Harran is a nasty place. The South American city is filled with shuffling zombies and violent groups of survivors competing for supplies, each with a shoot first ask questions later mentality. As nightmarish as that concept alone seems, the world of Dying Light transforms into something even more horrifying once the sun sets.
The zombie genre is hugely popular thanks to the success of games such as Resident Evil and the Last of Us. Dying Light however is a different take on the zombie games as it forces you to face your fears with a first-person camera, weak and ineffective weapons and dangerous enemies stalking the abandoned streets of Harran. The game opens with the introduction of Crane, an undercover operative sent into the post-apocalyptic nightmare of Harran to observe if the city deserves to be saved, or if the virus, along with the remaining survivors, should be destroyed to eradicate the threat.
The USP of Dying Light is that you’re a runner. A survivor trained in the skills of parkour, able to traverse the city by jumping between rooftops, clambering over abandoned cars and climbing up poles to get as far as possible from the floor where the clusters of zombies await. As you get more and more confident with your climbing, you begin to get more apprehensive about being on the ground. The zombies may be slow and easy to take out, but they come from every angle and can overwhelm you extremely fast. At the beginning of the game this is terrifying because the weapons you have at hand aren’t very powerful. Killing a single slow zombie with a rusty pipe takes three to five hits and drains all your stamina, leaving you too weak to run away, meaning that you must pick your fights carefully. Later in the game aggressive virals (recently turned survivors) will track you down if you make too much noise. Shooting a gun, falling from too high and accidently breaking structures means that any virals in the area will rush to your location. These variants still have their human strength and speed, meaning that anything you can climb they can as well. And it’s not just the virals which make Dying Light so unpredictable. Other variants of zombie such as the Demolisher, Screamer and Toads roam Harran in the day and once night falls deadly Volatile’s begin to prowl the streets.
The story revolves around powerful military group run by a man named Rais that are threating the safety of all those hauled up in the tower (one of the last safe spaces in the city). As well as the threat from other humans, a stabilizing drug, Antizan (which slows down the viral take over being spread by the hordes of undead) is becoming harder and harder to source meaning that in Harran death is closing in. Dying Light’s story plays out exceptionally well. The game develops along with Crane’s skill levels and a handy modification menu means that you can hone and learn certain skills to help you survive. Side quests are normally paced slightly above your skill level meaning that you’ll always find the game challenging and heart-racing. The main game alone is over fifteen hours long and deciding to complete all the various side quests and stories leaves you with over fifty hours of game to chew through.
Once the main game has been completed the DLC, The Following, is unlocked. The Following is set far away from the cramped streets of Harran in the wide and open countryside. Here parkour is less important and your main way of traversing the area is via modified karts left around the map. This mix up works extremely well with the open countryside and brings a fresh dynamic to the world. Other twists include mutant enemies, multiple safe zones to unlock and quarantine areas to overtake, the Following is a DLC which is almost as good as the main game.
Overall Dying Light is a game that tackles the zombie genre in an original way. Both the game and DLC offer an impressive trophy cabinet and completing side quests in this game never feels like a chore, but rather an exploration of a world so unique that it’s impossible to guess as to what’s around the next corner.