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"Dying Light" uses a clumsy yet innovative combat system to build a terrifying world.

A new life for zombie games

“Dying Light” is a game that really makes the player work to survive. Armed with only a small arsenal of primarily melee weapons that do very little against the zombies and enemies that abound in the open world environment, the stakes are incredibly high at any given point. This ever-present tension is one of the strongest factors in the game, which offers hours of playtime in a giant sandbox-world filled with endless opportunities.

Navigating the rooftops of buildings and zip lining hundreds of feet over the heads of enemies below will become the normal mode of transportation for the player, who will quickly discover that the streets are filled with monstrosities that are better left undisturbed. When night inevitably falls in the game, it becomes critical to implement stealth and use these elevated platforms to move to the closest safe space.

It’s not uncommon for games to implement some sort of punishment system for players when they die. Most games will restore the health of the enemies or simply make the player begin the encounter again from the start. “Dying Light” removes a significant portion of “survivor points,” which are crucial for leveling up and becoming stronger. Chances are that the player will die multiple times in a single encounter, which will result in a hemorrhaging of their experience points.

The enemies in “Dying Light” are strong and, at first, seemingly invincible. The combat system is clumsy and difficult to control and the emphasis on the use of melee weapons only worsens this. When the player finally finds a gun and uses it, they will quickly discover that the noise attracts the attention of countless enemies, who come rushing towards the scene. When running from a fight, the player has the option to turn and look behind them, which offers some of the scariest images in the game and only heightens the tension of combat.

There are, however, plenty of opportunities for innovation when it comes to weapons. As the player levels up and meets more characters, creativity becomes vital for survival. Once a few weapons have been upgraded or discovered, the combat system becomes fun. There are countless ways to dispatch the zombie hordes that are constantly following the main character and watching the destruction is almost cathartic after hours of feeling helpless. For the impatient player, however, this game will seem unevenly paced and take too long to provide this type of arsenal.

When it comes to story, there’s a lot to be desired. Mostly forgettable characters will send the player on repetitive and uninspired missions for useless objects. While this allows for lots of exploring and climbing, it will also result in a lot of confusing puzzles and fight sequences that are more frustrating than entertaining. The wonder of the open-world wears off fast and the player is left wandering around a generic zombie-filled wasteland that, while admittedly well animated, is mostly unremarkable. For those who favor innovation and exploration over a quality story with memorable characters, this game will have plenty to offer.