I’m just going to come right out and say the important bit: Dying Light may have been the best game at PAX Prime this year. If that’s a question that you’ve been wishing you had the answer to, than there it is. Now, lets get into what Dying Light is. Dying Light is a first-person survival suspense game. The premise is that the player assumes the role of one of the last survivors in a crumbling city ridden with zombies. We don’t know a ton about the narrative yet, but we do know that you aren’t the only survivor. There are other survivors that you’re on some pretty good terms with, sharing supplies and coordinating “missions”, and some that aren’t really fans of yours, trying to get to supplies before you do, and maybe shoot you up a bit if you try to steal from them. pretty basic “Zombie outbreak setting”, but that’s not where the game is trying to stand out.
Unlike what I thought of Telltale’s games, this is a title that thrives off its mechanical schema. Firstly, the mobility. Similar to what I saw in Titanfall, Dying Light goes for a more parkour / free running approach to navigating the cityscape. I think this is a wonderful transition for first-person games to be making. The first title I saw it in was Mirror’s Edge, and it absolutely makes for a more engaging environment: Hoping fences, climbing walls, sliding underneath obstacles… it’s just better than having to “bunny hop” over objects. Mobility is just that start though. All that does is open up the world for the player to explore. What really makes this game shine is what the player is doing in that world, which, as we learned, has a lot to do with where the sun is. During the day time, players are completing missions, salvaging supplies, setting up traps, and encountering random events which can be anything from super-zombies (I’m sure that’s an industry term) to rescuing random NPCs. I was a particular fan of the way traps are set up in this game. The world is large and very dense.
There are lots of alleyways and side streets, so you think a trap designed to clear out a single street might not be worth much, but when the sun went down it really payed to know exactly which electrified fence I could set off in order to fry all my pursuers. Speaking of night time, let me tell you, things got real. Fast. During our demo, we were told that there were a variety of ways to approach both day and night. During the day, you can bash your way through hordes of shambling corpses. You can simply ignore the ghouls and take to the roof tops… Both of these strategies are more or less out the window once things get dark. After the sun sets, the zombies flip their crazy switches to the ON position, and the gameplay changes dramatically. You see, Dying Light is named Dying Light for a reason. Night time is not “fun”. It’s intense and hectic and scary. Seriously, watch the gameplay trailer. Now, I was told that stealth is an option at night. That as long as you don’t draw attention to yourself, you can hide out till morning. Apparently I’m not that sneaky though, and the game quickly devolved into a frantic flight for my life, and this is where the game really came alive for me. The extreme mobility, coupled with the relentless pursuit, all in an open yet dense world? Man… so many moments where I’d hop a fence to escape 20 ravenous zombies behind me, only to land in a parking lot with 40 more. As I ran through alleys, over rooftops, through buildings, all in a frantic effort to make it back to the predetermined safe zone, I encountered a number of “random events” that saw zombies explode out of doors just as I approached them, or have a horde turn a corner I was hoping to jut around to lose the ones already following me. I constantly had to change directions and reevaluate my surroundings. It was nuts.
Dying Light was definitely one of the best games shown at PAX this year. It’s going to be coming out on this gen and next gen and anyone who is a fan of the survival/suspense genre.