The original Dying Light first came out back in 2015. While it was a game that I was interested in, I only ended up playing it rather recently when I reviewed the Dying Light Platinum Edition. I loved the original game and was excited to try out the sequel. While the sequel doesn’t officially release until February 4th, 2022; thanks to the review key Geeky Hobbies received from Techland I have actually been able to check out the PlayStation 5 version of the game for the last week or so. Dying Light 2 Stay Human takes the already great gameplay of the original game and finds a way to improve upon it to create the best zombie video game that I have played in a very long time.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human takes place over 20 years after the original game. Shortly after the events of the first game the zombie virus mutated and spread throughout the world. In the preceding years the world has basically reverted back to the dark ages as large swaths of the world have been overtaken by the infected with few cities remaining inbetween. You play as Aiden who is known as a pilgrim. Basically you travel between these cities completing jobs for the inhabitants. At the beginning of the game you arrive at “The City” which is one of the largest cities still in existence in search for answers about your past. While trying to find out more about your past you also have the power to change the fate of The City which is on the brink of disaster as several forces fight for power over the remnants of the city.
Before I get into my thoughts on the game I wanted to quickly talk about the fact that Dying Light 2 is a sequel and what that entails. I played the original Dying Light and really enjoyed it. Not everyone reading this review may have played the original game though. While I would recommend playing the first game (as it is a great game in its own right), I think you could jump right into Dying Light 2 Stay Human and not feel lost. The game occasionally has references to the original game and you might be missing some context to what lead to the current situation. The game takes place far enough after the first game though, that you don’t have to play the original game in order to enjoy Dying Light 2 Stay Human.
With that out of the way lets actually start talking about Dying Light 2 Stay Human. While the game shares a lot in common with the original game, a lot of things have also changed since the original game.
At its core I would say that the game is an open world action game with some RPG elements mixed in. I would say that Dying Light 2 Stay Human focuses more on the open world and RPG elements than the original game. Basically you are dropped into a large city (separated into two main sections) and you just have to survive. There is a main storyline to follow and a ton of side missions spread throughout the city.
I would say the main gameplay is broken down into two main elements. The first is combat. While melee combat was a large portion of the original game, it plays an even bigger role in the sequel. Guns appear to have eliminated from the game entirely and I didn’t pick up my first ranged weapon (bow and arrow) until around 20 hours into the game. Thus to defeat most of the zombies you have to get close and personal with melee weapons.
The melee combat is similar to the original game and yet considerably better in my opinion. The combat in the original game was fine, but it just feels much more polished in Dying Light 2 Stay Human. Fighting itself is similar to your typical melee combat game as you have your normal and charged up melee attack. Where the combat differs considerably is that it has a much greater emphasis on blocking and dodging enemy attacks. Parrying enemy attacks has become a big part of the game. The game has also put a much greater emphasis on adding parkour skills into combat as you can easily dodge around and use other agility based moves to get an advantage over your enemies.
The main reason that I feel that the combat in Dying Light 2 Stay Human is better is just that it feels more fluid. In the original game it felt more like a button masher where you could somewhat avoid enemies, but mostly just had to keep hitting them until they were dead. In a way your character felt like a tank in combat. Dodging and blocking attacks are a big part of the combat in Dying Light 2 Stay Human. It just feels like there is more skill involved in the combat which is a positive. I wouldn’t say that the combat is super difficult (this is no Dark Souls where you will die constantly), but it feels much more natural for a game that has such a big emphasis on parkour.
This brings me to the other big element of Dying Light 2 Stay Human. The game once again has a big emphasis on parkour. While there are sections of the city where you will have to travel on foot, you can move through most of the city without ever touching the ground. The parkour gameplay is just as satisfying as the original game and honestly feels even smoother. The game has a few more twists up its sleeve including a parachute once you reach the second area allowing you to sail through the sky. The second area of the game in particular is filled with a bunch of tall buildings allowing you to traverse between skyscrapers.
Outside of adding some cool new parkour moves, the game does have one somewhat big change to the parkour element of the game. The sequel has added endurance/stamina mechanic where each move you perform drains some of your endurance. If you run out you will stop whatever move you are doing even if that means falling to your death. This can be a little frustrating at first as you are somewhat limited in what you can do and you may fall to your death a few times when trying to climb buildings. I think it is a good addition though as it makes it feel more realistic and forces you to be more decisive when climbing buildings as you can’t just hang there forever. You need to plan your route up a building to make sure you have areas where you can recharge your stamina.
As you advance in the game you will unlock new moves and can even increase your endurance/stamina. Scattered throughout the world as well as in some of the story missions you will acquire boosters. Once you acquire enough boosters you can either use them to upgrade your endurance/parkour abilities or your health/combat abilities. These can be really helpful where you will actively search them out when you are in the vicinity as they allow you to do more and are required to unlock abilities. Many of these boosters are hidden in hard to reach areas or require you to search “dark zones” (more on this later).
Like the first game as you use skills you will acquire XP which will unlock skill points that you can use for combat or parkour skills. The game has also added a number of different types of armor/clothing which give you stat boosts. Like the original game all of the weapons in the game can be modified in a number of ways. Each weapon has a limited amount of durability though where they will break and become unuseable. The durability of many of the weapons seem to be less than the original game, but useful weapons seem to be more plentiful where it doesn’t feel like as big of problem when you have to switch to a new weapon.
With the main gameplay out of the way, I wanted to talk about one of the big new emphases of Dying Light 2 Stay Human. In the original game the world changed between night and day where doing things at night gave you more experience, but it also made the zombies more difficult to overcome. The day/night cycle still exists in the sequel.
The change is that the game actually forces you out into the night far more often and actually gives you more rewards for doing so. The game features many inside areas such as shops and houses that you can explore. These places generally have valuable loot or are utilized for various missions. The catch is that during the day there are considerably more zombies inside these areas. During the night though the zombies are out in the streets so these areas are actually easier to explore. As it is useful to explore these locations, the game nudges you towards doing more nighttime exploration.
The game does add one more unique mechanic to nighttime/dark encounters though. Based on how the virus has mutated, being exposed to dark for an extended period of time will lead people towards turning into zombies. Therefore you need to try and limit your time in the dark/inside buildings as you only have a limited amount of time in the dark before you turn/die. You increase this time when you use the boosters and there are various consumables/ultraviolet light which resets it, but it requires you to move quick when in dark areas bringing a sense of hurry to get in and out quickly. This has an impact on how you approach certain situations as your time starts to tick down.
If you read my review of the first Dying Light you should know that I wasn’t a huge fan of the night cycle of the original game. These sections of the game were tense and quite scary which is why I wasn’t a huge fan of them as I am kind of a coward when it comes to horror games. I tried to avoid them whenever possible for this reason. With the greater emphasis on being in the dark/night though, I actually came to appreciate them more in the sequel. While the sections are still quite dark and tense, they aren’t as bad as the original game which means that I didn’t find them to be quite as scary. Your vision is impacted by the dark, but it is still bright enough that you can see what you are doing. While there are still times when you can get chased through the night which can be quite exhilarating, you also seem to have more control over these situations as it is easier to avoid the chases if you want to. Much of the dark/night situations can be handled with stealth which utilize the day/night cycle better in my opinion.
Lets move onto the length/size of Dying Light 2 Stay Human. At this point I am going to point out that I have not beat the game yet. I have played the game for probably close to 25 hours at this point and I honestly don’t see the end coming all that soon. This is without even completing all of the side missions. I have probably done more than half of the side missions that I have encountered, but there are quite a few side missions that I haven’t completed yet. I would guess that it would take at least 50 hours to beat the game unless you only focus on the main storyline.
I don’t know the specific size of the two games’ maps, but the locales of Dying Light 2 Stay Human seem significantly larger than the original game. Unless you focus solely on the story it will likely take you close to 20 hours to even get out of the first area for the first time. A lot of this is because there are so many things that you can do in just the first area. There was a point in the game where in just a couple of blocks of the map I encountered several side missions and various buildings I could explore to pick up loot. Dying Light 2 Stay Human is the type of game where your list of quests will regularly grow quicker than you can complete missions.
The other thing that will really add to the length of the game is that there is actually branching paths in the game. Throughout story and even side missions you will be given choices which impact how the rest of the mission plays out. You will also get the opportunity to side with factions and help reshape the city based on what decisions you make. I haven’t tested different paths to see how big of difference they make (based on some other reviews the choices don’t seem to impact things much). I could still see the game being worth playing again to see how the other options change things up though. Unless you only care about the main storyline, I see fans of the original game or anyone at all interested in the premise easily getting their money’s worth out of the game.
Lets move onto the game’s performance and visuals. For this review I played the game on PlayStation 5. Generally speaking the game played really well on my PlayStation 5. I never really noticed any framerate issues and the game had few load times. The world is massive and the visuals are impressive. The game depicts a world that has more or less adjusted to the zombie apocalypse. The scope of the world and the number of buildings that you can actually explore and are more than just decorations is impressive. The game really utilizes the next generation hardware in my opinion.
At this point I really haven’t had any significant complaints about Dying Light 2 Stay Human. Part of this is due to the fact that just like the original game, it is a fantastic game. I think it is considerably better than the original game in many ways. If you liked the original game, I think you will love the sequel as well. If the premise interests you at all I think you will enjoy it as well. While I thought the game was really good, it does have a couple issues.
First while the controls are usually great, there are occasional times when they let the game down. The parkour mechanics are usually fantastic but there are rare occasions where you think you should be able to make a jump or you fall off a platform that you don’t think you should have. These will sometimes lead to your death or losing quite a bit of health. Death isn’t a big punishment in the game so this isn’t a huge problem, but it does occasionally create some problems.
Probably the biggest problem that I have had with the game so far is that there are some bugs here or there. I will preface this by saying that for this review I have been playing a pre-release version of the game. I also seem to have had better luck with bugs than some other reviewers. The game is 100% playable and most of the issues are more annoyances than anything else. Most of these issues have been fixed really quickly since there have been several patches already released.
The biggest bug I have had with the game so far is something that I am not sure if it is a bug or it was meant to happen. While playing the game I ended up advancing the story forward and several of the side missions that I had going for some reason were marked completed even though I never completed them. The mission markers still show up on the map, but when I went to one of them the mission didn’t trigger. I don’t know if this is a bug or if it is intended if you go too far ahead in the story. Normally I would do the side missions as I acquired them, but I went through the story quicker than I normally would to get further into the story along with the fact that the first game allowed you to go back and complete any side missions that you didn’t complete earlier. Hopefully this is just a bug and will get fixed soon. If this was intended though, I would highly recommend completing side missions shortly after you receive them or you might have to play through the game a second time in order to finish them.
The last issue that I had with the game is that the story is fine, but I think it could have been better. I haven’t completed the game yet so I can’t comment on the ending. Generally speaking I thought the story was on par with the original game if not a little better. The main storyline does start off pretty slow as you don’t even meet one of the main characters until you have played the game for quite a while. The game has its eclectic mix of characters like the first game. Some are quite memorable while others are kind of bland. Probably the most uninteresting character is actually the main character. In many ways the story has a similar feel to the original game. I wouldn’t consider the story to be one of the game’s strengths, but I don’t know if I would consider it a big problem either.
After really enjoying the first game, I had pretty high expectations heading into Dying Light 2 Stay Human. The game somehow lived up to my expectations and actually found a way to surpass them in several ways. The game does have some occasional control issues and some bugs here and there, but it improves upon the original game in almost every way. The combat focuses more on melee than ranged, but it feels much smoother giving you considerably more options. The parkour abilities have seen an upgrade as well as it is just so satisfying jumping between buildings. While I didn’t care for the dark/night sections of the original game, even this has been improved as the game gives you a reason to go out at night while also making it more satisfying. The game is also huge as well as the map is large and filled with tons of things to do. The story is not bad, but I would say that it is probably one of the game’s weaker elements.
If you don’t really care about zombie games or never really cared for the original Dying Light, the sequel probably won’t be for you. For everyone else though Dying Light 2 Stay Human is the best zombie game I have played in a long time and is something that I would highly recommend checking out.
Buy Dying Light 2 Stay Human online: Amazon (PlayStation 4 (Standard), PlayStation 4 (Deluxe), PlayStation 4 (Collector’s), PlayStation 5 (Standard), PlayStation 5 (Deluxe), Xbox Series X|S (Standard), Xbox Series X|S (Deluxe), Xbox Series X|S (Collector’s)), Digital (Amazon, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Steam, Xbox One/Series X|S)
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Techland for the review copy of Dying Light 2 Stay Human used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.