Not yet Following the Dying Light

My obsession with Watch Dogs has finally run its course, though I still intend to play through the DLC at some point. My next obsession will probably be The Division which launches on March 8th. I played both closed and open beta weekends and LOVED it, even though I was playing it completely wrong (solo and not spending a lot of time in the much-discussed Dark Zone).

To tide me over until March I’ve returned to Dying Light. I last posted about this game over a year ago. As so often happens with me, I drifted away before getting very far into the game. In the year since, Techland has continued to support and enhance Dying Light and they recently released a giant expansion called The Following that adds a big area outside the city plus zombie-slaying buggies. I had to get in on that and was happy to plunk down $30 for the Season Pass which included The Following as well as a few other smaller DLC packs. (If you just want The Following you can get it for $20 and if you’re new to the game you can now get everything for $60.)

I decided to start a new game after I loaded up my save from a year ago and couldn’t remember how to do anything. I felt like I was really struggling, and checking some game forums suggests that it wasn’t my imagination: the game is harder than it was at launch. Early game weapons are pretty weak and zombies are surprisingly tough, plus your skill set is pretty sparse. If you decide to try the game out I urge you to persevere because once you get some levels behind you it becomes incredibly fun.

What is really scratching the itch for me is constant progression. You have 3 attributes, each with its associated level: Survivor, Agility and Power. You earn Agility EXP from parkour stuff: jumping, climbing and generally running around like a mad person. You earn Power EXP from fighting zombies. And you earn Survivor EXP from doing tasks. Basically whatever you’re doing (other than idling in a safe zone), you’re feeding a constant drip of EXP into one of these three systems. When you die you’ll lose Survivor EXP though as far as I can tell you’ll never backslide in levels. You don’t seem to ever lose Agility or Power EXP though, and of course as those levels go up the tasks you’re trying to achieve for Survivor points get easier, so it’s a nicely balanced system.

Each time you level up you get a skill point to spend in the skill tree associated with whichever trait you leveled up with. Agility skills are things that you’d generally associate with dexterity like using a charging zombie’s momentum against it and tossing it aside. Power gives you combat abilities like Stomp, that lets you squish a zombie’s head when it is on the ground. It’s very handy when skills start working together. Shove a rushing zombie, it stumbles and falls, then run over and squish it’s head. (It’s a very gory game.) Survivor skills are things like additional inventory space, better prices with stores and access to traps and things.

In addition to your stats, as you play you’ll find blueprints that let you craft crazy weapons like an axe with a propane torch attached or a police baton that also delivers an electric shock. In RPG terms you’re getting weapons that do elemental damage. You’ll also start getting powerful enough that you might start severing limbs off your opponents. Yeesh! So gross and yet so satisfying. This is when the game starts getting really fun since you start feeling like you’re in a scene out of The Walking Dead.

The game is called Dying Light for a reason though. Once you get to level 8 or so you can run around during the day without too much concern. You’ll still have battles where you struggle but just running through the streets will start to feel comfortable. At least until night falls. When it gets dark the really dangerous zombies come out. I have to confess I still run to a safe zone and hide out until morning. I’m just now, at level 10 or so, starting to flirt with the idea of staying out at night. The risks are bigger but so are the rewards (you earn double experience at night).

The irony is that I picked up Dying Light again because of The Following expansion and so far I haven’t touched that yet. TechLand suggests you be about level 12 before jumping into the expansion and I’m not quite there yet, but I’m still looking forward to it!

So how gory does the game get? Here’s a video of me doing a Challenge. Sadly I had to give this amazing weapon back at the end of it.