Dying Light 2 Main Story Finished

I bought Dying Light 2: Stay Human at full price when it launched, and I played for over 50 hours before drifting off. That said I never completed the story. When developer TechLand announced a new update that introduced guns to the game I decided it was time to go back and finally complete the game.

Of course the usual happened. I booted it up, realized I did NOT remember how to play, so started a new game. The plan was to just play through the tutorial then move back to my old save but of course I never moved back. 99 hours later the credits finally rolled. Not that there isn’t a TON more content to do if I want to. It’s a huge game. But with all the other titles that are calling to me I’m thinking 99 hours is enough zombie bashing for now.

Overall I (obviously given the number of hours I put into it) liked the game. The combo of over-the-top violence to zombies and lots of first person parkour traversal worked together nicely and kept the gameplay fairly varied. Some times I’d be in the mood to get down on the streets and battle the hordes, other times I preferred to flit across the rooftops using my parkour skills. As you move through the main story you get new tools like a paraglider and a grapple that makes traversal even more fun.

A first person shot of the player paragliding over the city
Look ma, I’m paragliding!

The actual story was less interesting to me. You play as Aidan, a wanderer who is looking for his little sister Mia. Aidan and Mia were experimented on as children, and then were separated. These experiments are what make you such a super zombie slayer. It sounds like a decent setup but honestly I never really warmed to Aidan and didn’t really care about his sister. Maybe I’m the monster! The supporting cast was a little more interesting and I’m not really faulting the voice talent or even the writing. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but the story just never grabbed me.

The story also has some branches. Do you support Faction A or Faction B? Do you save Person A or Person B. I generally like these kinds of choices but for some reason Dying Light 2 doesn’t make it easy to explore the various branches. There is no manual save system so you can’t make a choice, then go back to an earlier save and make a different choice. You’re expected, I guess, to replay the entire story over and over again to see the different branches? On PC I expect you could just manually back up your save files but that’s not quite as easy on console. But if the devs think I’m going to put in another 100 hours to see if my decisions change things, they’re fooling themselves!

Zombies flailing about as they burn
Officer, I did not set these zombies on fire. Another zombie set them on fire.

Another aspect of the game that bugs me personally, but this is 100% a personal thing, is that there are lots of Challenges. I am pretty much turned off by anything that is timed and awards bronze/silver/gold medals based on how fast you get something done. I DO NOT like being rushed; I’m by nature methodical. There’re a LOT of these Challenges in DL2 but happily you can just not do most of them.

Changes Since Launch

In the years since the game launched TechLand has made some changes to it. Some are good, some (to me) bad. They’ve added some toggles to make the parkour stuff a lot easier on your stomach, if you’re a person prone to getting motion sick in first person games. I remember when Dying Light 2 first came out I had to play in short sessions until I built up a tolerance. (It doesn’t help that it is one of those games that from time to time takes control away from you and swings the view of the world back and forth as your character looks around…this never works well since we don’t keep our eyes fixed straight ahead when we move, but that’s what happens in games.) Anyway whatever magic they did (I turned on ‘motion sickness mode’ and turned down head bob) I was much more comfortable playing now. They also added some parkour toggles so you can make it a little more automated, or give yourself more control. Whichever works. Both of these are great additions.

First person shot of the player doing a drop kick
It took me a lot of tries to grab a screenshot that takes place mid-drop kick.

On the other hand, at some point they made the nights much more deadly. I guess long-time players were complaining the game was too easy. At night super-zombies called Volatiles come out and if they spot you they Chase you. Chases are a discrete aspect of the game and you get bonus xp based on how long you survive a chase. With the new update there are volatiles everywhere and as soon as you step out of safety they start chasing you and at low levels they WILL kill you if they catch you. So yes, night is much harder now, but that is a problem because there are areas, some tied to quests, that you are intended to go to at night. The fiction is these places are like nests where the zombies stay during the day. There are HUGE numbers of zombies in these locations while the sun is up, so you have to go at night when all the zombies are out on the streets roaming around. With the new update getting to these spots at night is really difficult since there are so many Volatiles waiting to chase you. In the end I just skipped most of these locations, which I remember being quite fun back at launch. Now when I had to do one I’d get near the location then hide in some bushes and wait for night to come. By which I mean I’d set the controller down and flip through social media on my phone or something while time passed in game. Not a great experience.

I’m hoping at some point TechLand adds a toggle for the “More Volatiles” mode so you can opt for the original experience or this new “challenging for long-time players” mode.

There’s a DLC pack called Bloody Ties that is now free, but it is all about doing more Challenges so I noped out of that pretty early on. The entire point of the DLC is that it is a fighting contest where you have to score well to advance.

What About The Guns?

Lastly, about this gun update, which is the entire reason I came back to the game. After 99 hours I have a pistol and that’s it. Guns aren’t found with the rest of the loot you come across. Instead they are purchased from a vendor for a special currency you earn by grinding stand-alone side missions. The game encourages you to do these in co-op though they can be done solo. I didn’t do many of them because I was focused on finishing the main story, and maybe this is by design. Maybe the devs don’t want you to have guns until the post-story game because even the pistol you get is pretty OP. I personally found this system disappointing; I was hoping to find guns out in the world.

Dying Light 2 is kind of a quasi-live service game, I guess. You have the story and the world that was delivered at launch, but there are a few of these reputation systems that you can grind to get better stuff so that you can kill stronger zombies and get better gear to kill even stronger zombies. In the base game the character level cap is I believe 9. I was 6 when I finished the story. Post level 9 there is some kind of Legendary level system which I don’t expect I’ll ever see.

The player about to hit a zombie with a scythe
Me beating up low level zombies post game

So those are my thoughts on Dying Light 2. As is typical of me, I think I’ve focused too much on the negative. I have put 100 hours into this game in the past 3 weeks or so. It is pretty much all I’ve played, and I was hooked to the point where I was getting up early to play a bit before work. So yeah, I really enjoyed my time with it and if the idea of over-the-top violence (and I should note you decapitate a fair number of humans in addition to zombies) and a robust parkour system sounds fun then I would absolutely recommend the game. I’m very glad I played it.

Shot of the player grappling with a zombie
When a zombie wants to eat your face

Dying Light 2 Revisited

This post started as a section in my monthly recap for November but it got long enough I figured I’d better split it out on its own, in an attempt to keep the monthly recap a bit shorter.

I was pretty excited for Dying Light 2 when it came out last winter. I even pre-ordered it. Then it came out and it was pretty buggy and overall, I wasn’t that thrilled with it. Let me quote myself:

Anyway I could go on and on but I think you get the point. I expect Dying Light 2 to get polished and tweaked over the next few months, and I’ve decided that rather than play the worst version of the game now, it makes more sense to wait and play it maybe in summer or next fall. So I’m putting it back on the shelf for now.

So as predicted, here it is fall and I’m back. I’ve played a lot more of it than I did last winter, but I’m not even sure why because overall I don’t enjoy it all that much. Technically it has gotten better; much of the jank is gone and it runs nicely on the PS5, so that certainly helps. But I still have a litany of complaints, most of them fairly personal.

First, the gore factor. This is 100% on me. I knew going in that the game was going to be super-gory; it’s one of the title’s calling cards. I completely support and respect their decision to make a game like this but, that vibe is just no longer for me; it is just too much. I kind of feel the same way about DL2 as I did when I stopped watching The Walking Dead. Enough is enough, y’know? After a while the gore just starts to wear me down. Also it’s bad enough that @partpurple started commenting on it, and so I stopped playing when she was in the room.

Second, there’s a lot of facets that have to do with time pressure. You’re infected and any time you are out of the sunlight (UV light keeps you healthy) a timer starts ticking down and if it hits zero, it’s game over. Again, this is 100% me and what I do and do not like: I hate time pressures in my games. I am a slow and deliberate player (side note: there are endless zombies so being slow and deliberate wouldn’t really work even without the time pressure). There are a lot of side quests that are “complete this challenge in under x minutes” that I just refuse to do. Also, minor thing but there’s no way to abandon a quest so my journal is full of timer-based side-quests that I will never do.

Lastly, the first person stuff makes me queasy. Again, this is a Me thing; you might not have any issues at all. It’s a fairly minor issue when I am in control. The big problem happens during in-game cut scenes when you lose control of the camera and your view of the world starts flailing around. Our vision does not work like that for one thing, so it feels dumb to me. More importantly, it makes me feel really sick really fast. At times I had to look away from the screen. One night after a long session of this nonsense, the game made me so sick that the next day I still had a headache from it.

So that’s a lot of bitching. I keep deciding I’m done with it…but then I keep going back. I’m not sure if I’m hate-playing it or what. Maybe I just want to finish to say I finished, given how much time I’ve sunk into it. I can’t tell you. But I keep booting it up. It’s like scratching poison ivy. I know I shouldn’t but I keep finding myself doing it. Mind you, there are certainly satisfying moments. As gory as it is, the combat can be fun and some of the parkour stuff is delightful once you get the hang of it. The world is pretty interesting and the game looks really good.

Still though…the other day I started something new even though I hadn’t completed Dying Light 2 and I found myself slightly surprised that I didn’t get a headache while playing. My brain had started to associate “video games” with headaches and nausea thanks to DL2.

Maybe I should just put it on Easy difficulty and blast through what remains.

Dying Light: Stay Human 2 Ambivalence

After all my pre-launch excitement about Dying Light 2, I felt like I really needed to blog about it. So I’m going to do that even though I’m not really ready to. I feel like I need to play it more, but I don’t really want to play it more right now. Let me explain…

I think there is a pretty good game buried in here somewhere and while I’m playing I have these brief moments of “Oh heck yeah!” fun, but between those brief moments I am experiencing a lot of bugs and a sometimes really repetitive gameplay loop.

I’m sure the bugs will get fixed. They range from minor (being prompted that you have unspent skill points when you don’t) to major (falling through the world, or through an object that you’re hanging onto).

A bigger concern is the story that, for me at least, causes some fatigue early on. You’re sent back and forth across the city to do quests, and in the course of doing so you’ll go past all kinds of events & activities, but you’re not REALLY equipped to handle these yet. So you just parkour your way past things to do and very soon the routes become familiar and boring.

Combat can be fun but is often pretty easy to cheese. You can take on a dozen human enemies just by climbing onto something and kicking the enemies off as they climb up to reach you, causing them to take falling damage. It’s amusing the first couple of times then starts feeling tedious since you’re not in any real danger.

As I said (if you choose not to cheese it) combat can be pretty fun, though again there is a downside. Weapons degrade and break quickly so I found myself avoiding combat to preserve my weapons. You can’t outright repair a weapon, though if you apply a mod to it it’ll restore some of the weapon’s durability. Later in the game is a hidden charm that you can use to repair a weapon indefinitely, but I’m not even close to getting to that point yet. Here’s a video describing where it is and how to find it:

The “Stay Human” part of the title refers to you being infected. The disease that eventually turns you into a zombie is suppressed by UV light, so during the day when you are outside you can ignore it. At night or when you are in a building a countdown clock starts and when it hits zero…something bad happens. I assume game over though I’ve never let it hit zero. There are herbs and consumables that help you stave this off, and I think the further into the game you go the more time you can spend out of UV without turning, but in the early game this is also super tedious. As you try to stealth your way through a building, taking out sleeping zombie enemies quietly, you’ll frequently have to back track to get outside and get a jolt of sunshine to reset the timer.

Setting aside that timer, stealthing through a building is fun and harrowing. Knowing that if you wake the wrong zombie it’s going to make enough noise to wake a bunch more and things are going to go very bad for you adds a nice tension to the gameplay. But with the timer and needing to go back outside the best way to handle these situations is to slaughter your way through the zombies, retreating frequently for a dose of UV and a bandage.

I read one review that said the game gets good once you’re finished the story and just have an open world of zombie combat to play around in, and I can see how that might be true.

There are lots of little things that bug me but they may just be me. It’s a first person game and your character blinks. I find that SUPER distracting. The screen will just go back for a fraction of a second and every time it happens I think my TV’s HDCP protection might be kicking in, which is a thing that happens with the PS5 from time to time. They also do the ‘in-game cutscene’ thing where your character turns and cranes his neck around so the view flails back and forth in a way no human has ever moved. It’s a pet peeve of mine since it always feels so fake and can be nausea-inducing.

Anyway I could go on and on but I think you get the point. I expect Dying Light 2 to get polished and tweaked over the next few months, and I’ve decided that rather than play the worst version of the game now, it makes more sense to wait and play it maybe in summer or next fall. So I’m putting it back on the shelf for now.

I do have some buyer’s remorse and I have been reminded, for the 1000th time, not to believe previews or hype. You’d think at some point this lesson would stick. Worst, I have both Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring pre-ordered, though the former I was always going to get no matter what. I hope Elden Ring lives up to the hype and I don’t have to learn this lesson twice in the same month.

On the other hand, TechLand is basically an Indie shop and Dying Light 2 is self-published, so I’m just looking at my full-price pre-order as a way to support an independent studio, the same way my $60/year supports the local PBS station.

But for now, this’ll be my only post on Dying Light 2. I think I may go back to Bloodborne while I wait for Forbidden West to come out.

I leave you with this link to a short video of combat against human enemies. This is me playing, but the ending is so gruesome that I have age-restricted it so I can’t embed it!