Dying Light 2 Stay Human went through a long and turbulent development cycle, but after plenty of waiting and a few delays, Techland’s open world action RPG is finally out. But even though it just release, and even though it’s apparently going to be supported with additional content for at least the next five years, we can’t help but think about how the series could evolve in the future. There’s a ton of fun to be had in Dying Light 2, but it’s not a perfect game, and whenever Techland does get around to developing a sequel to it, the studio is going to have to make improvements in some key areas. Here, that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about.
More often than not, first person games are fighting uphill battles when it comes to getting audiences invested in their protagonists as memorable characters in personalities, which means that Dying Light 2 would have had to work doubly hard to get us to care about its protagonist Aiden Caldwell. Unfortunately, it falls short in that area. Aiden’s personal quest to look for his sister is one that’s easy to immediately latch on to, but unfortunately, his own character doesn’t do much to take things further from there. With almost nothing to set apart his personality, his manner of speaking, or anything else about him, it’s hard to come away from the game with any impression of him but one of indifference.
It’s not just Dying Light 2’s protagonist that struggles to make an impact- other characters in the game’s story don’t make much of an impression either. There are a few characters that definitely do deserve credit, like Lawan, who’s played excellently by Rosario Dawson, but in a game as massive as this one with a cast of characters as vast and varied (on paper at least) as the one that’s seen here, it’s more than a little disappointing that it’s hard to place most names or faces even for someone that may have been central to a questline you’re heavily embroiled in. Characters are always the main drivers of any story, so if Techland wants to advance its storytelling chops, it needs better characters in its games.
In addition to the characters, Dying Light 2’s story has issues in other areas as well- because as consistently enjoyable as its excellent open world free-running is, the game does fall short in the narrative department in several ways. Another one of those is the pacing- simply put, Dying Light 2’s story takes a bit too long to really get going. Though you do get the freedom to explore the location known as Old Villedor within the first hour or so, after that, it takes way longer than it should to get into the City- which, of course, is the main staging ground for the bulk of the game and its story. Of course, Dying Light 2’s inherently enjoyable parkour mechanics ensure that the game doesn’t ever get boring even in those early hours- but for a story that’s already struggling right out the gate, having to deal with poor pacing doesn’t exactly help matters.
Here’s another area where Dying Light 2’s story stumbles- the nebulous and all-encompassing “writing”. But what exactly about Dying Light 2’s writing drags it down? Well, there’s a few things- from shaky motivations for characters to the occasional over-reliance on post-apocalypse tropes, from the often clumsy exposition to stilted dialogue leading to dull conversations between characters. In a game that tries to be as story- and choice-driven as this one, especially one that has so much dialogue, poor writing can really cripple the narrative experience. Here’s hoping Techland will look to smooth out some of the rough edges in the future.
From its largely bland cast of characters to its plodding pacing to its clumsy writing, Dying Light 2 Stay Human has plenty of hurdles to deal with in the narrative department as it is, so it doesn’t help that other areas that are, in their own ways, just as important to the storytelling have deficiencies as well. Take the voice acting, for instance- again, with a few exceptions, like the aforementioned Lawan, the vast majority of characters in Dying Light 2 is poorly voiced. That can mean hilariously bad and unnatural sounding, it can mean bland and lacking in personality, it can mean a combination of both, or any number of other things. And yes, to be completely fair, this is something that large-scale open world games such as this one often do struggle with, simply given the breadth of content they often offer- but hopefully Techland will look to keep on improving upon their previous work and mark this as one of the departments that needs a little bit of work.
The gameplay side of things in Dying Light 2 is ridiculously more compelling than the story stuff, thanks to the constant threat of the zombie-infested open world and, of course, the consistently thrilling parkour. On the other hand, the combat doesn’t quite deliver on that same level. Things certainly have improved over the first game, but even now, everything from the FoV to the way the enemies animate to the hit detection just all comes together to make combat proceedings feel a little too clunky.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human has expanded upon its predecessor in a number of ways, with one of those being the progression- on paper, at least. But though loot, upgrades, weapon mods, skill unlocks, and more do collectively make the progression feel more expansive, it often also feels a bit hamstrung. The vast majority of gear pieces feel like intangible and incremental upgrades over what you already have, if that, while earning a new skill point takes way longer than it should. It doesn’t help that when you do finally get a skill point, a chunk of the pool of available unlocks has upgrades of very basic things that should have been in your core moveset to begin with, such as sliding, wall-running, and dashing. Dying Light 2’s efforts to go all-in on being an action RPG are definitely appreciated, and often even work- but hopefully, the next game will achieve a better balance with its systems.
This is probably one of Dying Light 2’s least surprising deficiencies, even though it is a disappointing one- and that’s not just because it’s an open world game. That in and of itself is enough to make anyone worry about technical issues, but Techland does, of course, a spotty track record in this area as well. Dying Light 1 was infamously buggy when it first launched before getting eventually fixed, and though Dying Light 2 isn’t nearly as unpolished or technically flawed as its predecessor was, hopefully Techland will keep an eye on its technical issues and keep ironing them out in the weeks and months ahead as well.