After spending countless hours grinding in Techland’s new open-world zombie game, Dying Light, I found myself feeling an overwhelming sense of deja vu. With a fair amount of similarities to Dead Island, it occurred to me time and time again— does this qualify as a new I.P? Or am I simply replaying Dead Island for third time? After a lot of deep thinking and comparing the two titles, I finally found my answer. Dying Light is the intelligent, better-looking older brother and Dead Island is the sociopath younger sibling who eats glue and farts in public.
In Dying Light you play as Kyle Crane, a covert operative working for the GRE who is deployed in the zombie-infested city of Harran (In this game, they actually refer to the infected as “zombies”). Within most realistically formed, fictional post-apocalyptic scenarios, someone has to take control amidst the anarchy; that man is Rais. Not only have Rais and his men seized every supply air drop within the area, Rais stole highly classified information from the GRE which is why Crane was sent to Harran. Saved by a separate group of survivors upon landing in the city, Crane finds himself in a compromising situation. Will Crane concentrate his efforts to save those who rescued him or will he complete his mission and successfully infiltrate Rais’ barracks?
The storyline alone separates it from Dead Island, which lacked any strong narrative. While traveling the tropics of Banoi I constantly thought, “what the hell am I doing here?” As the missions slowly progressed and the characters constantly changed, everything was still vaguely unclear to me and 99 percent of the time I hardly knew what the main mission was. Basically; after many hours of playing Dead Island, I realized it was nothing more than a decent grind. In contrast, Dying Light possesses a fluid, consistent plot and you can’t help but gain an attachment to some of the game’s key characters.
Not only is the plot structure far more alluring than Dead Island, Dying Light is also much scarier in comparison. I will admit, there were a few times in Banoi where I would get a little anxious, but those feelings were not a direct result of the game’s scare factor. What made Dead Island so unnerving were the massive amounts of surrounding enemies, which always felt a tad overpowered. With their strong blows and high agility attack style, the zombies in Banoi resemble the infected in the British film, 28 Days Later. The zombies in Dying Light are much slower and easier to out-run, much like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead— but don’t be fooled. There are tons of Biters stumbling around in the streets of Harran and if you get caught in a pack, you may just regret it.
Although the average Biters present in Dying Light during the day may be a little creepy, nothing quite compares to the Night Hunters that come out after dark. With exposed organs and long limbs, these monsters sprint at your speed, have great night vision and a cunning sense of sound. As soon as day turns into night, you can hear the shrill shrieks of numerous Night Hunters as they come out of the luring darkness and it is bone chilling.
Traveling Harran at night is nearly impossible without using your flashlight since the area goes pitch black once the sun is down. All you have to guide you in the darkness are the moans and shuffles of the undead. If you do decide to switch on your flashlight for even a second, you take the risk of being spotted by the Night Hunters, and outrunning them is no easy task. Thankfully, the day and night cycles are lengthy enough which makes it difficult to get stranded in the open after dark, but you can’t help but feel a sense of urgency to get to a safe house once the sun begins to set.
Another thing that Dying Light does better than Dead Island is open world looting. With countless suitcases placed all over the island of Banoi with mediocre items and cash inside (and sometimes nothing at all), it still seemed that no matter how much money you found or suitcases you looted, items were still too expensive to purchase and finding the right items for mods was nearly impossible. You’ll find in Dying Light that loot boxes with only useful items are typically placed in higher to reach places, away from the undead, which takes away the fear-while-looting factor. After finding the crafting items you need, players can quickly modify and upgrade weapons within the in-game menu, which takes away the hassle of finding a workbench.
One of the best upgrades Techland decided to make was opening up the landscape in floor to top levels. With a parkour focus, players can scale walls, jump from building to building and slide beneath mid-level obstructions. Not only were the environments fun to explore, most building doors could be opened to find hidden trophies and abandoned goodies. The parkour mechanics are perfect for those who enjoy the Assassins Creed games, or those who enjoyed the playing style but could never catch onto the series. I feel that as a new I.P, Dying Light took that gameplay function and embellished on it in ways that feels well suited for this title, and it works well. Dead Island may have had a large environment, but I hardly felt that I was able to explore as freely as I was able to in Dying Light.
Although Dead Island had many issues with autosaving, texture pop-ins and glitches, the game had great ideas that were unfortunately too ambitious for its time. For instance, the co-op functionality in Dead Island allowed friends to grind for hours looting, killing zombies and doing side quests together. In a world of micro-transactions and upselling, co-op campaigning hardly exists anymore, so it’s nice to see that Techland listened to their fans and carried co-op campaign with them to Dying Light.
Overall, Dying Light and Dead Island have many things in common but are still very different. Consider Dying Light to be the upgraded version of Dead Island; better storytelling, weaponry, environments, enemies and overall quality. Although some players have encountered a few glitches, I have yet to experience any of my own (keeping my fingers crossed). When I first started my playthrough I felt hesitant, like I was waiting for the axe to drop… but it never did. I enjoyed every minute of this game and although I’m about ten hours in, I’m still terrified of those damn Night Hunters.