Sitting down to watch a hands-off demo of Dying Light 2, the developers of Techland wanted to make it very important that player choice plays a large impact in the game’s narrative and what players see. In the first game, there were some key choices to be made, but they felt like small divergences on a path towards a similar goal. Here, it sounds as though Techland is going for an approach that better encourages replayability, to the point that most Dying Light 2 players will only see about 50% of the game their first time around.
In the demo, Dying Light 2 protagonist Aiden Caldwell is participating in a deal meant to broker drinking water for the people of a small settlement. Techland says that the game is set during a Modern Dark Age, so these areas function more like small towns, which are beholden to larger, castle-like establishments. The Colonel, who controls a water pumping plant, runs one of those establishments.
Aiden’s friend Frank is at the head of the deal between the Wildcard Factions and the Colonel, but things go wrong and he is shot. Immediately, the player is faced with a choice: stay with Frank to help him or chase the shooter(s) in a van to get justice. For the purposes of the demo, Techland decided to pursue the van, but we were told that he could stay behind and try to find a doctor for Frank.
Movement Has Evolved in Dying Light 2
While Aiden is in pursuit of the van, Techland shows off both the improved parkour in Dying Light 2 and the evolutions made to its combat. For movement, there is a grappling hook and a paraglider available, but it largely functions as Dying Light fans remember. A stamina meter governs how many difficult moves Aiden can do in quick succession and how long he can hang from ledges, but the key component is running, jumping, and occasionally sliding. The demo highlighted more of that movement in a sequence where the player is chased by a zombie horde, using the UV light item to clear paths where necessary.
Similarly, combat has similar first-person vibes as Dying Light 1 with the key addition of a dodge move. Thanks to this dodge move, Aiden feels more agile and the combat has a lot more personality to it. The game seems more like a balletic melee fight a la Dark Souls, than a situation where you just stand back and wait for an opening. Dying Light’s combat was by no means slow, but for its sequel, Techland wants to give players more agency.
Throughout the demo, the player makes choices on how to approach situations. When Aiden reaches the van’s driver, for example, they can choose to throw him out or force him to drive. Taking him hostage allows for easier entry to the Colonel’s stronghold, but it also puts the risk of betrayal on the mission. Ditching him means sneaking into the Stronghold from the beginning, or running in with an offensive attack.
Unlocking New Open World Regions
But the biggest choice comes at the end of the demo, where the player can either turn the pumps back on or side with the Colonel in order to find a better solution. Techland chose to force the issue to show more combat and a boss fight with a stronger enemy, and at the end, Aiden unlocks the water supply. Additionally, this drains an area of the map that was previously underwater and is now a new region in the game.
Based on that 50% claim, it appears it is possible to choose not to do anything that would drain this region and thus the player would miss visiting it or completing any of its activities. That isn’t confirmed, but the suggestion that players will only see half of the game’s content suggests that certain choices will lock out players from large pieces of the game. The devs did say that if Aiden stayed to help Frank they would inevitably go to turn on the pumps, but that was only one mission.
Many games have touted the importance of choice to their narrative and while some have been successful, others only give the illusion of impactful decisions. Dying Light 2 seems to be going to an approach that really makes the player agonize over their choices and that sounds exciting. We’ll see how much that truly impacts things when the game releases next year.
Dying Light 2 releases in 2020 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.