It's funny: In 2011, Techland basically killed zombie games for me.
I was sitting in my apartment when this infamous Dead Island trailer hit. In less than three minutes I went from having never heard of Dead Island to wanting a copy. Even though I was sick of zombies, Dead Island looked like something different. Something gritty. Something mature.
Then Dead Island came out and was nothing like that trailer. The game was, for lack of a better word, goofy. Stupid, even. There weren't strong, heartbreaking character moments. There weren't even strong characters. It all fell apart.
Now in 2015, Techland — the very same developer — has brought me back into zombie games. Not completely. Dying Light still isn't on par with that Dead Island trailer.
But it comes somewhat closer.
It's in the DNA
You can trace Dying Light's Dead Island heritage pretty easily. 1) Zombies. 2) A focus on hard-hitting melee combat with all sorts of weapons. 3) More zombies. It's pretty easy to describe Dying Light as "Dead Island with parkour" and stop there. That's essentially the core of the game.
It all works pretty decently too, which should come as no surprise if you played Dead Island. The combat was never that franchise's weak spot, and it comes over (mostly) intact here. Swords, concrete rebar, pipes, machetes — there are all kinds of ghastly ways to knock zombie heads off in Dying Light. If there's one thing I miss, it's Dead Island's more precise analog-stick controlled combat, but I quickly got used to the one-button system used in Dying Light.
Parkour is new, and it's just as polished — as in, sometimes janky but you forgive it. It's easy to throw out Assassin's Creed or Mirror's Edge as comparison points but I honestly think Dying Light is more polished and fluid than either of its influences. The system's a bit clumsy to start, especially as you learn the basics of "Look at the ledge you're trying to grab," but by the end I was hauling ass across the city with ease, trailed by loads of zombies as I jumped fences and slid under traps and scampered up building facades.
And as I said in my impressions piece last week, I love the leveling system. You gain general "Survivor" experience for completing quests, which unlocks a few perks. The majority of your upgrades are kept in two separate pools though: Agility, which you gain by running around the city, and Strength, which you get from hitting things. Fight more zombies? Get better at fighting zombies. Run away from zombies? Get better at running away. It just makes sense.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.