"Dying Light 2 proves itself to be an experience to keep an eye on, steeped in the idea of choice and the strength of consequences."
The concepts of duality and choice have themselves become keystones of RPG design, baked into the DNA of the genre. In a surprising reveal during the E3 2018 Microsoft Briefing, Dying Light 2 seeks to bring these concepts to life within a world gone to ruin, giving the player the ultimate keys to changing a game world, its inhabitants, and tone in a promised multitude of ways. We were given the opportunity to view a hands-off gameplay demo, showcasing a single quest from the game and a single choice that players can make to dramatically change the game world.
Dying Light 2 sets itself in what Techland refers to as the "Modern Dark Age," in an enormous open-world city cradled within Europe, fifteen years after a zombie apocalypse has hit the entire planet. As the main character traversed (in first-person viewpoint) through the city streets via stylish parkour, ruin presented itself as a key aesthetic theme. Cars lay rusted in the streets, corpses were strewn in piles, and brick-laden architecture remained tilting and ruined by previous conflicts. The environment was steeped in monochromes and shades of dull brown, suiting a world that has entirely moved on from a time of peace.
Mentioning parkour highlights four design principles that Techland seeks to refine and bring to the forefront with Dying Light 2 and in the rest of the preview: parkour, deep and refined melee combat, day and night cycle duality and, most important to our coverage, a narrative sandbox for players to craft their own stories through narrative choices.
Parkour around the streets of the city looks satisfying. The main character utilizes context sensitive movements that depend on speed, environmental handholds, and threats to your well-being, such as a zombie horde tearing after you or bandits spotting you from near or far. An environmental puzzle set within the ruined corpse of a water tower relied heavily on specific movement for players to utilise, and if those movements were chosen poorly, the protagonist would suffer the consequences: a heavy fall to the earth.
Melee combat in the demo proceeded in brutal, satisfying fashion. The protagonist found himself in a couple of notable tussles against the aforementioned bandits. Like the original game, Dying Light 2's combat system relies on a stamina gauge and precise strikes/blocks against a smart and adaptive A.I in either human or infected enemies. We also saw brutal finishers against various enemies, including a mace made out of a parking signpost buried in the head of a bandit and the protagonist using a kick mechanic to knock an enemy out of a window down to a speedy doom.
Techland confirmed that weapons have the mechanical modifiers and crafting options that were present within the first title, allowing players to create an inventory of makeshift murder-tools that are tailored to their unique play-style. (Personally, as a fan of the first game, I'm partial to a perpetually flaming claymore, and I'm hoping it's awaiting me somewhere in the streets.) We also noticed a tier system within various weapon names scattered throughout the streets, suggesting a hierarchy of weapon power and adding perhaps another layer to combat and customisation within Dying Light 2.
Sadly, the demo was set wholly in the daytime, but Techland promised that the night would be shown at a later time — to confirm a savage and scary experience for players that involves some of the toughest and tense situations the game offers.
But it's the idea of a narrative sandbox where choices are intrinsic to the experience that's the key to our coverage of Dying Light 2. Pedigree is paramount for the upcoming title, emphasized by the fact that Chris Avellone, famous for non-linear narrative design, has been deeply involved with crafting both the main story and side content since development began.
The fulcrum quest and narrative of nearly the entire demo revolved around pursuing a water supply for one of several factions, known as the Peace Keepers. It culminated in a meeting at the top of the water tower, where a man named Jack and his pal seemed to be stealing the water for their own purposes. The protagonist is given the choice to either stop them from taking the faction's water or help them in their scheme.
The narrative, at this branching point, divided and eventually manifested two different world-states, reflected in the emotional tone of the city's inhabitants, the visual aesthetic of the ruined metropolis, and, interestingly enough, mechanical benefits to the player.
If the player sides with the Peace Keepers' efforts, a fight ensues between the protagonist and the two thieves. Once the protagonist in our demo defeated them, we were treated to what the eventual consequence of the choice would be: an iron-fisted militant state provided by the Peace Keepers where water flows freely, but at the cost of the freedom of the area's population. The cityscape also changed, with ruined structures having been rebuilt. The water (presumably shipped down) was given to the people, providing a mechanical benefit in the form of a healing reservoir that players can dip into at various points throughout the city.
If the player sides with Jack and his compatriot, direct violence is immediately avoided. It opens a gate to both chaos and lawlessness within the city, and the reconstruction of the city reflects that, with fortresses of chains and towering steel juxtaposed against the Peace Keepers' well-made and colourful domiciles. The water is hoarded and sold to people, and mechanically, the protagonist is given a cut of the profits to be used, presumably, to upgrade and buy new weapons and items.
Dying Light 2 proves itself to be an experience to keep an eye on, steeped in the idea of choice and the strength of consequences. We here at RPGFan believe it to be worthy of coverage and I personally hope that the strength of consequences follows through the entire narrative of Dying Light 2 when it releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in 2019.