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Dying Light (PlayStation 4) artwork

Dying Light (PlayStation 4) review


"Night of the Living Fetch Quests"


Dying Light (PlayStation 4) image

I kicked off my playthrough of Techland's zombie game Dying Light with a body-racking chill. I stepped out into the streets of the infected Turkish city of Harran, constantly checking my flanks. Only trashed urban streets lie there. An eerie stillness presided, broken eventually by a din of snarls and the tromps of heavy feet. Yet the area around me stood empty, and I thus couldn't pinpoint the origin of the nightmarish noise. For a lover of all things horror, a moment like this is a thing of beauty. It's primal fear meshed with a modern setting, and it's oh so disquieting.

I tensed as I charged into the streets. Initially, I spotted only a few zombies, referred to as "biters." Before long, though, I ran afoul of whole herds just waiting for a moving piece of meat to devour. I slunk away from from the mob and utilized my parkour skills to climb to a lofty ledge. I was lucky this time, but my luck didn't consistently hold up throughout Dying Light's campaign. Now and then, I failed to grab an edge, or I pulled myself onto a narrow walkway and plummeted. I eventually mastered the art of scaling structures and leaping from one roof to another, but even then I had plenty of "oh crap" moments when I occasionally stumbled and fell.

I often landed in the middle of a gang of zombies who'd just about pick me apart. Thankfully, Dying Light was forgiving enough in its early phases that I was able to escape with a few cuts and bruises. However, the game's madness didn't truly pick up until I found myself outside of a safe house after dark. At that time, my flashlight served as a beacon, drawing the horrendously powerful "volatiles" to my location. I ran from one, but it chased me down and pounced upon me. I watched as my health faded, and in a panicked instant I drew my gun and fired.

...and listened to the the roar of nearby monsters who heard the report.

Dying Light (PlayStation 4) image

Throughout my journeys, I was incapable of keeping quiet. I frequently ignited propane tanks or triggered burglar alarms, bringing super swift and just as hungry "virals" to me. Sometimes I dashed away and left them in the dust, but most of the time I brandished a slab of wood or a nearly broken hammer and battled my way through an oncoming surge of creatures. Thankfully, there isn't much more to combat in Dying Light than aiming the reticle and taking a swing, whilst minding a finite stamina supply. Of course, I didn't always mind my exhaustion and ended up winded before a veritable army of ghouls.

Thankfully, I was smart enough to unlock most of the game's extra safe houses, so repsawning was no biggie, save for the experience penalty came with it. Were it not for these locales, I might not have bothered to explore the game as thoroughly as I did. During my sweep of Harran, I discovered that few of the city's nooks and crannies were worth visiting, but the all around design made for some creepy experiences. Mainly, this was because I didn't know what to expect. Sometimes I'd leap over a wall and find a parking lot full of biters. Or I might push into an abandoned apartment and loot the place, unaware that a famished zombie was only a few yards away from me. Oh, I'd realize it after the beast latched on and took a couple of chunks out of me...

It's funny how desensitization works. When you leave the primary safe house for the first time, it's a memorable event. When you exit it for the twentieth time, though, the act is so commonplace and rote that you don't even think about it. The same rings true for almost everything in Dying Light. For instance, the parkour elements become tiresome when you realize that running through the streets is a faster means of getting around, not to mention safer when you reach the second map and its ridiculous vistas. Exploration takes a dive after you familiarize yourself with the landscape, and the sense of surprise that came with traveling throughout the region vanishes. Combat remains basic, and damningly so. You need several blows to dispatch a biter, and you usually have to deal with scores of them. I can't stress enough how tedious offing legions of these creatures is when all you have to work with is a plain combat system, and the time required to terminate a single foe depends on how long you've spent grinding for perks.

In other words, your prowess as a zombie slayer relies on the number of dull side quests you've completed...

Dying Light (PlayStation 4) image

Dying Light features a laundry list of vapid tasks to perform, almost all of which consist of either fetch quests or switch-flipping/valve-turning. When the kids in the nursery get bored, it's up to you to collect crayons for them. When someone cuts the city gas line, you decide to pad from one area to another to turn valves. After that tasks is complete, you might scamper off to fetch someone's mother, or flip circuit breaker switches, or nab some chocolate, or activate a communication tower, or locate a handgun, or... I think you catch my drift. Dying Light's collection of chores lack variety and threaten to exhaust even the most thorough players.

Honestly, the main story isn't much better. You play a man named Kyle Crane who arrives in Harran to locate a file that allegedly contains a cure for the zombie virus. Yeah, you read that correctly; Crane's mission is itself a frickin' fetch quest. However, the basic plot is not the most frustrating part about Dying Light's tale, as the story fails to fully utilize about ninety percent of its cast. Characters who seemed like key players early on in the campaign, like Brecker, unceremoniously fade into the background, and the game focuses on a girl named Jade for god only knows what reason.

Dying Light (PlayStation 4) image

It becomes apparent that the Kyle has a thing for her, but it's difficult to see why. The two of them have no chemistry, and any romantic developments between the two are paper thin. At times you wonder if the slapdash bond between the two was only cooked up to add emotional weight to later campaign events. Unfortunately, this lousy attempt at romance gets in the way of the storyline, and leads to dramatic moments that fall flat. Ultimately, Crane's attraction to Jade comes off as a creepy infatuation rather a genuine love interest.

Dying Light is the blue prints for a wonderful experience that's sadly never fully realized. The game provides you with an expansive city full of nothing, a creepy setup that loses its punch thanks to repetition, a campaign that grows wearisome due to a barrage of brainless tasks, a collection of one-dimension characters who beg for even a sliver of depth, and a would-be romance that detracts from the experience. Toss in a tedious combat system and thousands of enemies that take ages to kill, and that's pretty much Dying Light. Oh, but the first five or so hours are stupendous!

3/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (May 01, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Feedback

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Fiddlesticks posted May 01, 2018:

I thoroughly enjoyed this review. I was genuinely pumped reading the opening paragraphs and then I kinda slid down my chair as I came to read your realization that the game misses opportunities and employs basic conventions rather than building on what sounds like a great initial impression. Really nice work going through the full gamut of expressions to convey the good and bad of a game that comes out to be 3-star average.

Also, Ctrl+F "haracters".
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Follow_Freeman posted May 01, 2018:

Again, more details on the gameplay would have helped this review immensely; I also found the paragraph transitions, while humorous at times, to not flow well as they could have. However, this review splendidly achieves the translation of a difficult to articulate aspect of a game: structure. It's a good thing to explain such an important part of an open world game in extensive detail. Great job!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 04, 2018:

Fiddlesticks:
Thank you very much for reading and for the comments. Also, nice catch on the "haracters."

Freeman:
Fair enough. This is actually a much older review that I tweaked a little. It was originally posted at Realm of Gaming, but since that site has shut down, I've republished it here. I will be doing the same with others I've written.
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Follow_Freeman posted May 04, 2018:

Don't get me wrong, it's still a great review, man. I've been wondering how to review open-world games since the bulk of a review of such a game has to deal with the game's structure, how missions lead to customization and more missions and whatnot. You made it look easy by comparing the game's most thrilling moments to the fetchy stuff later on; by detailing something interesting at the beginning of the review, you hooked readers and laid the foundation for a contrast down the road. That's pretty genius.

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