Dying Light was and is still to me, the best zombie game ever made. Its dynamic day and night cycle, hardcore zombies, intricate combat, depth in scavenging and weapon crafting, satisfying parkour movement and online co-op functionality, made it an incredible, well rounded zombie romp. My brother and I played through a majority of the original together and have struggled to find another co-op experience anywhere near as fun or satisfying since finishing it. At release it garnered praise from media, but it would be the fans, through word of mouth, that would truly spread the the news about this zombie gem. It was easily Techland’s most successful title, with the Polish developer selling over 13 million copies of Dying Light as of the start of 2018, three years after release.
With such success, especially given their support for Dying Light over the past three years with a huge expansion, several new modes and consistent content drops, you’d presume a sequel would be on the way. But what would the setting be? Would it feature the protagonist from the first? And was it even happening, or would Techland decide to stretch their legs and try something new? Well during the incredibly busy Xbox E3 conference, we’d get many of those answers, most importantly, that Dying Light 2 is real and that it looks like a huge step in the right direction in improving on the already great Dying Light formula.
The first big surprise came when prolific video game writer Chris Avellone, walked out onto the Xbox stage to reveal the sequel. Avellone has worked on the likes of Neverwinter Nights, Fallout New Vegas, FTL, Wasteland 2, Prey (Bethesda), Divinity: Original Sin II and Into the Breach, just to name a few. He cut his teeth on old school western RPGs, but recently has started branching out into different genres, but it was still a surprise to see him revealing Dying Light 2 for Techland and being announced as narrative designer for the sequel. Although we’ll have to wait a while for a release date (with it being stated via Twitter that Techland is aiming for release in 2019), we got a short but promising look at the direction of the sequel.
Moving beyond the first game’s setting of Harran, Dying Light 2 is set fifteen years after the initial outbreak in a place dubbed ‘The City’, a sprawling metropolis in Europe, possibly one of the last big human settlements on Earth. Although the setting looks far more colorful and diverse than Harran as shown in the reveal trailer and first gameplay video, The City and its residents are not in good shape. With resources scarce and the infected an always present threat, it looks to be a desperate time for all. But with it being set fifteen years after the outbreak, Dying Light 2 looks to explore a world in which zombies have become part of everyday life and new factions have risen to take control and bring order, similar to the Last of Us. There also looks to be a far more people around than the original, as you live among a huge population , set in what Avellone described as the Modern Dark Ages.
When talking about Dying Light 2 on the Xbox stage, Avellone emphasized increased natural and fluid movement for the parkour system (which was evident in the gameplay trailer), continued focus on deep and tactical gameplay and of course, the night and the creatures in it being more terrifying than ever. Core elements, which were integral to the original, will be seen in completely new lights with the setting of this sequel. Although Harran had many buildings for you to climb and leap across, it was more akin to the Middle East and Turkey, where buildings are low and spread out. In Dying Light 2, the setting is European, with much taller, more dense architecture, adding more verticality to the parkour and new opportunities for frantic escapes from the infected. While there were plenty of zombies roaming around in the quarantined city of Harran, there weren’t many other people to interact with, which looks to be somewhat the reverse in the sequel, as you’ll be living amongst a huge population, and the game will seemingly focus on the real, ever changing human element of any good zombie story.
With the increased population and being part of a bigger world (The City is supposed to be four times bigger than the original game’s map!), how you interact with fellow survivors and the many factions throughout The City, will have far greater impact to the overall narrative and how the city changes over time. Avellone sees Dying Light 2 as “a technical and narrative advancement for the franchise and to be the first of its genre, to have genuine consequences to the game itself.” Meaning not only will there be hundreds of choices to be made throughout the story, but that they will have real consequences to the population and how events will play out. With Avellone, who has extensive experience writing for games with branching narratives, helming the story it make sense for there to be a big focus on factions and differentiation for the sequel.
This is the best possible news for the sequel. Although the original is an incredibly fun and well rounded experience, with quirky characters and intriguing quests littered throughout, the main story although serviceable, was forgettable. You had no real agency, you’d simply be following orders from various characters and groups with predictable motives. But with this game, you’ll be making decisions, and a lot of them, with the aim being for you to carve out your own world and stories. This was shown in the gameplay trailer, with one example being the ability to take a water supply for the main peacekeeping (but incredibly strict and brutal) faction to help the main population, or keep it for yourself to sell to desperate citizens for your own profit. It’s a tantalizing proposition with moral implications which could take the series to the next level which leaves me not only excited but relieved to see Techland not resting on their laurels and aiming to expand upon their success, with the help of one of my favourite writers in the video game industry.
Follow all of OK Beast’s E3 2018 coverage here.