Dying Light Brings New Life to the Zombie Genre
An emphasis on free-running makes Techland’s new game stand out.
How do you stand out in what’s quickly becoming the most populated subgenre in games? Well, Polish developer Techland, known for Call of Juarez and Dead Island, feels that its new entry into the “try not to get killed by zombies” field is inspired by enough beloved works while delivering an equally impressive suite of original ideas to make people pay attention.
Coming in 2014 to both current and next-gen consoles, Dying Light feels like a zombie action game through the lens of DICE’s parkour classic Mirror’s Edge. The pessimist in me assumes that we’ll never see another Mirror’s Edge game from EA, so the prospect of another developer building upon the concept of first-person free-running is certainly exciting. Much like the 2008 cult hit, the initial moments of the Dying Light demo I saw placed an emphasis on building momentum, finding open paths throughout the environment, and trying to reach your destination in as efficient a manner as possible.http://www.ign.com/videos/2013/05/23/warner-bros-announces-dying-light
But while Mirror’s Edge encouraged the player to avoid combat at all times, Dying Light empowers you to fight back with the tools to dispatch foes when need be. Through a crafting system that’s currently under wraps, the player was able to attach a battery to a machete and create a blade that electrocuted any unfortunate undead that found itself near the sharp edge. The combat certainly looked polished, but the real reason this game stood out was because of the free-running.
Techland was coy in revealing specific narrative details, but the architecture and general layout of the world has a decidedly South American feel to it. Dense urban sprawl, miles of angular favelas, and a smattering of tropical foliage gave off a very Rio de Janeiro vibe, which is absolutely perfect for the free-running mechanic. The world is absolutely rife with improvisational routes and paths.
I want to go to there.
We do know that Dying Light will feature multiple protagonists, with at least one of them being infected by the virus that started the zombie outbreak. Couple this with confirmed co-op play and what devs at Techland describe as, “incredibly difficult decisions that the player will have to make,” and you can get a good feel for what sort of a story Dying Light is trying to tell.
Intriguing events liberally peppered the demo, and provided some great moments of world-building. The hero heard the cries of a little girl when he passed a building, and the player could choose whether to investigate the noise or simply press on to their primary objectives. Shortly after, he came across a cache of supplies that was being raided by a group of armed soldiers. You’re given the option to give up the spoils and avoid conflict, or fight for the precious resources. But while these moments were great, they felt incredibly scripted and prescribed. Techland promises that Dying Light will be full of dynamic events, but it was hard to gauge that claim during this early look.
Blinded by the light.
While all of these events took place while the tropical sun was blazing overhead, Dying Light lives up to its name by incorporating a day/night cycle that decidedly changes the way you have to play the game. As Techland put it, “You scavenge throughout the day so that you can survive the night.” When the sun goes down, the typical zombies that roam the streets become the least of your worries. Suddenly, a new type of hunter appears that’s much faster and more lethal than the undead.
These creatures, which look like hulking bipeds with mandibles, have heightened senses, meaning that you’ll want to quietly navigate the city during the night. The demo ended with our hero getting spotted by one of these super-beasts, and having to scramble through the labyrinthine alleyways in a desperate attempt to escape the seasoned hunter. It was a thrilling, energetic sequence that highlighted why Mirror’s Edge provided such a unique gaming experience. Here’s to hoping that Dying Light concentrates on flight over fight.