Can ‘Dying Light’ Shine Bright?

After Techland recently decided to abandon the last-gen version for Dying Light, I quickly began to see why in the very short demo available at PAX Australia. It would be quite difficult ensuring both generations would obtain the maximum effect Techland has set out to achieve, and it looks like a good decision. I got my hands on the demo in a dimly lit, cramped up room at PAX brimming with excitement at my first opportunity to try out Dying Light.

The demo began with a quick tutorial giving you the basic controls before unleashing you into the seemingly vast, crumbling world. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the cramped booth, but the game definitely feels like it has lots of atmosphere which is vital to a zombie infested world. It was something in which Dead Island lacked, and I feel that Dying Light has scavenged all the potential from past zombie games and embedded it into Dying Light. I believe it all comes down to the parkour system Dying Light has, which was enjoyable but still a bit clunky. You can freely climb up to wherever you want, with the speed depending on how well you time your jumps.

The demo quickly turned from bright, sunny blue skies to a violent raging storm which aided in the immersion and showcased the role dynamic weather will play. It also highlighted just how awesome this game looks in completely opposite weather patterns.

In the brief demo whilst sprinting my way through hordes of zombies we were given the mission to secure an outpost. It was a bit underwhelming because it wasn’t particularly anything exciting or fresh, but I feel the demo was more about showcasing the core elements and mechanics to the game without spoiling all of the fun stuff.

After fighting my way through a couple of zombies I had quite a shock when I was met with an absolute brute of a zombie wielding a huge sledge hammer. It was atleast two times as big as I was, with a devastating attack which left my player flat on the ground each time I got hit. Being the impatient player I am, I had skipped most of the tutorial so for a few minutes I was attempting to fight this behemoth with a simple tool, before I mashed all the buttons and pulled out an electric axe which did the trick.

After dealing with the zombies within the outpost, you simply have to turn back the power on and close all doors. Again, it wasn’t anything exciting but the parkour mechanic was definitely the key message they wanted to get across. Majority of the demo was sprinting leaping from building to building and using the buildings to get away from any danger. There were also a few traps along the way but for some reason they didn’t work for me. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it wrong or if it was bugged, but we weren’t afforded the time to spend working it out. The traps will definitely be vital to your escape though, because the areas we got to explore were dense with zombies. It would be too time consuming and pointless to try killing them all, so the environmental traps will be vital to getting from point A to point B alive.

I walked out of it excited that I had finally gotten my hands on it, but also particularly underwhelmed. The best way to describe how I felt after walking out was a feeling of cautious optimism. I can already tell the night mode will be its strongest asset to differentiate itself from other zombie titles, besides the parkour of course. The combat definitely still needs to be tweaked as it felt a bit clumsy and clunky at times, but there is still time to improve that.

It is too difficult to judge what we can expect in overall quality because the demo only lasted 15 minutes, but there is definitely a solid foundation here. It is atmospheric, fast-paced and gorgeous to look at, but it could also falter in the same way Dead Island did as the game progressed. I hope Techland have done enough to prevent that from happening, so it will be interesting to see when it is finally released next year.