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Despite reviews from other people that this came dragged on longer than necessary, Dying Light stayed fun for me up until the end. Emphasis on the end.
After the saga that was my account of Dragon Age: Origins, I decided not to do another play-by-play of a long Triple-AAA title, choosing instead to do a snapshot at the beginning and a review at the end. All feedback on this newer, concise format is greatly appreciated!
Now as I said before, I am somehow new to the zombie survival genre, something I know sounds impossible with the over-saturation of them in the market lately. This means I’m not sure how your typical story plays out, but this game based everything in a gigantic power struggle between the survivors trapped in Harran. You watch Crane’s despair as he tries to do good by the people who saved him from death at the beginning of the game while the antagonist slowly brings down his allies one by one. My heart wanted to care, but I felt more for the anonymous survivors I didn’t save in time during random encounters than I did for the main characters in the game. My favorite narrative moments were when a blue arrow would pop up on the mini-map, alerting you to a nearby stranger who wanted to chat. Here you would listen to haunting stories of people trapped in the city. One man explained that the biters in the Hazmat suits were originally there to help but soon were turned, now unable to even eat since they couldn’t figure out to take off their helmets. Another tells a story where he and his friends got drunk, thinking the alcohol would purify their bodies, making them resistant to the zombie virus. But while he laid passed out from the whiskey, his friends caught a helicopter out of the quarantine zone, leaving him hungover and hopeless on a roof in the slums.
Like any open-world game, Dying Light is full of side quests though not in the vain as other Triple AAA titles. There are a total of forty-two, evenly divided between simple fetch quests and fully-developed side stories. In these you were forced to feel the wrath of angry mothers and engineers alike. Whether Crane was yelled at for giving a father a gun or called a meathead by a couple of brains who were afraid to leave the safe zone, these seemed to have the protagonist constantly doing something wrong. Luckily he isn’t all that likable anyway.
See while the character sketches and anecdotes told by NPCs were my favorite part, Crane’s reactions were a lot more disappointing. I would be enamored by a person’s story only for him to respond as if he hadn’t heard a word they said. He responds to heartbreaking tales with zingers like, “I bet you’re a lot of fun at parties,” or, “Right. Avoid zombie one-percenters. Got it.” I understand Crane is good at keeping his distance sometimes, but other times, his reaction felt disconnected from even his misanthropic persona. One man sits there and rationalizes the antagonist’s terrorist tendencies for five minutes, and Crane takes him seriously while giving lip to downtrodden strangers. Either act like you don’t have time for anyone or have consistent reactions based on the conversation.
Now past reviews criticized the game mechanics for their repetitiveness, and understandable complaint. You essentially fight, fetch, sneak, craft, and parkour. That’s it. And yet for me, the gameplay never dragged; I enjoyed all of it. I have done all but two of the side quests and still wish I had more. Maybe it is because I haven’t exhausted the genre for myself. Maybe I’m still such a sucker for any kind of climbing mechanic that vaguely reminds me of the Sly Cooper franchise. Maybe my checklist fetish means I am perfectly willing to grab lavender from a mountainside for you if I get the pleasure of crossing the task off of my list of quests. Really I can’t give you a rational reason. It’s all personal preference; you’ll like it or you won’t.
Once again, I also suffered from a misuse of the inventory system. Instead of utilizing items in moderation, I would do what I could to empty my bags for the chance at better loot. I would pick up a hammer, duct tape fire and lightning to it, and then dismantle it the moment it became the weakest in my lineup by only a few points.
Speaking of which, despite how nonsensical the weapons are, they are buckets of fun. Of course I don’t know why Crane can’t crack a smile after making something called an Angel Sword or God Hand, but you know, I don’t know his life. Seriously, I don’t actually know anything about him outside of the game’s events.
Now for the end, I prepared. I ran all over town picking up gauze and cleavers since I can’t get into a melee fight without getting slapped upside my entire body a couple of times. But after all of this, I was instead slapped with a colossal waste of time I couldn’t see coming. I won’t get content-specific to avoid spoilers, but it was a scripted series of quicktime events that could have happened first thing in the game and gotten the same outcome. For the life of me, I will never understand why any game with skill trees, experience, and any other RPG-style progression will have an ending that doesn’t let any of this come into play. My JRPG roots might be showing, but if I have maxed out any skill, level, or weapon, I better be able to rain down hellfire with it in the final fight.
This game’s performance is middling. I could barely get it to run at 30 fps consistently until the March 10 patch. After that it kept itself at 50 or so fps without too much trouble but still lacked stability. Occasionally my keyboard would stop responding, and Crane would keep running in the same direction until something exploded in his face. Nothing was honestly too game-breaking though and Techland is doing their best to actively improve it, something I can’t fault them for since at least it wasn’t broken on launch, merely imperfect.
Overall, I wouldn’t trade the forty hours I spent on Dying Light for another game this month, but the few missing pieces keep it from reaching what I wanted for it. It looks like the developer’s goal was a serious game, and it did. Just a serious game with giant poisonous katanas wielded by an antisocial man with athletic abilities of the superhero caliber.