Let me start by saying that I’ve been playing Dying Light 2 with my buddies off and on since it came out earlier this year. Where I fell off of other long open-world adventures, Dying Light 2's city traversal and visceral combat have kept me coming back for more, and I’ve seen Techland polish it up post-release with patch after patch to smooth out the rough edges. I appreciate the effort they’ve put into the base game. However, that brings us to the DLC, Bloody Ties. The first major expansion for Dying Light 2 puts us on a new plot which involves an underground fight club, some devious politicking, and a few new characters. There’s also plenty of fighting, of course, but while Bloody Ties keeps your weapons swinging, I feel it doesn’t really bring anything particularly fresh and cool to Old Villedor. More than that, it feels more like it’s setting up for something grander while bringing little to the table outside of an extended side quest itself.
The ties that bind
Bloody Ties is a DLC that you can take on whenever you feel like it. It’s a side story to the main happenings with Lawan, Waltz, Hakon, the Peacekeepers, Renegades, and all that. Instead Aiden is called by a mysterious stranger to take part in tryouts for an underground fight club in Villedor. Carnage Hall is an arena of lavish delight: an opera house remade like a Roman coliseum for people from all walks of life to do battle. Therein, you meet the old champion of Carnage Hall, Ogar, his son Ciro, the brutal current top dog Skullface, Carnage Hall's leader Astrid, and other such characters as you engage in a story of fighting, glory, revenge, family, and under-the-table politics.
Ciro is your main point of entry into the story of Bloody Ties. As Ogar’s kid, he wants to prove himself, and he has good reason to, especially against the forces that operate Carnage Hall. Meanwhile, Ogar is a washed-up has-been that just wants his son to remain safe. Skullface is a pretty menacing force and very quickly makes it clear that you’ll want to beat his brains in by the end of things. It’s worth noting that this story moves fast and doesn’t particularly give you time to really get acquainted or attached with anyone. Ciro is the closest thing Aiden has to a real friend in this one and even he just kind of shows up, gets you into the Carnage Hall tryouts, and then he and Aiden are suddenly bros. The breakneck pace doesn’t really let up, so it’s hard to get attached to anyone as they spew out their reasons for wanting or not wanting to take part in Carnage Hall before you move on to the next fight.
And fighting is really the core component of Bloody Ties. It is a story built around gladiatorial combat after all. However, don’t expect the unusual challenges and spins you might find in something like Mad Moxxi’s Underdome in Borderlands. You take on challenges left and right as you rise through the ranks of Carnage Halls alongside Ciro, but the fights aren’t much different from your standard fare in Dying Light 2. There’s a lot of either beating all your fairly normal human opponents to a pulp, beating down an alarming amount of zombies and infected, or simply surviving various gauntlets. It only gets a little spicier with a handful of new variants of enemies thrown in and occasional sub-objectives akin to putting on a show in the opera theme. And because most of the action takes place at Carnage Hall or spots like it, there’s not a lot of opportunity to parkour about, which is half the fun of Dying Light 2 in the first place. There are things like Checkpoint Challenges and Races to enjoy outside the main story beats, but they aren’t much different from challenges in the main game.
There’s both good and bad to Bloody Ties’ placement against the core game. The good is that you can take on the DLC whenever you want to. The bad news is that if you’re already near the end game, you’re probably not going to get a lot of good stuff out of it, certainly not stronger than what you’ve got. The weapons you get your hands on will feel like you’re swinging around popsicle sticks compared to the bristling acid, electricity, and fire-infused killamajigs you’re assembling by Dying Light 2’s end game.
I will say that despite the somewhat underwhelming state of Dying Light 2’s Bloody Ties DLC, the story is worth playing through to the end, if only to see a certain final twist. It’s one of the more impressive parts of the DLC and it not only leaves a lasting impression, but also sets up for further stories in Villedor that should prove interesting in future content. If you’re into Dying Light 2 for the narrative, you’ll want to roll credits on this.
The main event or the matinee?
Dying Light 2 Bloody Ties isn’t a particularly bad DLC in any way. It’s mostly just more of the same. The gladiatorial arena of Carnage Hall is neat, but there isn’t a lot here you’ll be unprepared for with substantial time in the main game. Moreover, it doesn’t do much to change things up or leave an effect that changes anything in the main game. It’s mostly like a really long side quest with a cool location. The ending opens the door to some very interesting paths for Techland, but that’s kind of the bottom line of Bloody Ties: it mostly makes me want to see what’s next.
These impressions are based on a PC review copy provided by the publisher. Dying Light 2’s Bloody Ties DLC is out now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.