First announced more than two years ago, Dying Light 2 doesn’t seem to be very close to launch- what’s going on with Techland’s game?
Dying Light was a game that made no secret about its intentions. It didn’t spend any time with misdirection, metaphors, or underlying themes for scholars to ponder 30 years from now. Dying Light was one of those games that just planted it’s blood-soaked flag in the ground and proudly exclaimed what it was, and that all who were interested were welcome to jump in its world of climbing, crafting, and macabre and see what they could make of it. It wasn’t perfect and certainly had its issues, but the game did pretty well among the audience it aimed at and scored lots of 7s and 8s across the mainstream gaming outlets.
Those who described it to others often evoked a comparison to Mirror’s Edge but with zombies and survival elements, and yeah, that’s a pretty good way to encapsulate it- despite it being a tad reductive. Much like how the game itself takes it’s time to unfold into the thrillride it really was, Dying Light as a product also took it’s time gaining steam among gamers with soft sales at launch leading to a fairly slow-but-steady rise in popularity over the years.
After a few DLC expansions and enhanced editions and pretty much every possible thing to milk the Dying Light name of every last bit of vitality it had, like most suspected, plans for a sequel were rumored and eventually confirmed way back in 2018.
They also showed a short demo showing off the snappier movement and climbing, and a more dynamic world that had ongoing consequences that would result from which factions of survivors you decided to help. Depending on what you do, you could end up empowering a strict government that provides stability to the region in exchange for some freedoms, or you could help advance a rebellion against them and distribute resources as you see fit.
Techland seemed like it had all of its ducks in a row to deliver quite an interesting successor to Dying Light that polished off the original’s rough edges while advancing the amount of possibilities in the world. All seemed well and like it was coming along smoothly. However, as tends to happen when major video game projects go a few months with no major updates, rumors started to surface that Techland wasn’t necessarily doing as well as people thought. On top of that, right at the beginning of 2020, the year that Dying Light 2 was supposedly poised to launch in, Techland let everybody know that the game was delayed indefinitely to allow “more development time to fulfill [their] vision.”
While it’s easy to agree with delays 99% of the time, as delayed games are often better games when they finally do launch, for this to happen almost two full years after the games announcement, did feel like a bit of an omen to many, and perhaps a sign that there was more trouble ahead for the game. A delay of a few months is one thing, but the word “indefinitely” certainly has a more ominous ring to it than just pushing the release date back for an already determined amount of time. With this, came more rumors. At one point a Polish game site had gotten reports from an anonymous source that said Dying Light 2 was a “total mess” due to a “totally disorganized” development environment.
The source went on to say that the game’s fundamental rules and mechanics were constantly changing. Also that morale for everyone is down because of the disorganization and incompetence at the highest levels of the studio. The source’s remarks continued: “It is still unknown what this game is supposed to be. A year before the release, [others] are worried about fixing bugs. We don’t even have a vertical slice!” Techland was fast to respond to this, saying that the reports were “totally inaccurate” while also quelling fears about the team being acquired by Microsoft, and that the game might not launch outside of PC and Xbox as a result.
As if Techland’s PR folks didn’t have their hands full already, things got worse when some rather high-profile personal accusations towards Chris Avellone himself surfaced, which was followed up by several more accusations from different alleged victims, and ultimately led to Techland removing Avellone from the project. This of course only happened in late June of 2020, and by then most if not all of the narrative threads of Dying Light 2 had already been written into the game, so one could assume that the impact of his removal on the game was mostly superficial.
This probably had a bigger impact on another game Avellone was working on, Vampire: Bloodlines – The Masquerade 2, which he was also removed from as a result of the accusations. That said, his removal from the project did seem to serve as a capstone to a year of swirling controversies and rumors surrounding Dying Light 2. You couldn’t be blamed at this point for being worried about the game. Game development in 2020 is hard enough. Getting the game right, wrangling all the talent, balancing schedules, meeting incremental deadlines, and just going through the normal process of making a massive triple-A game is already such a minefield. With all of this happening on top of that, it’s easy to see why the game might be taking longer than it otherwise would.
That said, one could also explain these things away- at least somewhat- as just things that happen in game development. Personnel turnover happens. Delays happen. Setbacks and roadblocks of all sorts are not uncommon even among the finest development studios in the business. Especially during these eras where they find themselves in-between two console generations, in which they are doing their best to deliver their game to machines from the past and future, and make sure that all of these versions are up to snuff with the vision they have for the game. Again, all on top of the already strenuous task of just making a game at all.
That said, while these sorts of controversies are not particularly rare in video game development, having all of them at once, sort of is. Dying Light 2 has had more than its fair share of them up to this point. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like this derailed the game in any permanent way. While the game is certainly in a muddy place in terms of its development timeline, the good news is that the Dying Light brand is still a strong one, and should still garner plenty of interest as the game gets closer and closer to its eventual launch, whenever that may be. Whether Techland will be able to squeeze it out in 2020 or not is still up in the air, but the game does appear to be more than far along enough to make cancelling it very unlikely. So once all is said and done, much like the wretched, unholy monsters whose heads you’ll be smashing in for many hours in the game, Dying Light 2 will pop back up eventually.
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