“Dying Light” review

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Everything is scarier in the dark. “Dying Light” knows this and uses that to its advantage.

Sent in by a humanitarian organization to try and aid the survivors of a deadly viral outbreak, protagonist Crane must work to help the people of Harran, and himself.

While it looks like the twisted love-child of “Mirror’s Edge” and “Dead Island,” the game seems to have more in common with “FarCry 4.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to do justice to all three, but it does do well to establish itself as its own game.

I was skeptical of “Dying Light,” at first. I’m not a terribly big fan of zombie games. They’re kind of played out for me, and at times I feel like the genre is just reinventing the wheel.

“Dying Light” tries very hard to distinguish itself from other open-world zombie games by adding some interesting twists and turns to its gameplay, but also relies heavily on the day-and-night dynamic.

Free-running is pretty easy to master when it comes to this game, not having the difficulty that “Mirror’s Edge” encountered as the pioneer for the mechanic. You feel in control, but you’re not struggling too hard to find something to climb onto or jump to.

The devs actually did a pretty fair job of directing the player while climbing and running with color and objects. “Mirror’s Edge” used some crazy neon colors against stark white, whereas “Dying Light” seems to try and be a bit more subtle with muted colors but more direct symbols like arrows or stripes.

Combat is very “Dead Island” or “Elder Scrolls,” so if you’re a fan of limb-specific combat with melee weapons, you’re in luck.

Unfortunately, the weapons that seem to work best are bladed ones, and the blunt instruments tend to just push zombies around until you make that hit in the sweet-spot that pops their head like a grape. You’ll find yourself wildly swinging and backing off as you recover your stamina, then jumping back into the fray only to be smacked around by flailing undead.

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Traffic is almost at a literal standstill in Harran

I just didn’t feel like I was getting the proper feedback from the game that my weapons were really any stronger, even though I was being shown that by the numbers, they actually were stronger.

Ranged weapons? Sure. You’ve got your distraction countermeasures like flares and fire-crackers that can set fire to enemies and environmental objects. There are throwing stars that deal a moderate amount of damage while also being silent.

Then you have your guns. Why you would use them is beyond me, since the sound attracts zombies in droves. On the other hand, when fighting survivors armed with automatic rifles, it seems like a no-brainer to use a gun. So in the firearm department it doesn’t seem terribly well thought-out, but hey, nothing’s perfect.

But, if you’re a smart cookie, you’ll learn from all the other environmental traps and hazards that you can use gunshots to your advantage. Loud noises can draw zombies to your enemies too, and you can just sit back and watch them duke it out so you can pick off the stragglers.

Let’s get back to stamina for a second. I wouldn’t have a problem with this system so much if it weren’t for the running. Melee stamina meters actually make sense and are pretty common, so I’m not really pissed about that.

What gets my goat is that in a game with no fast-travel, a large map, and the necessity to run to get away from hordes of zombies, sprinting is on a meter.

I get it. It’s more realistic and it drives home the sense of fear and desperation that you’d have in a real situation. Unfortunately, that makes traversing this world too long, and often escaping from hordes too hard to make it fun.

If I could fast travel over the map, time passing as I did so, I would gladly take the penalty of a close-encroaching sunset for less boredom in running around a city full of enemies.

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Those special Volatile zombies will get you, so beware. And carry a good weapon.

I do enjoy that this game is realistic in some aspects that are pretty fun and punishing, though. Want to toss a Molotov at a zombie, you might just light it on fire and cause your self more of a problem if it doesn’t kill it. Need to jump off that wall to get away? Look before you leap cause you could kill yourself with the fall. See an airdrop that you want to get to, but feel like you can complete your quick objective before making your way? Too late, it’s stolen.

The game doesn’t treat you like an idiot, but it makes you feel like one for doing stupid stuff. That’s a really hard line to walk and I have to applaud the development team for doing it well.

Am I enjoying myself with this game? Yeah, I actually am. I find the exploration fun up to a point until I become bored. I’m terrified during the pitch-black night and constantly find myself on the edge of my seat during hectic situations.

The combat can get frustrating, some design choices are more annoying than helpful and interesting, but overall this game is pretty solid.

It may not be more than a 7 out of 10, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from getting this game if you’re really set on checking it out.

“Dying Light” is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. You may want to really think about platform for this one because of the combat style, especially considering how PC is a little bit more precise than console. I purchased it for PS4 and had my issues.

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