In 2011, Polish developer Techland made its first foray into the world of zombies with Dead Island, a first-person survival game with RPG elements. It was well-received, and the game was followed up by a sequel, but it seems Techland have come back for more with some new ideas in the upcoming Dying Light.
Like Dead Island, Dying Light throws the player into a tropical world, but this time, instead of paradise, it’s the slums. Zombies are easy to handle on their own in this environment, but massive hordes cause the player to find new tactics to survive, and one of those new tactics is Free-Running. Reminiscent of the parkour mechanics in Mirror’s Edge, free-running introduces fresh ideas for avoiding the hungry hordes. Running across roof-tops, climbing up poles, and sliding under small gaps are all new ways to escape danger and traverse the open world. And what a world it is.
Techland have put a lot of effort into small environmental touches. Foliage is never static; trees, bushes and grass all blow in the wind, as do clothes still hung on the line. Puddles realistically reflect water, and palm tree leaves move realistically in the wind. Another new feature of the environment is traps. Using a remote you can activate electric fences and explosives-rigged car alarms to dispatch larger amounts of zombies. These are sure to be helpful when in the heat of pursuit.
During the day, you must be quick to do all you can, scavenging supply drops as the precious sunlight dwindles, and here in lies the decisions. Do you stop to help survivors crying for help, wasting precious daylight and risking being caught out in the dark, or do you ignore them get to those supply drops before the sun goes down? Decisions like this could result in a matter of life or death later on.
Nightfall is when the game becomes something more terrifying. Zombies are no longer push-overs; whereas in the day they aren’t too active and will be easily taken care of, zombies becomes the hunters of the night. They are stronger, faster, and will actively seek you out. Fighting them straight on as you would during the day will end in your death. It is at this time Dying Light encourages the player to a different gameplay style instead: Stealth. Zombies now stalk the narrow pathways through the slums, and the player must use stealth kills and alternate pathways to avoid being seen. An ability known as Night Sense alerts the player to zombies entering the darkness before them, and being spotted will alert all nearby zombies in the area. All the player can do if they hope to survive, is run. And they’ll need to keep on running, because at night zombies can jump and climb too, meaning climbing onto a nearby rooftop won’t keep you safe anymore.
Dying Light is shaping up to be quite the zombie game. Techland is building on the foundations left by Dead Island and reinforcing them with new mechanics such as free-running, traps and nightfall, adding a lot more strategy and challenge than its predecessors, creating a stronger, smarter game. Only time will tell if all these elements fall in place before the dying light.
Written By Jacob Getley