Originally announced a few years back, Techland has had quite the journey getting this Dying Light 2 Stay Human to see the light of day. However, last week I got an extensive four-hour play session with the game and was pleasantly surprised when I walked away.
You play as the protagonist named Aiden, who like many others is infected. and after being given a bracelet that can help stave off the infection, you start trying to track down your missing sister. Although the demo I played was somewhere in the middle of the game, the sister plotline was only very loosely weaved through. The demo opens up with you heading back to an old survivor camp that originally turned you away. Once the demo started, I was free to explore Old Villeador at my leisure.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human Hands-On Preview | Infectious Charm
All I kept thinking throughout the entire session was, “this game is dense,” and I don’t mean that to be a slight. The world is so tightly packed with quests, Forsaken zones (which provide high-tier loot at the cost of a challenge), and plenty of enemies on rooftops and the ground.
In fact, it’s so concentrated that enemies will pop out of doors and bust through air vents while you’re just walking around. Once you’re out of any designated safe zone, you’re constantly in danger. Luckily, the parkour in Dying Light 2 has some tricks up its sleeves to allow for quick maneuvers and stylish escapes.
While running around the world you can jump, swing, wall-run, slide, and even vault off of the infected to gain more air. It took some time to get used to how these features string together, but once you get the hang of it, you can quickly scale any building or structure.
Of course, like most games, sometimes the world’s geometry can be tricky, and on more than one occasion, my character wouldn’t grab a ledge or would get stuck trying to pull themselves up.
Parkour is such a huge part of the game, and I’m happy to be able to say it’s stronger than ever. This is partly thanks to the new paraglider tool. The paraglider isn’t just something that slowly descends over time as it drains your stamina. It has a weight to it, and you have to shift that weight around in order to get it to move the way you want.
Push forward to divebomb, or pull back on it to stabilize yourself and suspend in the air. Using these tools to glide across air vents to lift you up and gusts of winds to give your distance felt like the traversal from building to building was earned, rather than simply jumping from a high point and landing on a slightly lower point.
This is also where I ran into Rasario Dawson's character Lawan for the first time. She's chaotic, grizzled and one of the absolute stars of the show. Her character was only present in the second section of the demo, but it's clear Lawan plays a pivotal role in what's going on.
There were also two other characters I spent quite a bit of time with during the demo. Barney and Sophie are brother and sister, running a survivor camp in Old Villedor. They are some of your primary quest givers and are also the subjects of some of your personal investigations. Their back and forth bickering was oddly charming at times, and they felt like humans just trying to do their best to survive, even if they have differing outlooks on life.
Specifically, there's a moment where you're on a rooftop at night with Sophie, where she tells you what she's fighting for, and why it's so important to her. It gave these characters room to breathe, and I felt more attached to the cause of helping them.
The Central Loop is a city filled with bustling skyscrapers and dilapidated city streets. We didn’t get to spend a ton of time in this area during the demo, but it left enough of a lasting impression.
Tasked with returning power to an old power substation, I took my glider and traveled to the location. Here I was met by a bunch of Peacekeepers, one of the many factions in the game, who asked me to turn the power on and divert the electricity to them, because those who control the electricity, control the power in this area.
Here is where Dying Light 2’s choice system really comes into play. After I rerouted the power, I had the option to give the power to the Peacekeepers, who are just a bunch of cops or give it to the city’s people.
Both choices have different rewards and content associated with them. If I give it to the people, they can use it to power more air vents around the Central Loop, allowing my paraglider to reach new heights. However, if I give it to the cops, they can use it to set up more defenses against the infected.
It’s a push and pull about where your morals lie and, ultimately, where you align. The choices aren’t just for rewards, though. Earlier in the demo, I was confronted at the top of a water tower. While a similar situation was presented to me, either giving the water to the people or the Peacekeepers, the entire next mission was different instead of just a simple reward.
Since I sided with the people, my next mission was entirely different from those with the other faction.
I was now sent to destroy a windmill used by The Peacekeepers to disrupt radio signals and broadcasts. With the help of the faction at the Bazaar, their home base of operations, I sneaked my way into the camp and slightly tried to take out the Peacekeepers. Stealth is pretty hit or miss, from what I’ve seen. It’s usually good for getting one or two people out of the picture before ultimately hopping into heated combat.
Combat in Dying Light 2 is very reminiscent of the first game. You’ll use melee weapons that can be attached with different elemental mods like electricity or fire. In my time with the game, I found a blast mod that allowed me to charge it up by hitting enemies and then unleashing an explosive blast that lit them up like the Fourth of July. It felt satisfying enough to keep on my weapon.
Outside of crafting weapons, you’ll also be crafting medical supplies and things like immunity boosters. Immunity Boosters are important because you’ll be on a timer since you are infected (as part of the main story) in some areas that don’t have sunlight or UV light. Using immunity boosters will prevent this timer from reaching zero because when it does, you’ll start losing health and stamina until you’re dead.
This is especially true at night. Nighttime is just as deadly as ever. Special Infected roam the streets, and if you get in their line of sight, you’ll be chased down; the longer the chase and the more infected that spot you will increase the difficulty of escaping alive.
Traveling during the night in Dying Light 2 can offer more rewards from the Forsaken zones, which will be empty because all of the infected are out roaming the streets. So it’s a high-risk, high-reward scenario for players to find better gear.
Gear rarity is a thing, so you’ll be getting blue and purple gear with different stats and numbers on them. It seemed pretty unintrusive, but it’s something to be aware of if you don’t like those kinds of loot systems.
Ultimately my time with Dying Light 2 helped cement that it’s got a lot more going on than I anticipated. Its tightly packed streets and characters offer a wider variety of storytelling and worldbuilding that I wasn’t aware of. It seems to have ditched some of its goofy tones for something grittier, and I think it’s for the better.
Dying Light 2 releases on February 4, 2022, on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.