by Kenneth Kok
previewed on PC
I had no idea what to expect when we entered the hands-on gameplay session at Techland’s Gamescom booth. After the announcement that Dying Light 2 was in development, things got really quiet. What we ended up plating was a pleasant surprise. While the core has stayed the same, Dying Light has matured and changed a lot compared to its predecessor.
Dying Light 2 propels its universe 15 years into the future. Everywhere you look, you can see how society is steadily getting back on its feet, recovering from the deadly virus that nearly wiped out humanity as a whole. Factions have formed as a means to survive in a world in which there is no more electricity and danger lurks around every corner. Wait what!? Yes you read that right. After the outbreak technology has moved back into the dark ages. No more big factories, no workforce speak of, and modern technology is slowly fading into oblivion. Does that reduce the fun? Absolutely not!
Modern dark age
For Dying Light 2, Techland switched from a bright colorful world to a much darker and grim looking setting. The game has moved away from its open, low level building setting to that of a more crowded European city style. The map is about four times as big as that of Dying Light and can be traveled through seamlessly. Techland also improved the freerunning and parkour gameplay and extended it with some new moves. Traversing the city feels natural, and animations seamlessly flow into each other, no matter whether you, run or jump. The city has decayed, featuring toppled and partially broken down buildings. Nature has claimed back territory, overgrowing huge areas with grass, trees and other flora. Society is rebuilding too, though at a much smaller scale than before and with less effective means. Buildings, supported by struts, are being renovated or extended on top of the ruins of the city.
The city is divided into regions. Each region can be owned one three factions - more on these later. As the player, you have a major role to play in dividing regions between the factions, and each time that you can, you have a big decision to make. Not only is ownership irreversible, each faction also comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages, and faction occupied regions change the dynamics in surrounding ones. Giving a region to Peacekeepers, for example, will push the other factions out so you will encounter more of them in the neighbouring regions. When a faction gains ownership, a small “forward time by x amount” cutscene is played to complete the transformation of the region. The transformation changes the surroundings, and buildings of the region, in line with the chosen faction’s style and colors.
Drugs, fuel or “safety” ?
Techland showed us only a glimpse of the (otherwise unnamed) drug producing Green faction. Siding with them gives the player access to all kinds of stimulants that enhance your character in areas like stamina. agility and perception. The red Scavengers faction relies on chaos, anarchy, and the rule of the strongest. They produce fuel for the cars that they keep running with spare parts that they scavenge from the wasteland. Siding with them gives the player increased access to traders, casinos and other money making opportunities. The last faction are the blue Peacekeepers who depict a strict, police-ruled society. They provide clean water (which you can use to heal), keep the streets safe of zombies and bandits, offer easy access to zip lines for fast travel, and more. But they rule with an iron fist - not abiding by their laws gets you punished, and possibly executed. This also applies to the player, so you better be a good boy within their territory or you might end up being hunted yourself. Techland made a small mention of other factions but nothing concrete at this time.
Dying Light 2 would not be complete without a story and sidequests that give the player a big sense of participation in the game. Chris Avellone, known for his work on games such as Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Divinity: Original Sin 2, has taken on the role of narrative director and that is really lifting the story to new heights. During our session, the focus was on a region with a large water tower. After climbing the tower, we found two shady figures, Jack and Joe, who were part of the Scavengers faction. The narrative allowed me to get into a partnership with the two men, ultimately resulting in the Scavengers getting ownership of the region and the water being sold to the people. My gain in the exchange was a cut of the profits which provided a steady income. I did not like how the streets turned into a lawless, forsaken place though, and I was told that the alternate path had meant getting rid of Jack and Joe and to allow the Peacekeepers take over. Water would have been supplied for free, and the streets would have been clean and safe. Techland promised us that not all choices would be so clear cut, and with Chris Avellone on the job, I believe them.
Where are the infected and how do we fight ?
Good question. Now that people forming new societies, the infected have thinned out within the city but they are still there! During day time, the infected are clustered up and “sleeping” inside so called Dark areas. Some roam the streets by day but sunlight slows them down. At night they come out and terrorise the streets with speed, dangerous claws, toxic spit and more of what we know from Dying Light.
The lack of technology in Dying Light 2 means the disappearance of nearly all of the special effect mods from the original. This is a deliberate choice (and I doubt it was an easy one) to stick to the “ modern dark age” feeling. The demo focused almost entirely on melee combat. Think of medieval weapons crafted from modern day materials, like an axe made from a traffic sign and a baseball bat studded with nails.
Rebuilding societyin 2019
I left Techland’s booth with a big grin on my face, wowed by what I just saw. Dying Light 2 is an ambitious project and the amount of changes they have made compared to the first game is astonishing. It will be again great fun to hop, run, jump, slice and dice through the game like before, especially with a bigger story to tell. Unfortunately we have to wait until next year, as the game’s release is estimated to be during 2019.