One of the most impressive games at E3 2019 is undoubtedly Dying Light 2, which is coming out five years after the first installment. Set in what's being dubbed a modern dark age, Dying Light 2 gives players control of a character named Aiden Caldwell, who's not only infected but also tasked with trying to restore water to the city. Techland's hands-off demo of Dying Light 2 at E3 highlights all three pillars of the series - day/night cycle, parkour, and brutal combat - while also showcasing what's new for the sequel, particularly the narrative sandbox.
Our demo begins with Aiden in the restroom of The Fish Eye, a tavern in the center of the city. Since he's infected, he's having trouble getting ahold of himself, but it's important that he does so because he needs to find a way to turn on the water pumps and restore clean water to the city. And since there's only one day's worth of water left, tensions are high and Aiden needs to act quickly to solve the problem. At this point in the game, Jack Matt, Juan Rainer, and Frank are attempting to save the city, but things go awry when Frank is shot. And so, Aiden needs to choose to either stay with Frank or go after the people - who are in a truck - who shot his friend.
Techland chose to showcase the more energetic and violent narrative path for the E3 demo. So, Aiden chased after the vehicle instead of staying with Frank. From that point, the developer playing the demo utilized all aspects of the game to catch up with the truck, even moving through buildings filled with zombies/infected. And in order to drive home the point that everything in the open world can function with the parkour system, the developer tackled one of the zombies as he fell out the window, and used the zombie to break his fall. But despite his best efforts, when he caught up with the truck, he was shot, which forced him to fall into a dark building filled with the infected.
Using anything and everything at his disposal, including a UV light, the developer was able to escape the area after climbing up multiple stories. Not too long after that, he caught up with the truck, took out the scout, and then forced the driver to take him to an island (essentially the water plant) where a character called The Colonel is located - and that's the person Aiden believes can turn on the water pumps. A little song and dance of stealth and close-quarters combat, with some gunplay sparsed in-between, is showcased here, but in the end, Aiden's choice to side with his friend Jack Matt instead of hearing The Colonel out leads to the open world transforming and opening up an entirely new region to explore.
In addition to the hands-off gameplay demo, we learned quite a lot about Dying Light 2 at E3 2019, some of which was previously revealed and some that wasn't:
- Dying Light 2 is set 15 years after the first game, and it's meant to depict what a post-apocalypse world would look like inside a major city, with various factions leading the way.
- Stamina is hugely important in Dying Light 2. While players have numerous options when it comes to parkour, stamina is quickly depleted the longer it takes for someone to scale a wall, wall run, or push zombies away.
- Improvised weapons are a key element of the brutal melee combat.
- The city in Dying Light 2 is four times bigger than previous maps, and it contains seven regions, each of which is unique in their own way. (Our demo took place in District 2.) Some story choices may open up various regions, so not all may be available to players.
- Considering that there are quite a few narrative paths players can take, there are multiple endings in Dying Light 2, though there isn't one "true" ending as there are in other RPG titles.
- Parkour has been improved upon. In addition to quality of life upgrades, players can interact with practically any part of the dynamic environment, as well as using zombies to parkour. Simply put: there's always a way out of a situation.
- Dying Light 2's story is single-player and co-op. Players who join a friend's game will be taking part in their story.
- Zombies have some personality to them this time. Their behavior is reactive to players' moments.
- New equipment has been added into the game to transform the parkour system, such as a single-handed paraglider. Even the grapple hook can be used in most situations.
Despite what Techland was trying to show with The Colonel and the water pumps, which is clearly meant to drastically alter the open world for players in more ways than one, the best part of the demo (and the game, for that matter) is stressfully trying to get out of a perilous situation with low stamina and little to no knowledge of where to go. That's what made the first Dying Light special, and while there are crafty upgrades for Dying Light 2, that aspect is still the core of what this series is at its core. Unfortunately, the big downside for Dying Light 2 is the combat system, which is outdated compared to its competitors. While everything, from the world design to graphics, is great, the combat is uninspired.
So while a significant portion of Dying Light 2's E3 2019 demo focused on the human element and human villains of the story, the zombies are very much a part of the world. It's just that, this time around, there are two aspects of the sandbox: the humans are the focus in the day and the zombies are the focus at night - though they can, and do, overlap. All in all, Dying Light 2 appears to successfully incorporate all the elements that made the first game special while introducing a new component - the narrative sandbox - that truly opens up what would otherwise be a standard open world game. In that regard, they've perfected, at least as a concept at this stage, what replayability is all about.