Dying Light 2 preview: A dark post-apocalyptic parkour playground

Dying Light 2 is the long-anticipated sequel to Techland's Dying Light, which was a parkour-focused open world zombie survival game where a viral apocalypse has begun to destroy civilization.

Set in the fictional city of Harran, Dying Light's melee-oriented combat was fun and infectious, tied together with a relatively light but engaging narrative. Dying Light didn't do anything particularly revolutionary, but it was one of the best-looking open world titles out there, complete with four-player co-op and an almost Diablo-like focus on looting and upgrades.

Dying Light 2 will see the return of many of the things fans have come to expect from the franchise, with a massively expanded scope, and a consequence-driven branching narrative. Welcome to medieval, post-societal future of Dying Light 2, where humanity has regressed back into the dark times.

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The modern dark age

Dying Light 2 is a little more down to earth in some ways than its predecessor, as Techland seems to be striking a more serious tone. Legendary games writer Chris Avellone is leading the writing for Dying Light 2, as well as contributing various other facets of the game's structure. The narrative of Dying Light 2 is taking a far bigger role than it did in its predecessor, with a big emphasis on choice and consequence.

Your job is to find a place for yourself in this chaotic world, and the choices you make will shape the world.

Set in an apocalyptic future, a zombie apocalypse and the subsequent chaos has wiped out almost all of technology and infrastructure. The survivors carve out a grim existence. Water and other basic necessities are scarce, and organized gangs and militia prey on the weak and innocent. Your job is to find a place for yourself in this chaotic world, and the choices you make will shape the world, quite literally.

Major and minor story decisions in Dying Light 2 don't just change the flow of the game's story, but can dramatically impact entire areas following.

Warring factions

Dying Light 2's press demonstration offered a little more insight into the gameplay Techland previously revealed at Gamescom. The player is offered the opportunity to secure a water tower from a group of bandits, following the disappearance of a rival gang's "emissary," neutral individuals whose job it is to negotiate between groups. Killing an emissary seems to be a little taboo even among the ruthless gangs of this new world.

Ascending to the top of the tower, the player has the opportunity to learn more and negotiate with the small bandit duo who have ensconced themselves at the top of this water tower. Discovering that the emissary was quite literally booted out of the tower, the player is offered the choice between negotiating a deal with the bandits or fighting them to the death.

Not all choices in Dying Light 2 will be so binary, but this quest offered a glimpse into the way your decisions will have physical consequences upon the world.

If you kill the bandits, the militant Peacekeeper (PK) faction moves in, setting up banners in the area. Peacekeepers appear to be what remains of the military, complete with advanced weaponry. With the water tower secured, you can access water supplies for free in the entire area, as the advanced faction repairs the local plumbing infrastructure. The downside: They rule with an iron fist, abusing and suppressing the local survivors. And you're their mate.

Your decisions will have physical consequences on the world.

If you help the bandits, they won't be able to repair the local plumbing, but they will set up a new trading post in the area, which you can become a business partner for. You'll get a cut of the profits, and the local population won't see you as a PK stooge.

Techland noted that depending on the flow of the story from previous quests, the two bandits might not have been in the tower at all, it might have been someone else entirely.

The dangers of Dying Light 2

Dying Light 2 puts an emphasis on the human factions, but that doesn't mean the virus from the first game has been completely wiped out.

You might remember the more powerful infected monsters from the first game, which only emerged at night. Only these more powerful photosensitive zombies remain, and during the day, they stay hidden inside various buildings and underground locations, hiding from the sunlight. Dying Light 2 calls these areas "nests," and due to being filled with sleeping zombies, they often contain the best loot, since local bandits and survivors are too afraid to risk entering. If you brave the nests, you'll have to creep silently, aiming your flash light away from the horde, or risk being torn apart very rapidly.

During our demo, the player encountered a group of bandits setting up a UV light perimeter around a nest of zeds, in hopes of clearing out an unlooted building. This presented the opportunity to take out the bandits and make use of their UV set up to get some easy loot. Dying Light 2's combat system does not make you a super hero – you're still very vulnerable, and must approach combat with thoughtfulness. To that end, you can often enlist the help of the environment itself in combat.

Stealth takes an expanded role in Dying Light 2. You can hide in bushes, and sneak upon unsuspecting enemies for sneaky kills. Eliminating as many threats as possible before going hand-to-hand is a must, since you're probably going to get yourself killed if facing multiple hostiles at once. The rewards, however, may outweigh the risks.

Parkour upgraded

Dying Light's hyper-agile traversal mechanics have been upgraded for the sequel, adding double the amount of parkour moves and cues that should serve to make Dying Light 2's movement a lot more fluid. The world map has been designed with an immense amount of verticality in mind, complete with features to help you make the jump.

The world map has been designed with an immense amount of verticality.

Some seem to have been borrowed from the likes of Assassin's Creed, with freeform jumping across small objects like street lamps, and special hook ropes that let you ascend rapidly up a large building. Others seem completely new, however, granting the player the ability to plunge their melee weapon into a cloth billboard for a rapid descent, or dive into a tree to break a big fall.

Dying Light 2 also features parkour climbing puzzles, which may make you groan, but they're a little more interactive and challenging than some of the other games out there utilizing the "Ubisoft tower" map reveal gameplay mechanic. Dying Light 2 retains the stamina meter, which constantly depletes when you're hanging from, or balancing on objects. You'll need to plan your movements up larger towers more carefully than you might in other games.

Objects also obey physics more intelligently. You can swing from ropes, jump onto moving objects like trucks and other vehicles, and hang from hanging objects like crates. Dying Light 2 should feel a lot less clunky than its predecessor, with a liberated traversal system parkour fans will enjoy.

Positive outlook

Dying Light 2 looks like an incredible upgrade from its predecessor, striking a more serious tone. Chris Avellone's influence looks like it'll touch upon the entire game, creating a meaningful branching narrative with plenty of opportunity for replayability.

The open world is four times bigger than the original game and all of its DLC combined.

I'm excited to learn more about the world Techland is building for Dying Light 2, which has some post-apocalypse aesthetic cross-over with franchises like Waterworld and Mad Max. Society is moving on, but it's doing so without technology, in poverty and strife. The open world is, according to Techland, four times bigger than the original game and all of its DLC combined, with plans for plenty of post-launch support. To support Avellone, Techland has also tripled the size of its internal writing team, to help flesh out Dying Light 2's world.

Dying Light 2 will continue to rock four-player co-op, and any loot or experience you acquire in your friends' worlds will come back with you to your own. Your narrative won't progress while inside a friend's game, but you'll get to experience all the same choices and happenings they do, should you choose to help out.

Dying Light 2 doesn't have a launch date yet, but we'll keep you posted when we know more. It should hit PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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Jez Corden