Developer: Techland Publisher: Techland To say this game was ‘anticipated’ would be a massive understatement. Delayed for over 2 years, fans were put on hold as the game went through multiple missed deadlines and promised released dates. Was Dying Light 2 worth the wait? Mostly. As a franchise, well, two games now… Dying Light is one of, if not, the best ‘zombie’ game on the market. Between the butter-smooth parkour mechanic and fleshed out story lines, there is a lot of character investment crammed in-between zombie slaying sessions. Dying Light 2 delivers on all that. Plus, as expected, a few extra surprises. There is a decent story arc involving your quest to relocate your sister who you’ve been separated from since your time together spent as child-hood ‘experiments’ – done to combat the zombie virus. Heroes can be villains, villains can be heroes… you can be both… many choices are presented along the way that lead to multiple different endings. There are two main factions: ‘The Survivors’ – the common free folk – with good ideals but some sketchy people, and ‘The Peacekeepers’ – the authoritarian police force with sketchy ideals but some good people). Choosing when and how you help each will unlock different game twists. This is why you don’t do drug deals on the edge of a roof. What the game does right: Scary zombie environments. Scary Zombies. Tense night scenes. Unexpected plot twists. Heights. Parkour. Environmental puzzles involving both problem solving and platforming skills. Character development. (Some) Meaningful side-quests. An abundance of weapons and upgrades. Environments in general. HEIGHTS. I would bet this game in VR would be AMAZING. Zombies aren’t the only thing worth killing… What the game does wrong: Looting. Way too much looting. Gotta check every goddamn box. Might need it later. 30% of the game is opening boxes and collecting loot… most of which you don’t need. Bugs. Lots of bugs. Some game crashers. LOTS of dialog bugs. Quests not completing (or ‘rebooting’ upon relaunch of a saved game). Incomplete-able quests. Safezones not unlocking on the map, even though you just unlocked it (which is problematic as some side-quests and challenges don’t unlock until these zones are unlocked… and when they are bugged… there is no way to unlock them). Too much looting. The bow and arrow/crossbow is over-powered. Until you have that weapon, fights will be intense, and often you will be outmatched and have to retreat. Once you have the bow… all fights can be cheesed from a distance. As long you have a large supply of arrows, even the biggest bosses can be taken down one arrow at a time. Not to mention upgradeable arrows (fire, shocker, explosive, toxic, etc….) which brings me to… You will open no less than 8,756 of those boxes before you finish the game. You really need about 50 of them. The crafting system. This needs its own side-rant. Game developers need to get the memo that crafting doesn’t always equal fun. Sure, in some survival/creative games (Minecraft), the mechanic makes perfect sense. But when they wrench it into games that don’t really need it, the result is so much wasted time for no real gain. Because they then go stuff their world with a million pieces of rubbish for you to incessantly gather, which will allow to you to craft and upgrade 50 different items… about 6 of which you’ll actually use in the game. But since our greedy little ape-like minds are still stuck in hoarder mode, we MUST gather all that shit… always… to be as powerful and prepared as possible. In reality what this typically translates into is this: Spending WAY too much time opening boxes, looking for boxes to open, managing the crap we found in the boxes we opened… and then there is the LOCKED boxes… oh boy… we need lockpicks for the crap that we most certainly want from there, it’s LOCKED after all, it MUST be valuable. Meanwhile, the developers all pat themselves on the back for fluffing up their game with another two hours of gameplay spent opening locks. Oh did I mention you first need to find the materials to CRAFT the picks to open the locks… more time wasted. After awhile, you realize this is just so much busy work that really adds nothing to the actual game. And the sad part is… you’ll only need maybe a quarter, maybe half at best, of all these crafting materials you spent hours harvesting. You will finish the game with an inventory stocked with unused weapons, mods, buffs, upgrades… all of it. I think it would be an interesting study to have someone breakdown an entire game-playthrough with data sets that reflected that time spent doing various activities. Without actually going back with a stopwatch…. this is my un-scientific, completely on the spot memory recollection of playing this game: Looting: At least 30 percent of game. This is only fun in the beginning when everything is new. By the half-way point, this has become tedious. By then end… it’s goddamn annoying. Story Missions: A good 15 percent. Which is decent. Good character development and (seemingly) meaningful choices. Side missions: 25 percent. There are many, with some of the more intense ones requiring a night-time execution. Many were the standard ‘fetch and deliver’ with a good dose of the expected ‘go here and kill that’, but there were more than a few surprises, laughs, and scares along the way. Parkouring around: 25 percent. For as much time is spent talking to people and executing missions… you will spend even more time running around, climbing buildings, and after a point… using a personal glider. The game does heights well and requires you to attain them often. If you have a fear of heights, or even just get that queezy feeling in your stomach when you get too high in the air… this game will illicit those feelings. Often. The fear of falling is constantly tangible, even though it’s just a game. Managing inventory: 5 percent. It’s probably more. The percentage of craft-able items, clothing, weapons, boosters… ESPECIALLY boosters… they have boosters for electricity resistance, fire resistance, immunity boosters, strength boosters, stamina boosters, toxic boosters… booster boosters… too many boosters. There is one you need at night (or in dark places) that keeps you from turning into a zombie (part of the story line)… otherwise you don’t need any of them. I didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from picking up every. frickin’. one. You’ll pick up so much crap, you’ll eventually have to take the time to start dropping the junk you don’t need. That is… when you aren’t stuck in the never ending grind of looting… running to the market to sell loot… to buy some more inventory you probably won’t need. And of course… plenty of zombie slaying along the way. Which should be mentioned… is great fun. Hotboxin’ a Zombie The game crushes it when it comes to different ways to roast, toast, fry, shock, dismember, crush, blow up, decapitate, or other-wise destroy zombies (and people). The parkour and combat of Dying Light 2 does overcome much of the joy-kill presented by bugs and game filler shoveled unto the player. While I’d recommend this game over-all, especially if you are in any way a fan of the horror/zombie game genre… my biggest complaint would be how unbalanced the game became once the bow was unlocked. Sure, I could choose NOT to use the bow. And if I did another play-through, I’d purposefully ignore it. But it WAS fun to use and throughout the game it was the go-to problem solver for any tough opposition. However, it needed to be balanced into the game. Restrict the ammo… have the bow wear down over time like the other weapons. Something. It should have been painfully obvious in game-testing that the tempo of the players fights (and their ability to strategically post up and win most any encounter) changes dramatically the second they get the bow. It didn’t take away the ‘fun’… as much as just completely negated the challenge, which up until that point, had been rather high. Here is some gameplay that features some sick bow take-downs. Again…fun… but definitely over-powered. Which is a problem I’ve gotten used to after playing literally hundreds upon hundreds of games like this. The difficulty curve is hard for developers to get just right. The games are ALWAYS the hardest in the beginning (after easing you into the game through some tutorial and basic intro missions). You have minimal or no equipment. You haven’t unlocked your super-human skill powers yet. Your weapons are purposefully weak so as to inspire happiness upon finding a better one. Enemies, while typically ‘beatable’ will require full on effort. You don’t know all the tricks of the mechanics yet and haven’t gotten the cool moves down to muscle memory. But as the game progresses, and especially if the game gives you ample opportunities to ‘level up’ skills and weapons… most players, especially those who go after ALL the side-quests (me), find themselves overpowered and over-equipped. They are spending valuable gaming time managing items in inventories they’ll never use. They now basically ‘one-shot’ common enemies, take out mini-bosses with ease, and generally face boss battles with more than enough resources. At that point, the ‘combat’ becomes meaningless and takes on the position of placeholders that piece together the story one wades through to just finish the game. Dying Light 2 suffers from this terribly. Upon completing the game… I was satisfied. I liked the game. I enjoyed most of the time I played it. I would recommend it to friends. But there is this nagging sense that it stole something from me in there when I wasn’t paying attention. It stole time. Time I could be playing the meat of the game, or finishing the game and playing another game. Wrapped up in the zombies and desire to reunite with my long lost sister and perhaps help some humans along the way… are all these little time-wasters. Things you could remove from the game, and the game would be no less for that omission. You can’t help to start to see it as some sort of a ‘trick’ used by developers to pad out the play-time for their game. ‘500 hours’ the game’s pre-launch hype boasted. Which is insane. But not so much when you realize you spend about 200 of those hours just opening boxes and picking locks. Realistically, it took me about 50+ hours to finish this game. But I’m a semi-completionist who typically does all the side missions, grinds and grinds, gets himself completely over-powered by half-way through the game while most definitely finishing with enough inventory to probably run through the game again without looting at all. The first Dying Light, while possessing many similar game mechanics, didn’t seem so bloated. Final Verdict: There is a fun, well executed zombie game in Dying Light 2 that is unfortunately wrapped up in a thick layer of developer bloat disguised as ‘game-play’. While it doesn’t ruin the experience, it leaves you feeling like the developers exchanged respect for the player and their time for a see-through transparent attempt to puff up their game, that didn’t need puffing up. The end result is just so much unnecessary busy work that interrupts a truly amazing zombie game.