Title: Dying Light
Platform: Steam, Windows, Linux, PS4, Xbox One

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: FPS, Survival
Players: Single player, Multiplayer

Written by Dragoon 5th February 2015

Dying Light by Techlands hype train has been building up ahead of steam pretty rapidly since its announcement in 2013 and it’s easy to see why. It’s a potent blend of all the right buzzwords; “Free-Running”, “Open World” and “Zombies” which is more than enough to whip up a frenzied hypestorm to blast that train forward. Sadly this train didn’t deliver on arrival but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun ride.

The games story has you playing as Kyle Crane, an operative working for the Global Relief Effort or GRE, who is air dropped into the quarantined city of Harran. A city ravaged by a horrible infection that has turned people into undead flesh eating horrors. His mission is to secure a certain file but things go badly as soon as he hits the ground, Crane is attacked by zombies and becomes infected but he is saved by a local group of survivors who take him in. From there Crane works with them to temporarily halt his infection and carry out his mission.

Unfortunately the story is so riddled with clichés and predictability that it just doesn’t have much of a lasting impact, I managed to call the exact way the story would go from the moment the introduction ended which is definitely not a good thing. The ending is also disappointing and abrupt but I won’t say any more than that to avoid spoilers.

As for the characters they were mostly bland and uninteresting and felt like a checklist of zombie story stereotypes, the strong independent woman, the naïve kid, the psychopathic dictator etc. which did not help the already weak story. The main villain of the story, Rais, was so stereotypically evil I was expecting him to spontaneously sprout a curly moustache to twirl whenever he appeared.

There is also a massive narrative contrast between the main story and the many side quests available. While the main storyline tries to be serious the side stories are all utterly bonkers with weird and wonderful characters which creates a strange disparity. That’s not to say that they aren’t fun to interact with, to the contrary they are usually very entertaining, but I feel the game doesn’t really have a focused theme and just throws stuff in for the sake of it being strange.

Dying Lights gameplay was very hit and miss for me, quite literally for the combat. One of the main selling points for the game was it’s free-running elements but unfortunately I don’t feel that they were up to scratch. A lot of the time my character would not grab onto things that looked climbable and would often not climb until I approached the ledge from just the right angle. This made escaping from the ravenous hoard more difficult than it should have been at times and led to many unnecessary deaths.

One feature that instantly made the games free-running elements better though was the acquisition of a grappling hook that let you instantly zip to a point. This was so much fun to use and made traversing the city much easier and much more interesting but unfortunately you tend to acquire it pretty late into the game which I found quite baffling considering how much it improved my enjoyment of the game. There is a downside to this though because you are often locked out of using it in story areas due to Crane being “too exhausted,” this just seems like a nonsensical way to make the scripted sections harder.

The game has some light RPG elements with three different skill trees you can level and acquire new skills in which are Survival, Power and Agility. The skills in the Survival tree unlock more crafting recipes and improve your health and regen, the Power tree improves your combat abilities and the Agility tree improves your free running ability. They are all levelled in different ways, Power is increased by killing zombies, Agility by utilising your free-running abilities to escape the horde and Survival by staying alive during the night and collecting supplies from airdrops that occur randomly throughout Harran.

There is also a crafting system, very similar to the one implemented in Dead Island, that lets you combine weapons and various parts you can find throughout the city to create many weird and wonderful death machines such as an electric machete or a fiery hammer. The parts are easy enough to find and new blueprints are scattered around Harran for you to scrounge around for. Weapons can also be upgraded with various mods that increase their damage, durability or handling and these can be found in the city or can be acquired as quest awards.

There are 3 different weapon types in the game, one-handed melee, two-handed melee and guns. Every time you swing your weapon it’s durability decreases until it breaks and you have to repair it, but every weapon can only be repaired so many times so you can’t keep using the same one forever, which means the upgrades you have applied to it will be gone once it breaks for good. This isn’t too much of an issue though since there is an overabundance of weapons and upgrades to find lying about the city so you will never really be lacking, making the system seem obsolete.

Combat in the game comes down to swinging your weapons, the occasional gunplay and kicking, with kicking being just as strong in this as it was in its sister game Dead Island. When using a melee weapon it feels like you are just swinging randomly at the zombie until it is dead with very little tactical elements other than aiming for the head, early on it seems to take an eternity to bring a single zombie down which makes running usually the better option but later on the normal shamblers seem to drop like flies. The game does gain some points with the many abilities you can obtain from the Power tree such as an extremely satisfying (and hilarious) flying dropkick attack which sends enemies flying.

Fighting human or special infected can be a slog though, they will constantly dip, dive, block and dodge all of your attacks, so much so that it just becomes frustrating to bring them down. This isn’t helped in anyway by the previously mentioned stamina system which makes it so you have to spend half the fight backpedalling while your stamina regenerates. The melee combat does feel pretty visceral though with zombies’ heads exploding into a satisfying mess after a good blow.

The games gunplay is disappointing with a small variety of weapons and awkward aiming, plus they are so strong that you can kill most enemies with a well-placed headshot but you can also die incredibly easily to enemies with their own guns which have almost unfair pinpoint accuracy. When you die in the game you lose a chunk of your experience which can be frustrating but isn’t the worst thing, at least there is some consequence for meeting your early demise.

One of the areas the game really shines in though are the times where you are stuck in the Harran during the night. Dying Light employs a Day/Night cycle and when it gets dark the game really kicks into overdrive. During the day zombies are mostly passive and unable to climb but at night it all changes, they become extremely violent and the game becomes more focused on stealth with you trying to avoid the super strong hunter enemies that are all over the city at night.

If you get seen pretty much every zombie in the vicinity will start barrelling towards you forcing you to run for your life but you can slow them using various light traps setup around the city or by using your handheld UV torch which makes for exhilarating chases with you trying to scramble back to the nearest safe house, which are spread throughout the city but have to be cleared of zombies and hooked up to the power grid before they can be used.

I played through the majority of the game with Morbid Plays own Whistler and it was a much more enjoyable game in co-op (which can be played with up to 4 players online).  While you both control your own version of Crane you can change your costume to differentiate yourselves from each other but these costumes seemed to be acquired pretty rarely. All loot is separate to each players game so there is no fighting over that shiny new gun and the game has an interesting challenge mechanic which pits the players against each other to reach a point the fastest or to kill the most zombies with the winner receiving bonus experience. While these are mostly optional there are times where you are forced to compete with little warning which can be a little unfair and frustrating.

From a graphical standpoint the game is okay but it’s nothing amazing and is definitely not up to par with a lot of its new gen competitors, which makes sense since the game was originally planned for last gen consoles. A lot of the textures look outdated and awkward, for example on some of the doors in the tower the numbers are actually floating in midair just off the doors. The game does boast an impressive draw distance though so the city always looks like a sprawling metropolis no matter what your settings are. There are a few issues with performance and optimisation but these are being addressed with patches in the future.

The first-person camera simulates a camera lens, so lens flares are everywhere and whenever it is raining or you go in to a body of water your camera gets covered in water drops which makes the game very hard to see at times. The game uses a horrible film grain effect which is present at all times which wouldn’t be an issue if you could easily turn it off but the only way to do it is by messing in the games config files on PC. There is also a rather cool blur effect when you receive a heavy blow that really gives it impact.

The character models look okay but there is very little emotion shown in their faces so they all look rather wooden and animations in general look a little jerky and unnatural at times, this is especially true for other players in co-op where their characters will often clip through floors or fly through the air awkwardly, it does make for some hilarious moments but it’s not good. The zombies look fine with a decent variety of models with suitably hideous designs.

The games soundtrack is very average and at times cheesy with its b-movie horror tunes but it does a passible job. The effects for the game sound great with weapons having satisfying impact sounds and guns having a resounding boom to them. The voice acting though isn’t so good with many terrible accidents and awkward delivery with some lines that just sounded strange, it’s definitely not bad but it doesn’t stand out or add to the delivery of the already shaky story.

Overall while Dying Lights hype train might not have lived up to the speed it had it definitely didn’t crash on arrival. This is a good step in the right direction for Techland and hopefully the series can continue and see some much needed improvements to realise its full potential. A more focused story with interesting and well fleshed out characters would have greatly helped the game but it’s still a fun open world romp that I recommend giving a go.


Impactful combat,

Interesting Day/Night cycle,

Great crafting and levelling system.


Poor clichéd story,

Less than stellar graphics and optimisation,

Uninteresting characters.

Final Verdict,

Dying Light shambles its way to a 7/10.

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