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Dying Light 2: Stay Human Review – A Game of Thrones With Zombies

By: Leonid Melikhov

PLATFORMS: PS5, PS4, XBOX SERIES X, XBOX SERIES S, XBOX ONEPC

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 4th, 2022

DEVELOPER: TECHLAND

PUBLISHER: TECHLAND

MSRP: $59.99

ESRB: M FOR MATURE

*DISCLAIMER - THIS PRODUCT IS BEING REVIEWED ON THE XBOX SERIES X AND WAS PLAYED ON NORMAL DIFFICULY. A REVIEW COPY WAS PROVIDED BY TECHLAND FOR THE PURPOSES OF REVIEW. GAMING INSTINCTS IS AN AMAZON AFFILIATE AND DOES GAIN FINANCIAL BENEFITS IF YOU CHOOSE TO PURCHASE THIS PRODUCT ON THIS PAGE.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human is finally here after a long 6-year development cycle that had many delays, a bunch of drama, and many ups and downs throughout the years. As Shigeru Miyamoto would say: "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." Generally, I would say this is true for most games. I would also say that Dying Light 2: Stay Human is much more than a good game. Moreover, it is not only a good game, but it is also a game every RPG lover or just a gamer who loves a good story like in The Last of Us franchise must absolutely play. Yes, you heard that right, Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a game you must play, not a game you should try or consider, but must, and here are the reasons why.

Welcome to our review of Dying Light 2: Stay Human.

A Post-Apocalyptic Game of Thrones

Dying Light 2: Stay Human takes place 15 years after the events of the original game. You no longer play Crane, instead, you play a new individual named Aiden Caldwell, who happens to be a Pilgrim. A Pilgrim in the Dying Light universe is somebody who is outside the walls of The City, an outsider, or, you could also say, a lone survivor. The plot itself is easy to understand. Do not worry, we won't spoil anything important in this review, but we would like to provide a basic introduction to what the story is all about. Aiden Caldwell is looking for his sister, Mia - that's the easiest way and the most none-spoiler way to put it. It's the characters you meet, their personal stories and agendas, the motives of different groups such as the Peacekeepers or Renegades, and what is truly going on in the world of Dying Light 2: Stay Human that is so enticing. 

Techland wasn't kidding when they said that Dying Light 2: Stay Human will be heavily focused on its narrative and how it unfolds. If you've played a game like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then you most likely know the difference between a good narrative and what that is not. Thankfully, in the case of this specific game, the narrative is the biggest reason you can't miss Dying Light 2. It instantly grabs your attention with characters, voice acting, and writing in the first 5 minutes, and you can't wait to find out what is going to happen next. And as you progress, it gets more and more juicy, complex, and then there is a curveball thrown in your face, and you want to keep on playing because you can't sleep at night and must know what is happening next. As much as I'd love to talk more about the story, it would be extremely difficult to do so without spoiling anything, so I will be upfront and frank with you. If you are looking for a great world, characters, and plotlines to sink your teeth into, then simply play this game, and you'll be a happy camper.

Dying Light 2 Stay Human

Although the game does begin a little slowly, I have to warn you. It takes roughly an hour or two before you are free to parkour in The City, explore side quests, loot locations, participate in speed challenges, find safe houses, discover collectibles, and so on. But once the game opens up, there is quite a bit to discover, tons of cool characters to meet, and dope side-quests to complete. Surprisingly, the game's strong narrative not only lies in the main story but even the side quests as well. The last thing that I will mention about the story of Dying Light 2: Stay Human is how Aiden will come across many difficult choices during conversations. There have been plenty of times where the choices I had to make were very tough and nerve-wracking, simply because you are limited to 30 seconds to make those choices. One part of me hated that I was forced to make difficult choices, and the other part of me loved it. I think, in the end, this is what makes the story and all the characters and their own personal problems so entertaining throughout the game. Kudos to Techland.

Thanks to the awesome writing, you may find interesting information about an important character or even just part of the world. Speaking of the world of Dying Light 2: Stay Human, Techland has done an excellent job in creating a believable world. Everything from the great voice acting that I've previously mentioned and the atmosphere of the entire City, looks, plays, and feels great across the board. Dying Light 2: Stay Human still has that yellowish and somewhat bleak look that the previous game did. However, there are brighter colors here, which gives the game a lot more life than the previous entry did. The game has a good balance of a post-apocalyptic wasteland while also being full of life at the same time. I know this sounds like a contradicting statement, but it's something you will understand once you play the game and see it for yourself.

Dying Light 2 Stay Human

The world of Dying Light 2: Stay Human is quite large. There is a ton to explore, many side-quests to complete, loot to scavenge for, and places to discover. It's also much more diverse than the previous title. In one part of The City, you'll see smaller buildings, while in the other part you'll encounter much taller and different looking structures, which adds a more believable feeling and makes the player understand that there is a lot more to it than what was introduced at the start of the game.

While the presentation and overall feel of Dying Light 2: Stay Human is great, for the most part, there were a few things I did not like. For the visuals, the shadows do not look good up close. As you can clearly see the shadows on this woman's face are very blurry and they are also flickering quite a bit. It was not a huge deal to me, but worth pointing out nonetheless. As for the audio, everything is great, but I wish the soundtrack was more reminiscent of the original game. There are a few hints and somewhat similar notes to how the original soundtrack was, but nowhere near enough, and I was hoping for a bit more of a better soundtrack overall.

The Combat, Parkour and Exploration

Dying Light 2 Stay Human is a mix of different genres. Some people who have never played the original series might confuse it for a melee-based FPS game with zombies, while others will think it's Mirror's Edge's lost cousin. Well, I am here to educate you that Dying Light 2: Stay Human is first and foremost a first-person, narrative-driven RPG that's filled with zombies. It isn't as deep as an RPG as, say, Skyrim where you can gain points for using different weapons and level up frequently. Instead, the game focuses its gameplay progression through story-based quests, fighting, parkouring, and finding items such as the inhibitors from hidden GRE stashes.

Once you've acquired the inhibitors, you can choose to level up your stamina, health, or immunity. Eventually, you'll be able to max everything out in both trees. The game doesn't have builds or anything of that sort. Going into the parkour tree will grant you new passive bonuses when you hop from rooftops to rooftops and grab on to ledges. Meanwhile, the combat tree focuses more on your health, new combat abilities such as the ability to stomp someone's head, and so on.

Technically, there is leveling up, but it's not in a traditional RPG sense where you can get a certain amount of experience, and then everything levels with you. You do gain experience for parkouring or fighting enemies, but these are two separate experience pools, and once you've gained enough of them, you can choose which ability you want to spec into next. If you want to become a better parkour artist, then go ahead and complete the parkour challenges across the entire game. Achieving gold medals on those challenges will award you with the most parkour experience. The same is true for combat challenges and the combat experience you gain.

Dying Light 2 Stay Human

As far as parkour goes, it is a lot of fun. At first, it takes a bit of time to get accustomed to. After a few hours of playing the game and getting a feel for the parkour, it becomes second nature and flows well throughout the rest of the play-through. What I like the most about both combat and parkour is how weighty the movements feel. When you are running from one ledge and jumping off to grab another, and you barely reach it, you can almost feel and understand the struggle that Aiden is going through while trying to hold on to that ledge and pull himself up. With combat, when you swing a two-handed weapon, you can see the strain of weight in Aiden's movements. The game doesn't feel like a typical run'n'gun FPS where the character has no weight to him and a gun that feels like plastic when you use it. Dying Light 2: Stay Humans excels at being believable not only throughout its world and atmosphere, but its gameplay, combat, and parkour as well. 

There is a new mechanic in Dying Light 2: Stay Human where you are infected and if you stay in the dark for too long, you will turn into a Viral, the zombie-like creatures of the game. At first, I was worried that it would interfere too much with the gameplay where I am trying to explore darker areas, but thankfully that was not the case. There were maybe one or two times where it interfered, but even then, you can collect and craft a bunch of immunity boosters that raise your timer back up before you turn. In my dozens of hours with the game, I probably used three to four boosters.

The world is also designed purposely with UV lights all over. By securing windmills, electrical stations, water towers, and safe houses, UV lights will also appear throughout these areas of The City. If you do not have a booster and you are being chased in the dark during nighttime, you can stand right under the UV lights to reduce the infection, assuming that you found one. Thankfully, your compass shows you where they are and how far they are when you need them. Not only do the lights protect you from being turned it also scares away the virals. A well-done mechanic that is easy to understand, plentiful, and can be used to your advantage.

There is plenty of exploration in Dying Light 2: Stay Human such as small areas filled with loot called "Dark Hollows." It is best to visit these places at night since zombies come out at night and remain indoors during the day. There will still be zombies inside these areas but not as many, and they are a lot easier to deal with, assuming you didn't attract a horde from the outside. Then there are abandoned military convoys that are outdoors and are best visited during the day instead. You'll have to clear the area around the vehicles to access the loot, but in return, you are gaining combat experience and juicy loot to sell for good money or crafting materials.

Dying Light 2 Stay Human

Speaking of crafting materials, the mechanic is quite basic in Dying Light 2: Stay Human and nothing too special. As you explore every nook and cranny of The City, you'll come across a ton of resource materials that are used in crafting. Some of it is rarer than others, such as trophies from the enemies you kill. Looting all the corpses is very important since that's where most of the trophies will come from, especially the more challenging zombies such as the tall mutated dudes that walk around with a massive weapon.

Aiden can also visit a Craftsman to upgrade his craftable items to higher levels. So, for example, you can upgrade your medicine to a higher level and then craft better medicine, and, to buy these upgrades, you also need rare items and more money. To be completely truthful, I only crafted medicine in this game and nothing else. Not sure if I was playing the game wrong or if it was too easy, I just never had a reason to craft anything else, and I was going through the game and never faced any difficulty issues. As for the weapons, you can usually find them lying around different areas or buy them from vendors in safe houses.

Throughout my playthrough, I did encounter a few bugs. One where I couldn't continue a quest because the enemies were outside the building's wall and too close to the door that I needed to interact with. In Dying Light 2: Stay Human, you cannot interact with any objects if the enemies are close by. The fix was to go outside the building and kill the three zombies, go back in, and interact with the door. Thankfully, this was only a side quest and not the main quest, and in all honesty, it only happened once throughout my long playthrough of the game. It was not a big deal to me, but I still must be transparent and honest with both the consumer, publisher, and developer. Another small incident was an unkillable enemy who was frozen in a pose next to a door. When I hit him, you could hear the hit sounds, but his health bar would not move, nor would he die. I walked away from the bugged mob, and then he became alive, and I was finally able to kill him. Again, not a big deal, but it was something I experienced once.

Final Verdict

Dying Light 2: Stay Human is probably the first game of this year that you must play. It just has too good of a narrative to pass by, and it's always a good time to meet new characters and get presented to a cool world. For those who enjoy titles where the plot is vital such as The Witcher 3, The Last of Us, Uncharted, or God of War, then this game will be right up your alley. Also, if you are looking for Game of Thrones in a video game format, then Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a perfect recipe for that. Having to make conflicting choices makes this game replayable because you will want to see how the different outcomes play out. One thing that this game also did well was the characters. You could tell which character the writers wanted you to hate with a passion. Think of Joffrey from Game of Thrones. If you think of a character that you hate but is well written, it is because he was meant to be hated from the beginning, and the writer has succeeded in achieving that goal.

The mechanics of Dying Light 2: Stay Human are nothing special or groundbreaking, but they are well done, polished, and well-executed. The development team went through a lot of delays and many hardships to get this game finished and as polished as possible. And you know what? This is a perfect example of how NOT to pull a Cyberpunk 2077. Sure the game has a few silly bugs here and there, but I was pleasantly surprised at how polished everything was for the most part.

Whether you're new to the series or want to dive in for the first time, or just looking for a great game with fun characters, great parkour, and a fascinating world, Dying Light 2: Stay Human is the game you have to experience this year. Kudos to Techland for pulling through all the hard times in recent years and delivering on a fantastic product. Dying Light 2: Stay Human will be receiving a score of 9.0 out of 10.

FUN FACTOR
The game's combat, story and parkour are all well designed and are fun to experience
VISUALS
For a cross-gen game Dying Light 2: Stay Human looks and runs beautifully on the Xbox Series X
AUDIO
Great voice acting, decent ambient soundtrack, but not as good as the original soundtrack
REPLAYABILITY
Lot's of different story paths with different endings to obtain, plenty of cool side quests and challenges to complete, this game will last you a long while
Amazing
9.0