Dying Light 2 Stay Human, originally announced back in 2018, has had quite a tumultuous journey. Between the controversies of Chris Avellone and his later departure from the game, and the game’s disappearance for months on end, we’re finally seeing the fruit this game has bore.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human Review: Stumbling Forward
Reviewed on PC
After completing Dying Light 2, I was left with conflicting emotions. On one hand, the moment-to-moment gameplay is exciting, tense, and filled with a fluid parkour system, while the main narrative lacks in almost every area.
The protagonist Aiden is part of a group known as the Pilgrims, moving from one area to another with no place to call home. This group braves outside of the walled-off cities. After learning that he might have a lead on his missing sister Mia, Aiden heads for the town of Old Villeador, one of the last cities still standing.
It’s here you’ll begin to become embroiled in the local politics of the land, hoping to help the survivors of the city, as well as the militarized pseudo police force known as the Peacekeepers. You are helping them to hopefully track down more information about your missing sister and her whereabouts.
Forcing you to make decisions that side with either of the two factions, for instance, do you give the town’s water supply to the Peacekeepers or the Survivors? Your options ultimately boil down to which perk is more lucrative to you because each choice comes with a set of benefits to help you. If you side with the Peacekeepers, maybe the area will know to be rigged with explosive traps to help you clear out large swathes of zombies, or if you choose the survivors, you’ll access airbags on the streets, letting you soar to new heights.
The more essential choices, however, come from the main missions themselves. At numerous times throughout the adventure, you’re going to have to make a decision that will branch your story. These are all marked with two splitting arrows to indicate these will send you down a different path.
Sometimes these choices will lead you to a completely different set of missions, emphasizing multiple playthroughs to see how events can play out differently.
I mostly sided with the survivors, whose causes aligned with my own, despite how annoying most of these characters are. Early on you meet a character Barney, a member of the Bazaar community who has a real knack for getting into trouble. His dialogue is so grating that I never wanted to talk to him, but his cause was one I could get behind at the end of the day.
I found this to be the case with most characters throughout my 40 hours with the game. The main questline characters would oscillate between annoying or heartfelt almost on a dime. Anytime the game tried to put weight behind a scene, it fell flat largely due to the cast’s dialogue and reaction to many of the situations.
It’s a story built upon what it looks like to build out of an apocalypse, but never uses these ideas in a meaningful or interesting way. Characters fall into the same tropes of most apocalyptic media that came before it. The survivors at each other’s throats trying to make ends meet, the group trying to police the world but end up with more power than they know what to do with. It’s a playground full of ideas to twist and build upon, but ultimately never form anything new or exciting.
The game offers revelations and a narrative conclusion that stumbles ungracefully to the finish line. It tries to tie up loose ends and offers player’s a choice that has little to no payoff.
The one diamond in the rough though, is Rosario Dawson’s performance as Lawan. The character is not only captured well but has more nuanced dialogue and a strong backstory that helped humanize a lot of elements of both the central location known as the Fish Eye and its dwellers.
However, and arguably the most intriguing part of it all, is how in-between large story beats, when things settled down, these characters could have some of the most real-life, down the earth moments.
Right before a major sequence in the game, I was sitting around with some Peacekeeper members who were telling me why they fight, who they are trying to protect, and what matters to them. It reminded me that these characters have real motivation behind their dudebro facades, and it’s the moments when the story just lets these characters be human, that the story shines.
These moments are far and few between large setpiece action moments, but they exist, and are easily a highlight of the game for me.
The setpiece moments in Dying Light 2 are a mixture of making sick parkour moves inside and outside of buildings and combat, running full speed across rooftops, constantly worrying if you have the momentum to make a significant jump or if you’re going to splat on the pavement full force.
It’s exhilarating, especially once you unlock more of the moveset in the skill tree like sliding, wall-running, and being able to long jump off of objects. It’s a system that works almost flawlessly and is a real high point.
Combo this with the paraglider and grappling hook, which gives you a sense of true verticality while scaling the skyscrapers of Central Loop. The Paraglider’s movement requires tact and patience to master but feels incredibly intuitive in its design.
Combat is fun but never does anything to break the mold. Despite more choice in how players approach situations, it’s largely similar to the original game and never escalates its systems in a way expected from a sequel. Weapon modding is back and allows you to add elemental and other abilities to the cobbled together weapons you find in the world of Dying Light 2.
On top of your primary weapons, you’ll also have access to a range of throwable weapons like Molotovs, grenades, throwing knives, and more. Giving you a toolset that can match almost any situation you’re looking for.
Again, however, even though the player is presented with a choice in how they approach combat, I never felt challenged or had to rethink my method. Most situations, especially with human enemies boils down to parry, swing, parry swing, rinse and repeat.
My biggest problem with the gameplay elements of this game comes from the loot system. Outside of weapons, you’re also earning gear that can be equipped on your body, head, feet, etc. They have rarities and offer a different set of added benefits like better healing and more damage while unarmed, but the system itself feels rote. It feels tacked on in a way that never felt like an interesting choice was being made, or that I was trying to build a specific type of character.
Unfortunately, when publishing this review, we did not have access to Dying Light 2’s multiplayer, which allows four players to team up and explore Old Villeador and Central Loop together.
Trying to go in weapons blazing or stealth are both viable options and will depend on the situation you find yourself in. Taking enemies down quietly and tactically will require an more patient and subtle hand while going in loud will require you to expend a lot of valuable resources.
The same applies to nighttime, which is where I found the most heart-pounding events in the game. While many buildings while empty out at night as the dead walks the empty and dimly lit streets, some of the most dangerous infected lurk around each corner.
Going into buildings marked on my map during the night was easier than tackling them during the day, but getting to them was an entirely different experience. Having to stick to rooftops and avoid the many different types of infected proved challenging, and once you’ve alerted the horde, prepare for a non-stop chase through Old Villeador and the Central Loop. Infected bursting out of doors, rooftop vents, and every nook and cranny in between.
This also speaks to how well crafted the world of Dying Light 2 is. Beautiful scenery can be seen from climbing tall buildings, the densely packed city streets, while reduced to rubble, are masterly crafted. The world of Dying Light 2 is one of the prettiest games I’ve played in a long time.
My entire playthrough was on PC and outside of some minor lighting and graphical errors I did not have any major technical problems. A few elevators would sometimes require multiple button inputs or a checkpoint restart, but otherwise a painless experience and did not detract from the world in front of me.
Sometimes climbing up a windmill offers a view of the city previously not seen, and in most cases that felt like its own reward.
The same goes for Dying Light 2’s soundtrack, which pivots between ambient strings to licensed tracks like Metric’s Help I’m Alive. It always passed the vibe check and elevated scenes that often needed something to push it over the edge. I found myself constantly standing around and taking in the views alongside the soundtrack. Again, this game’s strengths are in the quieter, more intimate moments.
While Dying Light 2 struggles narratively, it’s filled with a strong gameplay loop and plenty of optional content to be consumed. It offers a robust parkour system and combat to boot. If you’ve been a longtime fan of Dying Light or are new to the series, you’ll find something to love in this game.
- A fluid and momentous Parkour system
- Weapon mods change up both playstyle and how you approach a situation
- Beautiful landscape and detailed world
- An uninteresting narrative
- Character dialogue feels tired
- Apocalyptic tropes we’ve seen before with no twist