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Dying Light 2 Stay Human review: Surviving on the edge

Parkour and melee combat returns with Dying Light 2 Stay Human. But does the sequel provide a better experience than the original?

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Back in 2015, the world was treated to Dying Light, a game that was critiqued heavily by the industry but found a cult following with fans of zombie titles. Now, almost a decade later, Techland has a sequel for players to sink their teeth into: Dying Light 2 Stay Human. This entry in the franchise looks to dive back into the infected-filled world, albeit with a different protagonist and in a different location.

A lot of what made the original game so popular returns, from the parkour, freerunning and melee-based combat to the huge open world full of quests, crafting, and exploration. Unfortunately, though Dying Light 2 Stay Human reaches out to grasp at greatness, it too often stumbles, the opportunity slipping through its fingers.

Ground zero

dying light 2 review

The story of Dying Light 2 takes place 15 years after the events of the first game and follows Aiden as he tries to find his long-lost sister. Aiden isn’t just your every-day survivor either, he’s a Pilgrim, a sort of social outcast who moves between settlements to deliver information and other important things. The start of the game finds him in a walled-off city called Villedor, where two factions wrestle for control, as the infected and marauders bite at their heels and bash at their doors.

As far as the narrative goes, there’s plenty of intrigue to propel the story along, as you work to not only find your sister but uncover the mystery of why Aiden and her were being experimented on as children. Beyond this overarching plotline, the feud between the scrappy Survivors and the militia-like Peacekeepers works to enrich the world of Dying Light 2.

Part of the appeal of the game’s story is player agency whereby, at certain moments in the plot, the decision you make will affect the path you take. Siding with the Survivors or the Peacekeepers each has its own benefit and effect on the general course of the campaign.

Despite the narrative offering some interesting story beats, there are elements that are predictable, which can lead to moments of frustration where the player has to watch Aiden expertly fail to put 2-and-2 together.

There was another thorn in my side when it comes to the narrative in Dying Light 2, and it has less to do with the plot and more to do with the construction. Because this is an open world game, quests can often take players to far-flung corners of the map. This is a great way to get players to explore and find new encounters, but it made many of the main missions – and side quests – feel more like fetch quests than something that actually propels the narrative along.

When Dying Light 2 Stay Human finally eases up on the fetch quests and instead lets you loose in one of its epic set piece moments, it starts to feel quite good. Scaling a huge windmill, sprinting away from infected in a darkened subway, and ascending the biggest building in the city made me forget for just a moment that I’m basically this city’s errand boy with another handful of delivery missions ahead of me.

The problem of almost reaching greatness can be best summarized with the aforementioned ascension of the game’s biggest building. After being given a parachute, taught how to use it, and told to climb the largest building, I excitedly began the task thinking I would get the chance to dive off the top and glide down. Just as I was getting ready for my moment, Dying Light 2 took it away from me, and instead made me watch a cutscene of Aiden gliding down to the second tallest building, where I promptly regained control.

Delivery man with a knife

dying light 2 stay human review

Where Dying Light 2 Stay Human starts to shine is with its gameplay. The game is at its best when you’re bounding across rooftops, stringing together a variety of parkour moves like wallrunning and vaulting over objects, and even paragliding between buildings as you use air vents to send you higher.

Beyond this, after spending a few points to unlock new moves, the combat starts to feel more robust than just mashing the melee button until everything dies. You’ll be able to use enemies as objects to jump over and even start doing some mid-air moves to handle the foes. In saying this, the block and parry system is sluggish and it can often feel more efficient to just mash the attack button until you whittle a foe’s health down.

When these elements do gel together is when Dying Light 2 feels good, but too often the fluidity of movement and combat slams into a wall. It felt like a coin toss as to whether Aiden would move through the environment in a predictable manner or come to a complete stop as a doorframe or the lip of a ledge slightly obstructed his pathing.

Mechanics like parkour elements and combat maneuvers should become second nature, fading into the background as muscle memory kicks in. However, I was constantly wrestling with the controls, taking me out of the moment and leading to quite a lot of frustration.

In the times where the movement worked well, exploring the city of Villedor was a treat. The level design on offer here is rather impressive. There are an almost overwhelming number of avenues available to the player as they traverse the city. Ziplines connect distant rooftops, launch pads and vents propel Aiden into the air, while walls, railings, ledges and scaffolding grant access to an intricately layered city.

But again, the sense of speed and freedom comes to a shuddering stop whenever the player needs to start searching for materials for upgrading, adding mods to weapons, or for trading. Containers must be opened by holding a button, while each individual item must be looked at and picked up, and both of these have their own animation of Aiden reaching out to interact with the item. It’s slow going and feels at odds with the game’s speed.

Where this slow and methodical approach does work is in Dying Light 2’s stealth moments. Players are encouraged to get out and explore the city at night, despite the infected being more numerous and stronger. Nighttime means being able to access special buildings that hold valuable resources, and also means using stealth to slink by sleeping infected.

To add to the tension of these moments in the darkness is Aiden’s own infection. He can only be in the dark so long before he turns into one of the infected. This means players will need to manage this ever-ticking clock, consuming mushrooms to increase the time they can linger in the dark or stepping into UV light to stave off the effects of the infection. It’s an element that felt like more of a nuisance to deal with than an interesting constraint, and that’s coming from someone who actively enjoyed Dead Rising’s ticking clock. Plus, Aiden can eventually use a UV flashlight, which he is unable to use on himself when in the dark.

On the point of UV light keeping the infection at bay, there are also windmills to climb and claim that turn into little safe zones. At night, these are lit up with UV lamps, preventing the infected from chasing you. The windmills are one of the many side activities that fill the city of Villedor. There are also Dark Hollows and Forbidden Stores that yield high level rewards but can only be explored at night along with Evacuation Convoys, Military Airdrops and a ton of quests to aid the citizens of the city.

The other major facet in Dying Light 2’s design is its crafting systems. Weapons can have attachments added to them, increasing their killing potential and even extending their life just a bit longer. However, like the previous titles in Techland’s catalogue, these weapons will inevitably break, forcing you to keep looking for the next pointy stick to use against your enemies.

As for the upgrades and blueprints, these must be found or purchased and then crafted using the various items you’ll scavenge throughout the city. Some also require trophies from special infected or military-grade electronics from side quests and hard-to-reach locations.

Visually, Dying Light 2 is a gorgeous game to look at. The rooftops are lush and overgrown with green vegetation and flowers while the buildings and people take on an almost medieval flourish, with striking colors and clothing designs.

Contrasting this are the streets of Villedor. Much like the lower levels of some futuristic dystopian city, the alleyways and roads are clogged with grime and mucky colors. If the infected weren’t reason enough, the soiled environment is sure to encourage you back to the rooftops. It’s also a neat visual storytelling moment, showcasing that humanity is surviving, albeit on the fringe of the world.

The dizzying highs and breath-holding intense stealth moments are punctuated by a soundtrack that is an immediate classic. There were pieces that reminded me of the sombre moments from 28 Days Later and even electrical tunes that got the adrenaline pumping as I hacked and slashed through a building full of marauders.

While the gameplay has a lot of rough edges, these are easier to ignore thanks to the inclusion of co-op. During my time with the game, I was lucky enough to get into a co-op session with the Techland developers in Poland, as well as a lovely bloke from Canada. The four of us adventured through the city, took down infected, sneaked through enemy-filled buildings, and generally enjoyed the freedom Dying Light 2 provides its players. We even engaged in some friendly competition with the game’s challenges: a checkpoint time trial and one that had us using an automatic crossbow to defeat as many enemies as possible within the time limit.

Once bitten, twice shy

One massive grievance I have with Dying Light 2 is the lack of controller customization options. Though players have gotten somewhat used to it with the original Dying Light and the likes of Mirror’s Edge, having jump tied to the right bumper and no means of changing this on my controller is frustrating.

Another critical mechanic in the game is Aiden’s Survivor Sense, which pulses out and highlights items within a few feet around him. When using a controller, this is activated by holding the right thumbstick. This is dreadfully cumbersome and made worse by the fact it has a hidden cooldown.

The game is also full of jarring sequence breaks when talking with characters. Sometimes they’ll end a conversation, walk out of shot, and when you regain control of Aiden and turn to see where they went, they’ve disappeared. At one particularly egregious point, Aiden was talking with a character on a rooftop, turned, and spoke to another. He asked where the first person went and this new character pointed to a rooftop 100 feet away. Moments like these are just strange and ultimately break the immersion.

Not a Bite Hider

There’s a lot going on in Dying Light 2 Stay Human. The story that’s presented is moreish, despite having predictable beats and clichés. Its movement is sleek and fast when it’s working but often stumbles over itself. The combat has glimpses of greatness but can wind up feeling a bit average. Overall, each element taken by itself has potential but when mixed together dilutes what could be a rich experience. Though there are moments of joy to be found, they’re punctuated by fetch quests and odd collision detection. Fans of the original will no doubt find fun in a return to the world, but for everyone else, you might want to wait a bit longer before you take a bite.


This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Dying Light 2 Stay Human is available on February 4, 2022 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can Tweet him: @SamuelChandler 

Pros
  • The mysteries in the story pull you along
  • Parkour elements feel great when they work
  • Sneaking through dark buildings is creepy
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Co-op lifts the experience
Cons
  • Story can be predictable
  • Fetch quests everywhere
  • The various mechanics often clash
  • Collision problems with parkour elements
  • Combat is ho-hum
  • No controller customization
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 2, 2022 7:00 AM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, Dying Light 2 Stay Human review: Surviving on the edge

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
      reply
      February 2, 2022 7:53 AM

      Maybe needs a patch or two? Perhaps speedier loot pickups are in an upgrade tier?

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        February 2, 2022 12:20 PM

        Reviewers should of waited for the day 1 patch: https://twitter.com/DyingLightGame/status/1488542831128059908?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw :(

        I know they sort of had to make the review before the 4th but considering the Dev is saying "please wait for the day 1 patch" it feels like a shame and the none day 1 patch reviews will not be accurate and that is not their fault either. The problem is if they would of made the sites/journalist wait for the day 1 patch the majority would of said they are doing some sort of funny business.

        My HOT take, they 100% should of delayed the launch by a week and gave all the reviewers access to the game only when the day 1 patch was completed.

        It's a shame companies rush games and potentially cause issues for no reason?? I guess the bottom line is that Elden Ring comes out on the 24th(and some others) so they want to push the game out as soon as possible. Also I guess the fact is the majority don't buy games off reviews anyways so again it doesn't really matter.

        • reply
          February 2, 2022 1:22 PM

          We should have waited for the day 1 patch? Lol.

          A big patch cannot fix some of the underlying problems I have with the game.

          Regardless of my and other reviewers opinion (which are subjective remember), if you were a fan of the first game, then you will like this one.

          • reply
            February 2, 2022 3:24 PM

            Don't misunderstand Me, your just doing your job and your review is 100% legit. If you don't want to read everything I wrote below this sums it up "So to be clear I am not shitting on the review or reviewer I just think Techland should of gave out copies of the review with the day one patch included that is all. If they did not write the tweet I linked I would not have even posted anything, I think people should know that are unsure if they should buy it that there is a note from the dev that is important so I posted it."

            The problem is when a developer puts out a request that says " we kindly ask you to wait until Feb 4th as by that time you’ll also get access to all improvements and fixes we’ve implemented within last weeks and will introduce with the day 1 patch. That’s the way to experience Dying Light 2 the way it’s meant to be played." it just bad for the reviewers or people that rely on reviews to buy their games. FYI: I already bought the game and don't read reviews in order to buy My games.

            I am not trolling the reviews or am crying you did not give it a 10/10, I honestly could care less if you gave it a 1/10. I just think it is a real shitty situation if it has apparently major issues post day 1 patch: technical issues, performance issues, input issues, NPC issues, and a lot of other game breaking issues : and one has to make a review on that state of a game.

            Here is a small list of issues fixed:

            Fixed the Broadcast infinite respawn story block
            Fix for dialogues that block story progression
            Re-signing to the co-op session doesn't fail in case the user is logged in
            Fixed crash when handing electrical parts to Carlos in Bazaar
            Fixed problems with temporarily lowering the difficulty level - improved adaptive difficulty for AIs
            Fixed crash caused by background renderer during the transition between menu and loading screens
            Increased Wwise overall memory limit - fix for missing sounds and voice-over
            Resolved problems with objects and AI sinking into the ground on a flat surface.
            Fix for AI sometimes freezing/becoming immortal when the owner changes during death
            Added protection against potential crashes.
            Updates for ES, CH; DE intro.
            Added missing game actions fixing occasional unresponsiveness.
            Fixed Streamer Mode option which was not working properly.
            Fixed crash on opening the secondary screen.
            Fixed disconnecting co-op sessions after a certain amount of time.

            [ PC specific ] DLSS enabled. Improved default DLSS sharpness.
            [ PC specific ] Fixed the gamepad not being detected by the game before any movement or action is conducted using a keyboard or mouse.

            Apparently there are a truck load of more fixes as well. I just think it is really stupid they did not delay it a week or more and the media got to review a uncompleted version that has a fix ready. This is a global issue many games do this and it is dumb.

            So to be clear I am not shitting on the review or reviewer I just think Techland should of gave out copies of the review with the day one patch included that is all. If they did not write the tweet I linked I would not have even posted anything, I think people should know that are unsure if they should buy it that there is a note from the dev that is important so I posted it.

            • reply
              February 2, 2022 4:40 PM

              Without going too much into how the sausage is made, there were a few patches that came out during the review process that addressed some issues.

              The problem with Day 1 patches is that there will always be one. If Techland delayed to account for THIS Day 1 patch, there would be another patch.

              Yeah those fixes are on a technical side, which weren't really the problems I personally faced or have with the game.

              No number of patches is going to make me enjoy a never ending list of fetch quests or a story line with predictable beats and cliches.

              B'yeah, personal enjoyment comes first. I saw your post about being excited for it the game the other day. If you enjoyed the first game, I believe you will enjoy this one.

              • reply
                February 2, 2022 7:39 PM

                Yeah this is true, honestly almost every game that goes Gold needs in reality another year to fix and polish up their game and it should really be enforced some how.

                Both the Dead Island series and Dying Light 1 have a lot of fetch quests(it sort of it's bag) same with long story lines and I personally love that! Honestly it is just about free styling the gameplay and roaming around and killing and scavenging everything for Me, almost like Skyrim or STALKER if you ignore the quests. LOL I have played Skyrim multiple times to level 40 char and I never even bothered with quests past Whiterun and it was the best. Having said that I know a lot of people who just don't like Dying Light 1 or the Dead Island series(like refuse to play it or did and hated it) and that is cool it's just not for everyone.

                Personal enjoyment should always comes first 100%, so you do you and that's totally cool and really a 7/10 is an amazing score and especially for someone that does not seem to be a hard core fan of Dead Island on the first Dying Light like Me(I fully admit it, they are My Jam!!!!!!!!!!). Sort of weird how some read you review and where like peace out LOL, you must of been like "Bro, it's a not that bad Jesus".

                Very cool, I am sure I will have an awesome time and I will have https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-BkrwO_Dck on loop LOL :) as I play it(been counting the days to play it)!!!!!!!!! Well you have THE KING OF FIGHTERS XV and Elden Ring up next and a few others so I am sure one of those will be your jam!!!!

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 1:24 PM

        A patch may certainly help iron out bugs. If you can put up with the inconsistencies, have some friends to play with, and liked the first one, I think you're in for a fun time.

        • reply
          February 2, 2022 3:33 PM

          Bro it's all on Techland not you, don't stress it. I bet most don't even know about the day one patch + issues or that Techland even posted the tweet.

          I play a lot of Eruo RPGs like Elex, the Gothic series and many other games + indies I am sure I will love it and was never worried about it and I know it won't be perfect and never expected it to be. Put it this way a lot of people hate the Dead Island series I think they are amazing, I never needed to be convinced to get DL2 only a few videos was enough for Me.

          All good Man \m/ :) \m/ .

        • reply
          February 2, 2022 4:15 PM

          Sam, a 7/10 is a good review. People are dumb. The game is getting 75%+ on aggregate. Clearly it's not a bad game. Sadly scores would probably be in the 80s if Techland had not put it out before that patch. I think it's like valcan said, February has some major games coming and they clearly tried to beat Horizon and Elden Ring out the door. Luckily I bought those too lol. The only part of your review I find questionable is meh combat when every other review I've read says meh story, good to great combat. Not sure what's going on there. Anyway you don't have to justify a 7/10. That's a good review. It's weird that people think that is a shitty review these days.

          • reply
            February 2, 2022 4:43 PM

            I suppose that's kind of the problem. A 7/10 isn't inherently bad, in fact (depending on your perception of grading which is based on where you grew up), a 7 is good!

            I personally find the melee-based combat to be a chore, and although there are a bunch of different moves to liven up the fighting, you're really only going to be dealing reasonable damage when you're smashing a zombie or human with a scarp object. The combat just doesn't resonate with me, but I can see how people like it.

            • reply
              February 2, 2022 4:54 PM

              Did you get all the skills or just do story only? I imagine the more skills you have the more open ended the combat becomes, at least that's how the first worked. It was very slow starting in that game too. I suppose you have to rush to get review out. The first game was divisive too. I wish more people stuck with it because it was buggy on release too and I think a bunch of people dropped it but the dev still supporting it 6 years after release with free content. It's a sandbox rpg with zombies and parkour. Mostly melee oriented though but the first did have viable gunplay late game. Maybe this one does too. I know I will love it and I wish more people gave it a chance. I think there is an immersive world to get lost in and they will add survival mode like the first one eventually if it isnt already in there. I love huge games with tons of stuff to do and skill based rpg like character progression so this is my jam. Not a big story guy so that's cool if that part sucks.


              Sorry I got stream of consciousness going on here.

              • reply
                February 2, 2022 5:03 PM

                I didn't get all of the skills as those are tied to finding collectibles in-game and there's only so many side quests, collectibles, and exploring you can do before it starts eating into time needed to actually progress through the story.

                However, I did get enough to add more flavor to the combat, like being able to do jump kicks, landing on enemies and squishing them, ground pounds, leaping kicks over stunned enemies - but all of these just kind of move the enemies around, not dealing a lot of damage. Because of this, you wind up wailing on foes with your weapons. Yes, I could string together a bunch of cool-looking moves, but after fighting the 30th human, you kind of just want to kill 'em and keep going.

                You're correct in that it's slow at the beginning. What really threw me was that Aiden is supposed to be this seasoned traveller and fighting but he only just starts learning this fighting moves when he reaches the city? There's just a disconnect between a bunch of the elements.

                But I've said to a few people, if you liked the first one and were looking forward to Dying Light 2, I doubt that these problems will negatively impact your opinion and experience, especially if you play with friends.

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 8:12 AM

      Anticipation diminished.

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 1:25 PM

        Hey! You may still really like it. This series seems to be divisive.

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 8:27 AM

      It's funny how every techland game for like the past 15 years has the same pros/cons

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 5:43 PM

        Nothing quite so memorable as the Dead Island intro (WHO DO VOODOO, BEETCH)

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 9:06 AM

      This is pretty much exactly how I expected it to go. Thanks for the review Sam!

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 1:44 PM

        Thanks mate! Yeah, it seems like it's a 50/50 whether or not a Techland game resonates with people.

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 9:12 AM

      'combat is ho hum' that's a big con for a game like this

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 12:00 PM

        wachted gman give his review and while he said the combat never gets old I felt like it was getting old while watching the review… all he did was parry, leap over jump kick, squish head. Also I may be misremembering but I thought the first Dying Light had a lot more body degradation with bits and chunks coming off, while in 2 it seems like only limbs come off (mostly heads, though) or armor pieces.

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 12:05 PM

        Shack review is first one I've seen bag on combat. Every other review is like story sucks, combat and parkour is fantastic.

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 9:28 AM

        Yea I'll be waiting for a heavy sale, I wasn't a huge fan of the first.

      • reply
        February 2, 2022 9:47 AM

        I remember a certain quest that required me to go to a building next to a quest giver, kill a few zombies, take the quest item and come back.

        That's all these games are. Dead Island/ dying light same deal. I think at this point people know if that kind of microwave fetch quest game play is their tea or not?

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 9:46 AM

      Metacritic going from 95 to 40. First was same. People don't really agree on this series much.

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 5:47 PM

      Doh, sounds like a looter/far cry type game?

    • reply
      February 2, 2022 5:54 PM

      Great write up, thank you

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