We humans might not always get along, but when it comes to dealing with zombies, we can usually agree on a few things: they’re bad, we’re good, and if you see one, run.
The original Dying Light took that to heart, turning gamers loose on a first-person parkour playground infested with vicious shambling corpses. But running from zombies only gets you so far. For the sequel, developer Techland is infusing their world with a heaping helping of brains, giving players a substantially larger world, more opportunities for acrobatics, and the ability to shape the very narrative itself. During a hands-off demo at E3 2018, Techland walked (and ran, and jumped) us through the game’s new features.
Billed as a “modern Dark Ages,” Dying Light 2 is set 15 years after the events in the original. You play a newcomer to a fictional European city decimated by the undead scourge, though there is no direct connection between the old game and the new one. By helping or hindering the actions of various warring factions vying for control of what’s left, you ultimately decide the fate of this dying metropolis
Setting off to impress a faction called the Peacekeepers by tracking down a missing emissary in a nearby water tower, the demo kicked off with the player deftly skittering along pipes and leaping across lampposts while a smattering of zombies meandered the trash-strewn streets of the dilapidated city below. As before, zombies are much tamer during the day, really only posing a threat when night falls. We quickly discovered that daylight doesn’t guarantee safety, however, when the player attempted to sneak past a group of vigilantes by ducking into a darkened warehouse filled with mannequins – and about 20 hibernating zombies.
For demo purposes, the player made some dubious decisions exiting the warehouse, waking up the zombies and narrowly escaping back into the bright afternoon sun. Fortunately, Dying Light 2’s undead can’t survive long in direct sunlight.
If the shamblers don’t get you, the grumpy human factions will. Armed with an axe fashioned out of a No Parking sign and a hardware store’s worth of duct tape, the player engaged in some brutal first-person melee combat with a gang of ne’er do wells. You’ll do plenty of this in Dying Light 2, though taking on more than a few enemies at once is generally a bad idea.
Outnumbered, the player engaged in a stirring parkour sequence: running, sliding, and rolling to avoid arrows loosed by nearby archers, parkour-kicking a guard while hurdling a barricade, wall-running to high ground and leaping from a rooftop to a giant billboard, jabbing a knife into it to slow his descent. Expect to freerun extensively – Dying Light 2’s world is a whopping four times the size of the original.
Dying Light 2 goes beyond its parkour action with an emphasis on player agency. In true role-playing fashion, players will mold the story by choosing to side with certain factions. Over time, those decisions will impact the development of the entire city.
Side with the Peacekeepers by knocking off the emissary controlling the water tower, for instance, and the city will eventually thrive as the water flows freely. The player benefits as well, able to heal up by taking a sip from wells readily available around town. But there’s a downside to this choice, naturally: The Peacekeepers are authoritarians, punishing civilians for stepping out of line, hanging suspected thieves without trial and generally terrorizing the populace.
Go into business with the emissary’s gang and a different story unfolds. With an iron grip on the tower, the gang can charge steep prices for access to water. The city becomes significantly less pleasant as survivors suffer. The silver lining? As a partner in the water trade, the player earns a steady income that grants access to powerful weapons hawked at black markets cropping up around town.
According to the developers, players will make loads of important decisions over the course of the game that will shape the world and the final outcome. This isn’t just lip service; to dial in the game’s branching storyline, Techland brought on the talents of game designer Chris Avellone, whose credits include narrative standouts like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas and Planescape: Torment. That’s a high bar even for Dying Light 2’s parkouring protagonist, but you can’t change the world without taking some risks.
Techland has yet to reveal a Dying Light 2 release date, so keep it tuned to Xbox Wire for more news on this urban apocalypse as it happens.