Dy­ing Light 2

Tech­land’s se­quel is more so­cial sand­box than zombie killer

EDGE - - CONTENTS - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Tech­land For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin Poland Re­lease TBA

PC, PS4, Xbox One

Don’t think of Dy­ing Light 2 as a zombie game, or a sur­vival game, or even an open-world game in the usual sense. Think of it in­stead as a playable map edi­tor, an ex­er­cise in sculpt­ing the hu­man and phys­i­cal geog­ra­phy of a pesti­lent Eu­ro­pean me­trop­o­lis – not with a cur­sor, but with a fly­ing kick. Set a few years af­ter its pre­de­ces­sor’s un­dead apoc­a­lypse, the game is built once again around the three prin­ci­ples of “nat­u­ral move­ment” ( Mir­ror’s Edge with­out the lin­ear­ity), first-per­son melee ( Mir­ror’s Edge with squelchier combo fin­ish­ers) and a dayand-night cy­cle that al­ters the threat level. But it places a much greater em­pha­sis on story, and that story is not so much told as em­bod­ied in the chang­ing ter­rain.

It’s there in the fact that the streets in one dis­trict are no longer safe to wan­der, but there are now zi­plines be­tween crum­bling fa­cades to keep you out of harm’s way. It’s there in the queues of thank­ful refugees by wa­ter pumps, or the thick­en­ing of un­dead pres­ence in cer­tain al­ley­ways, or the spring­ing up of wind­mills on the hori­zon. All of these al­ter­ations, lit­tle and large, are the re­sult of player in­ter­ac­tions with the city’s peo­ple and fac­tions, as Ty­mon Smek­tala, lead de­signer, ex­plains; they re­flect a com­mit­ment to telling a story that is just as mal­leable and un­pre­dictable as the aver­age zombie en­counter.

An­other way of look­ing at all this is that like As­sas­sin’s Creed, Dy­ing Light 2 has be­come a full-blown RPG – specif­i­cally, the kind once made by Ob­sid­ian or In­ter­play, in which play­ers are given free­dom to shape a busy cor­ner of a larger uni­verse while lev­el­ling up their abil­i­ties. It’s with such no­tions in mind that Tech­land has hired Chris Avel­lone, de­signer of such clas­sics as Fall­out 2 and Nev­er­win­ter

Nights, to help create Dy­ing Light 2’ s story and set­ting. “We knew that we per­haps didn’t have the ex­per­tise, so we wanted to work with some­body who did,” Smek­tala says.

The pres­ence of a leg­endary fan­tasy de­signer like Avel­lone cer­tainly com­ple­ments the choice of aes­thetic. Dy­ing Light 2 un­folds in a ‘Mod­ern Dark Ages’, a Mad Max­ian re­jig of the vig­or­ously mucky rep­re­sen­ta­tions of medieval so­ci­ety held up by Game Of Thrones. “Every­thing is scarce, re­sources are ex­tremely rare, there is nearly no tech­nol­ogy, and if there is tech­nol­ogy it’s things that peo­ple were able to keep run­ning af­ter the fall.” The game’s art di­rec­tion su­tures the mod­ern and medieval world to­gether, as new life (to­gether with a fair amount of un­death) springs up around the ves­tiges of once-grand dwellings and work­places. Shop­ping malls have been out­fit­ted with crude towers of wood and scrap. Ar­mour is made up of pieces of po­lice riot gear. Melee weapons such as axes and

ham­mers are held to­gether with ca­ble and wire. Even the zom­bies who roam the city at night feel like they’re caught be­tween eras: they’ve been re­designed with ref­er­ence to medieval ac­counts of lep­rosy.

The Dark Age ethos also shades the game’s writ­ing, and in par­tic­u­lar the char­ac­ter­is­ing of fac­tions. “When you think of medieval times, there are all those things that come to mind in­stantly,” Smek­tala says. “In­trigue, in­fi­delity, harsh laws; you steal some­thing and your hand gets cut off. The re­la­tions be­tween peo­ple, be­tween the peo­ple in power and those not as for­tu­nate – we’re us­ing those archetypes in our story.”

Each fac­tion has its own views about the right way to rekin­dle civil­i­sa­tion on a planet now com­pre­hen­sively over­run by zom­bies. Among those Tech­land is pre­pared to talk about be­fore re­lease are the Scavengers, who have erected a heavily for­ti­fied safe haven they hope to ex­pand over time, rather than try­ing to clear out each and ev­ery street. They’re op­posed by the Peace­keep­ers, an army of crypto-fas­cists who aim to ex­ter­mi­nate the un­dead en­tirely. The ma­jor fac­tions aside, there are smaller, less vis­i­ble groups who shape the balance of power through­out the me­trop­o­lis in less ob­vi­ous ways. “They’re like wild cards. They can of­fer a dif­fer­ent out­look, and com­pletely dif­fer­ent ideas about how to solve a prob­lem.” The smaller fac­tions also of­fer al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tives on events that are avail­able through­out the plot, while sid­ing with one of the ma­jor fac­tions will typ­i­cally seal off a large num­ber of nar­ra­tive threads.

The more of-the-mo­ment con­se­quences of back­ing a fac­tion are likely to be Dy­ing Light

2’ s chief thrill. Al­le­giance shapes ev­ery as­pect, from the routes you’ll take through the game’s tow­er­ing lay­outs to how you fight. Help the Peace­keep­ers in one dis­trict, and they might lower the den­sity of en­e­mies in that re­gion while rais­ing it else­where, as ban­dits and zom­bies alike mi­grate to sur­round­ing ar­eas. Fall in with the Scavengers, and they might re­pair struc­tures such as bridges to al­low ac­cess to re­mote spots, all the while qui­etly re­duc­ing the lo­cals to a slave work­force. Who you ally with also de­ter­mines which craft­ing blue­prints you’ll re­ceive, or how ex­actly props like zi­plines work once they’re in­stalled. The ar­ray of pos­si­bil­i­ties sounds re­mark­able, ex­tend­ing be­yond the choice of vis­ual trap­pings or un­locks to the fun­da­men­tal work­ings of the sand­box.

On top of these broader changes, Dy­ing Light 2 will of­fer a larger se­lec­tion of park­our moves – around 100, next to the first game’s 50 or so – and an ex­panded ar­se­nal of weapon recipes and ef­fects that puts us a lit­tle in mind of Des­tiny. The ad­di­tional park­our ac­tions range from scrab­bling up or down slopes to swing­ing from mon­key bars, mantling chim­neys and stab­bing your knife into a bill­board to slow your fall.

Park­our is also more of a fac­tor in com­bat. “In the first game when you used park­our in com­bat it was mostly as a fin­isher, like drop­kick­ing an en­emy off a rooftop,” Smek­tala ex­plains. “We’ve added a lot of moves that let you create an open­ing, to start an en­counter or do some­thing dur­ing that en­counter.” Ex­am­ples in­clude us­ing a wall-run to launch a stag­ger­ing at­tack, or grab­bing and throw­ing loose ob­jects to stall at­tack­ers. The ad­di­tional weapon ef­fects, mean­while, are more “sub­tle” than the pre­vi­ous game’s spread of fire, poi­son, elec­tri­cal, freez­ing and blast mod­i­fiers, though these are still present. One craft­ing recipe makes it eas­ier to shat­ter hel­mets with blows to the head; an­other causes en­e­mies to drop their weapons af­ter a pre­ci­sion parry.

These are cer­tainly in­vig­o­rat­ing touches, but it’s the thought of the city it­self and its strag­gly web of power re­la­tions we find most en­tranc­ing. “We have a whole wall in our nar­ra­tive-team room de­voted to pre­sent­ing the re­la­tion­ships [be­tween el­e­ments of the city] – sticky notes, pic­tures, print-outs with ar­rows con­nect­ing them,” Smek­tala says. “We be­lieve the com­bi­na­tion of those small and big choices will let play­ers create their own ver­sion of the city, their own sand­box – a ver­sion that not only has a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive but a dif­fer­ent kind of game­play.”

The ad­di­tional weapon ef­fects are more “sub­tle” than the pre­vi­ous game’s spread

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