have things lined up right the controller will vibrate and if you don’t back off when it does, the lockpick breaks. This mini-game also felt really familiar.
The part of the game I was most concerned with was the parkour stuff, as I at times suffer from motion sickness in games. So far that hasn’t been a problem and the parkour stuff works pretty well and adds a new dimension (in some ways literally…you’ll do a lot of climbing) to the gameplay.
Here’s some parkour gameplay in action. In this clip I’ve completed a mission but darkness is falling and you don’t want to be outside in the dark!
So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Dying Light. The first person aspect makes for plenty of good scares, or at least startles, as you run around the corner and into a pack of zombies. The early-game zombies aren’t very fast but they’re everywhere and the sound of battle attracts them. They WILL creep up behind you and take you by surprise! As mentioned, the parkour system works well and combat is pretty fun. L1 will kick a zombie away from you while R2 swings your weapon. L2 throws items, like packs of firecrackers to distract the horde. R1 is your jump button.
Your character (and you can’t create one, you have to play as Kyle Crane) has 3 proficiencies (Survivor, Agility and Power) that you level up as you play, and as you get skill points in these proficiencies you spend them in skills trees to unlock skills. You seem to have to ‘bank’ points every so often. I died once and was told I’d lost 200 survivor points. I’m not sure if that was experience or something else…I’m still learning the game. But I did level each of my proficiencies a few times in my two hours of play.
Now a word of warning: the game starts with a big old wad of exposition and during it, while you don’t have control of your camera, your view point will be swinging back and forth like mad. The exposition felt endless and that view point swaying was the one time I felt a little ill. The good news is this only happens at the very start of the game and then things start moving along nicely.
I think my attitude went from snark (I was snarky at first from all the exposition) to joy when I was sent to a fenced-in courtyard to see an NPC. I ran past it at first and came back at it from the wrong direction. I couldn’t find a door but eventually I found a way up onto something and leapt to the top of the fence and dropped inside. I thought it was cool that I could ‘solve’ this puzzle in a way other than coming in through the door (which turned out to be spot in the fence the was bend inward a bit). That feeling persisted as I kept switching between fighting through zombies to opting to out-maneuver or distract them, and back again. Whatever worked best for the immediate task at hand. It feels like the kind of game that is going to reward a certain amount of flexibility in how you play.
As mentioned, the prologue is pretty linear and maybe a little longer than it needs to be, but honestly it was fun and there were some challenging moments where I really had to plan how to get from point A to point B without getting eaten. Still, when I got back to “The Tower” (the central base at the start of the game) and I saw a bunch of side-quest indicators light up I was delighted. Even when you’re on a quest it seems like you can take the time to explore and search for loot.
It’s really early…as I said, I only played for two hours. But so far I’m really enjoying Dying Light even if a lot of the systems are ones we’ve played with before. It gave me a few scares, there was a good feeling of satisfaction when I made some epic jumps, zombie combat is gross but satisfying…so far so good. I hope I enjoy the rest of the game as much as I enjoyed the prologue!
Disclosure: This First Look was based on a copy of the retail version of Dying Light provided by the company handling Techland’s marketing.