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Dying Light 2 preview and interview – a series of unexpected decisions

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Dying Light 2 - it's looking like it was worth the wait

Dying Light 2 – its looking like it was worth the wait

The sequel to open world zombie parkour game Dying Light is finally nearing completion and its a significant upgrade from the original.

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Its always awkward when you meet the makers of a game you never really liked. Not that developer Techland need worry, given that Dead Island and spiritual sequel Dying Light were huge financial successes, but we really werent looking forward to seeing Dying Light 2 all that much. So imagine our surprise when it turned out to be one of the most ambitious sequels at E3 2019.

It has been a long time since the first Dying Light, whether you were anticipating the sequel or not, with the first game originally coming out way back in 2015. Although compared to the indefinite delays surrounding Dead Island 2, which Techland skipped in order to work on their own self-published games, thats nothing.

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The E3 demo for Dying Light 2 wasnt hands-on but it was lengthy and extremely illuminating, with several surprising features. The set-up is essentially the same as the last game though, with a zombie apocalypse having broken out, where the undead are relatively passive during the day – unless you manage to stumble upon one of their lairs – but are much more active and aggressive during the night.

None of the night-time gameplay has been shown yet and instead the demo starts off with your character, Aiden Caldwell, discussing an upcoming meeting with a rival gang, with the two leaders of your settlement differing wildly on how they think it should be handled. The problem is that the other gang controls a set of water pumps which not only limit access to fresh water but if opened will reveal a whole section of the city which is currently underwater.

The leader of the other gang, The Colonel, is described as a butcher and within a few minutes of the meeting starting a fight breaks out and the more pacifist leader lies dying from a bullet wound. Theres something immediately suspicious about this though, given you never see exactly how it happens and the one trying to paint the Colonel as a bad guy is right on the scene.

Nevertheless, youre given the choice of how you want to handle things and can either stay put and try and help out with medical aid or chase after the van with the remaining gang members. The decision in the demo is to go after the van, which ends up with an extended sequence of parkour through largely abandoned skyscrapers and a decidedly not-abandoned basement full of zombies, who are only put off by flashing a UV torch at them (whether that trick would work at night is unclear).

Dying Light 2 - the opening brawl is not what it seems

Dying Light 2 – the opening brawl is not what it seems

Eventually you catch up with the van and are given a choice as to how to handle the driver, who seems harmless enough and is later revealed to know the secret code needed to lower the gates and enter the enemy camp. So if youd killed him straight away youd have had a much more difficult job ahead of you. Entering the large, castle-like building reveals what seems to be nothing but perfectly normal people, with no sign that the Colonel is the butcher youve been led to believe.

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For the sake of the demo Caldwell persists, with your contact back at camp trying to assure you that you are in fact doing the right thing, as you infiltrate the base and confront the Colonel – who suggests a peaceful solution to the conflict and advises you absolutely not to turn on the water pumps. Even though its pretty obvious hes telling the truth, and that its the guy back at camp thats lying to you, the demo has you ignore him and fight a boss battle. This ends with you turning on all the pumps and de-flooding the city.

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Apart from the slightly comical Tom Cruise style running animation for your first person character all the action looks very impressive, but its the decisions that we find most interesting. Speaking to game director Marc Albinet afterwards we discover that you couldve gone the whole game without removing the water from that section of the city, with other decisions implied to be just as long-standing and irreversible. To the point where you can join other peoples games for online co-op and see that their version of the game world is completely different.

What also impressed us is that while the original games storytelling and dialogue was pretty awful Techland has acknowledged the failing and brought on respected video game writer Chris Avellone, whos worked on everything from the early Fallout games to 2017s Prey, to help with the story. Unlike many games, Dying Light 2 seems willing to acknowledge the faults of the original, even if they were tolerated at the time, and create a sequel that not only makes good on the originals potential but adds to it too.

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Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Publisher: Techland
Developer: Techland
Release Date: First half 2020

GC: It seems weve been waiting a very long time for this sequel; did anything go wrong or are you on schedule from your point of view?

MA: No, no. Its the fact that we have developed a new engine, a brand-new engine which is much more powerful. It allows us to make a lot of additions – youve seen the demo, so youve seen the amount of detail and the amount of possible interactions and the increased quality of the parkour. So all that stuff took us a long time.

GC: Youre doing two very difficult things here, in the fact that first person melee combat and first person platforming are really hard to get right. How have you have tackled the issues they bring up?

MA: It is true that there is some difficulty in making these aspects work well, but from our side we can make them easier for the player. For example, the parkour… hopefully it looked very fluid and reactive in the demo, with a lot of choices at every moment as to what you can do, but we do try and make the navigation as easy as possible. We use a snapping system that helps you move around and keep the flow of movement. Really, you just have to look where you want to go and then jump.

GC: I did get that impression, that there was a lot of what was essentially auto-aim.

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MA: Yes, yes. Exactly.

GC: Because the big problem with first person platforming, and combat come to that, is judging distance. So it sounds like the game is helping out with that to some degree?

MA: Yes. In fact, you can snap almost everywhere you want. But what we want to ensure is that for normal to advance play we offer different possibilities as well. So if you want to explore every inch of the city things will be a little more difficult but still you will be able to keep up a good flow.

GC: I did feel the first game was a bit rough around the edges, a little unrefined. Was that something youd accept and what do you feel you learnt most from the original?

MA: We definitely had plenty we wanted to improve on for the sequel, we wanted to see major advances on all the gameplay pillars and provide an experience that is better than the first one. The DNA of the original is there but we are trying to take everything much further, in terms of the gameplay and the technology.

Dying Light 2 - the Colonel seems a pretty trustworthy sort

Dying Light 2 – the Colonel seems a pretty trustworthy sort

GC: The storytelling was especially weak in the original, but I noticed the dialogue in the demo was pretty good. Have you got new people in to work on that?

MA: Yes, definitely. Its one side where we knew in the first one it was not the best, so we wanted to improve it a lot and so we hired a lot of new writers – some coming from The Witcher 3 – and Chris Avellone as well.

GC: Really? I didnt know that, thats very interesting. So you obviously identified the writing as an issue and found a good way to address that.

MA: Yeah, yes.

GC: In terms of the decision-making if youd decided not to turn on the pumps would that mean you never get access to that submerged area of the city?

MA: Thats right. If you dont take that decision at the moment you wont open that area. But youRead More – Source