These days, it’s rare that a long-awaited release in the video game world isn’t divisive. Dying Light 2: Stay Human (DL2 below) is no exception. Far from being perfect, this sequel from the Techland studio is not, however, the disaster announced by some critics. Admittedly, it experienced a few performance hiccups when it launched and it doesn’t meet expectations from a narrative point of view, but its flaws don’t make it a fundamentally bad game.
Like its predecessor, DL2 is a zombie apocalypse-themed open-world first-person action-RPG. His story takes place 22 years after the first Dying Light (2015), in the fictional town of Villedor. It stars as Aiden Caldwell, a “pilgrim” (a nomad who travels from one community of survivors to another) in search of his sister Mia, whom he last saw when they were still children. To advance in his quest, Aiden will have to perform favors for warring factions vying for influence over the region.
From the outset, we do not expect that DL2 wins an award for the quality of his story. Techland struggles to give us any reason to be invested in Aiden’s quest beyond the familial connection to Mia. The plots that animate Villedor are weighed down by the poor performance of many actors and the accumulation of clichés linked to apocalyptic universes. Not to mention disturbing inconsistencies: you can outright kill a character only to see him reappear two minutes later, fresh as a rose, because you have made such and such a choice of dialogue in a cutscene. Choice which, moreover, will determine which of the eight possible endings we will obtain.
Also, character depth (when applicable) is delivered in a barrage of explanatory dialogue that tells a lot, but shows little. Rare exceptions: we really liked the performances of Dodger and Lawan (played by Rosario Dawson). Aiden isn’t bad either.
It is therefore by his gameplay than DL2 must shine, and it has succeeded. Techland has doubled down on its achievement of creating a fun first-person platformer. Aiden is a more agile and better equipped parkour master than Kyle Crane, the protagonist of the first installment. Tools such as a grappling hook and a paraglider make our movements easier. Added to this are two skill trees (one for parkour, the other for combat) that offer perks that are always eager to unlock.
As for the combat mechanics, they excel against hordes of infected. Dealing with a crowd of slow or fast, powerful or agile monsters generates the adrenaline you’d expect from this kind of game. As in the first game, zombies are amorphous when exposed to sunlight, but they become aggressive and hostile at night, which gives the day and night cycle a tangible effect.
The fights against the humans, mainly the Defiant faction, are no less thrilling. A whole range of spectacular (and often hilarious) moves are available to us. We could spend hours decapitating our opponents or catapulting them off the rooftops of Villedor with chasing jumps.