“Dying Light”: Meh Personified (spoilers…kinda)

This is going to be pretty disorganized, due to the fact that I’m on and off of the game (spoiler alert: I’m not impressed). Also, I don’t have a PS4 myself, I’m just playing the game thanks to some very cool roommates who share with me…yes, I know the PC version is the “true version”. Stop mocking me for playing on console.

To start off…the combat of “Dying Light” sucks. I know this shouldn’t be a surprise given it’s from the developers of “Dead Island”, but it sucks. Even as one levels up, fighting baddies in this game is at best a repetitive chore and at worst a pain in the ass. Contrast that with, “Condemned: Criminal Origins”, a much smaller game, and in many ways a much scarier game. You know what else that game has that “Dying Light” lacks? ACTUAL COMBAT.

Seriously, just contrast the average fight in “Dying Light” with the average fight in “Condemned: Criminal Origins”. It’s not just the overall atmosphere of the latter that trumps the former (though to give the latter credit, trying to survive at night is pretty tense…in a “Dead Space” sequel kind of way, but it’s something). It’s also the fact that combat is about, well, actual combat. Remember when Egoraptor complained about “The Legend of Zelda: Orcarina of Time” and how it’s combat involved a lot of waiting? Well, when you fight human characters in “Dying Light”, there’s a lot of that. Meanwhile, in “Condemned”…holy shit. Weapons actually FEEL different as opposed to being just a bunch of sticks with numbers attached to them. TIMING! SPACING! POSITIONING.

Here, “Dying Light” has a big world, but it’s implementation of mechanics is so (forgive me) brain-dead simple. It’s just a series tussle/chase around one bunch of boxes after another, with slightly different objectives. Also, being a sandbox game, the player can’t help but notice the restrictions that crop up regardless of how much they try to explore things (like invisible walls). That touches upon another thing: a lot of sandbox games are often said to overcompensate for lack of depth with width, with a lot of gamers criticizing the games for not having a lot of real content as opposed to a bunch of fetch quests meant to cover the game map. I’m…of two minds on sandbox games. Yes, they’re games that because they have so many mechanics end up mastering almost none of them (seriously, have you replayed Grand Theft Auto III lately?), but if the game is fun or has some appealing content, I don’t necessarily mind that.

It would be nice to have every video game have the craft and punch of “Alien Soldier” or “Vanquish”, but not having that level of polish doesn’t diminish the fun and fury of the “Saints Row” series, “The Simpsons: Hit & Run”, or even “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”. Problem is, when a title like “Dying Light” is basically a route entry in not just one category but two (in this case, zombies AND sandbox gaming), that is when the criticism against said categories is on firmer ground. Like, remember the London-set game “The Getaway”? Anyone? …Bueller? Bueller? Yeah, thought so. “Dying Light” is the horror-game equivalent of that forgotten mediocrity. The zombies in this game may have a lot more polygons, but none of them can compare to the existential horror The Creeper can wreck upon you, and for being a horror game…an old title like, “System Shock 2” owns this any day of the week.

“Dying Light” is in many ways the personification of mainstream mediocrity, a title that uses a lot more resources than a lot of “indie” devs will likely see in their lifetimes, yet forms it all into a mass that pleases no one, hammered down by “demographics research” and trend-chasing. The game claims to be set in Haran, Turkey (and it’s not like my broke ass would know what that city is actually like), but unless the soundtrack had a guy droning on and on in Turkish as I parkour my way through the city? I probably wouldn’t have noticed, because nothing in this game stands out. That is compounded with the way the game handles story, both through main missions and the side quests.

Take, for example, the side quest, “Mother’s Day”. You are tasked with trying to get some medicine for the main caretaker of The Tower…by essentially yanking it from a special needs person whose mother died years ago, yet still believes their mother is alive and even “cares” for them. Nice. Now, to be fair: yes, people in dire straights try to recreate the status quo they had before things went to shit. Plus, when things go to shit, “morality” as one defines it breaks down. After all, consumers of post-apocalyptic fiction have known that since the novel, “Earth Abides”. The problem? It could’ve been a chance for some actual emotional weight, and, “Dying Light” seems to head in that direction…but it turns out (spoiler alert) the guy is ok with you taking the medicine from the dead mother, because, “Her head turned into a pumpkin”. Really.

Did you find that funny? Shocking? Neither? Well, that’s good, because it is like that for the entire fucking game. “Dying Light” wants to be edgy, then it wants to be “funny”, therefore shoving any real chance of indentificaton with it’s uninteresting characters out of the window. It wants to display human despair and hardship in a world full of zombies, but then it’s all, “It’s just a video game”, so when you die you just respawn at some checkpoint (and lose some points, sometimes). Because “Dying Light” tries to be everything to everybody, few things actually stick except for moments you realize how broken the game is. The parkour system is great in theory…but in practice, you pretty much just hold down the run button and mash the grab button to climb (save for just a few moments). The fight system is atrociously boring, even with all of the drawn out “cinematic” kills, and whatever horror or thrills the game has is tampered by a design that takes a little bit from “Skyrim”, a little bit from “Dead Island”, sands off any unique traits of the two titles and just smacks them onto a title that may as well been set in the middle of Buttfuck, California.

To think Techland made this game after splitting with their then-publisher Deep Silver. They wanted to make something different from, and better than, the “Dead Island” games. So much for that.

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