Since the original Dying Light has been played by more than 17 million people, Dying Light 2 Stay Human doesn't launch with the benefit of minimal anticipation. Seven years after the first game launched, the sequel is shaping up to be one of the biggest games of the year.
Techland needed to make sure Stay Human was better in every way, matching the quality of the best AAA open world games in the last seven years.
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Thankfully, Dying Light 2 isn’t just an improvement across the board. It’s a remarkably polished and exciting sequel.
New World Order
Heading to a brand new location and focusing on an original protagonist is important in that progression. Focusing on Aiden Caldwell and moving to Villedor allows Techland to really increase the variety of the world and tell a story with different themes and motivations.
The biggest and most important improvement made in Dying Light 2 are those made to traversal, though.
The parkour style introduced in the first game, which at its core asks you to simply look where you want to go and jump, is back in a vastly improved way.
It's faster, smoother, more realistic, and so much more fun. Villedor is meticulously designed with that fun in mind, providing you various pathways for building momentum with ladders, hand holds, bars to swing across, and even air vents.
Other than telltale yellow wooden beams during quests, the sequel also doesn't signpost the paths for you.
Additional tools, such as a paraglider and grappling hook add great variety to the climbing in the second half of the game. It's a lot of fun weaving them into how you naturally get across the city.
Stay Human's parkour also perfectly balances between being forgiving and requiring planning. You have to plan a few steps (or buildings) ahead of you, but misjudge a jump slightly and you'll often be let off.
Never will you encounter the classic Assassin's Creed problem of jumping off a tall building in almost the opposite direction to where you intended.
Aiden will sometimes grabs ledges seemingly just out of his reach, although never in a jarringly awkward or unrealistic way. Getting around the open world is just so smooth.
That's only improved as the game progresses too. While movement starts a little cumbersome, wall-running and skills that simply improve the fluidity of parkour really help you pick up the pace. Howeve, the length of time it takes to amass enough skill points to unlock those abilities is frustrating. As a result, it may take a little while for Dying Light 2 to fully grab your attention.
Once it does - and it will - Dying Light 2's parkour is up there with Spider-Man's web-swinging when it comes to satisfying ways to explore an open world.
Combat, Dying Light 2's other main facet, has taken a step forward too, if not to quite the same degree.
Some may find it a little vague still - with just waving a pointy stick in the direction of an enemy being the main form of combat - but it feels weighty and satisfying.
The increased focus on dodging and parrying helps add some depth to the combat too, particularly against the Renegades, Dying Light 2's primary human enemy faction.
Blocking or dodging an attack at the perfect time will stagger an enemy, giving you the chance to move in for an attack or two.
It often feels like a round of fencing, slowly backing away or standing your ground, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce. You need to keep the action in front of you, tracking where every enemy is and when they're going to make a move of their own. It's that need for awareness that elevates Dying Light 2's combat above the pinata party the trailers may make it seem.
The standard enemies aren't ever really a concern, due to a lack of damage they deal, but get overwhelmed or cornered and there's often no way out. Guns aren't available as a simply solution either.
That's not to say Stay Human's combat is perfect. It's a marked improvement, but there are some issues. You'll still encounter some imprecision to the hit detection (especially when faced by enemies with spears or longer axes that seem to miss you by a good 10 feet but still do damage) and the boss fights until the finale are all just larger versions of standard enemies. They never ask more of you than the dodge, parry, and pounce loop that the basic fights do.
The variety has to come from you. Stealth, bows and arrow, and take downs from above are all options with the right skills unlocked, you're just rarely persuaded to use them. Stealth is certainly the best option for taking on bandit camps or dark hollows swarming with sleeping infected, but a baseball bat and a few dodges will do the trick just fine.
The same can be said of the nighttime activities. The dangers of night, which offer an entirely different challenge, was the main selling point of the first game, but Techland learned that players avoided them more often than not.
The actual new activities are great, it's just on you to dive into them. Dying Light 2 is like "hey, head out at night and there are some cool rewards waiting for you. You really should go out at night," but it never pushes you to do so.
Want the best weapons, skills, and gear as early as possible? Then head out to take on some GRE Anomalies or search for dark hollows. I'd just have liked the sequel to push you into the night more often to really showcase what are some really excellent side quests.
Night isn't about fear anymore, it's about opportunity. The rewards just aren't necessary, though, and sometimes aren't worth the hassle. Much like Techland, we'd recommend you check out the nighttime specific quests, but we'd hardly blame you for giving them a miss.
The world is just so 'safe' and beautiful during the day - Villedor's lighting and details are stunning throughout - that giving Aiden a good night's rest often feels like the best option.
Compelling if Overly Busy Story
Aiden also needs a good night's sleep to remember all the people he met the day before. Dying Light 2 has so many characters to get to know.
Essentially split into two halves, Old Villedor and the main downtown part of the city, the world throws so many cliques and crews at you from moment one.
The survivors at the Bazaar and the Peacekeepers who aren't doing a great job of keeping the peace both have loads of members vying for your attention. Some will help you along your journey to find your sister, others won't.
Since choice and allegiances are such important aspects of Dying Light 2, presenting rounded and extensive looks at each faction is understandable, I just wish there weren't quite so many names and faces to remember.
A lot of the characters are really interesting, though. The father and son craftmaster dynamic you get to know in Old Villedor is charming and the deep backstories of many of the people you meet once you reach the city are fascinating.
The issue is more about how quickly you're introduced to these characters than the quality of the storytelling. Once I got to know my allies and enemies, some of whom are real standouts, I began to care more about how Aiden's story played out. Characters like Rosario Dawson's Lawan are wonderful companions on Aiden's quest.
It'll also be interesting to see how different playthroughs can be. We know that certain major choices (of which there are many) can have a dramatic impact on Dying Light 2's world and story, but it won't be until players speak to each other about the structure of their own narrative will it have the desired effect.
Stay Human lets your build your own world without showcasing how exactly you're changing it. You can also balance the city of Villedor in your own way by sharing resources and locations with each of the factions. How you share those resources plays so well into the main choices you make througout.
Some areas may feel completely different and some relationships may change entirely based on your choices, but the ones you make are made to feel like the right ones.
The facial animations and performances are also brilliant throughout, and really showcase the stunning level of polish in Dying Light 2. Aside from those fixed pre-launch, Stay Human is remarkably bug free for such a detailed and expansive open world story. Cutscenes look phenomenal, hitches while running and jumping are very rare, and the world always looks great, almost never suffering from pop-in or strange zombie animations.
The music that plays as you explore is fantastic too, really adding a level of drama and emotion to everything you do.
I was genuinely shocked how consistent Dying Light 2 is from a technical standpoint, and it really serves to compliment everything you're doing. Without the same level of polish, the story would never have connected so well and the gameplay would never have felt so great.
Dying Light 2 is so much smoother and more consistent than the first game, with the story and parkour really coming together as Aiden's adventure progresses. It all takes place in a world that's remarkably polished, bug free, and a joy to simply explore.
Stay Human isn't without its issues. Combat can be a bit imprecise and the story is a little too busy, but I haven't had this much fun with an open world game in a long time.
RealSport Rating: 4.5 out of 5
We reviewed Dying Light 2 on PlayStation 5, with code provided by Techland.