Dying Light was the little zombie game that could, and Dying Light 2, which we got a taste of at E3 2019, looks even better. Techland's zombie-parkour darling has left a lasting impression in the years since its release. In 2016, it also got The Following DLC, which let you roam an expansive countryside while smooshing the undead beneath an armored buggy, and even a battle royale-esque spin-off later on. That's why it's so refreshing to see Techland tackling a proper sequel.
Dying Light 2 was originally announced at E3 2018 with a snazzy trailer, but details since 2019 have been sparse. It was delayed in January 2020, near the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, with no new release window announced. Techland have been relatively quiet since, though they continue to occasionally reassure fans on Twitter that the game is in progress. It may be a while yet before we hear any exciting new details about the game, so here's everything we know right now.
Dying Light 2's release date: when to expect it
Dying Light has been delayed but Techland have yet to set a new time frame to expect it in.
At the Microsoft E3 2019 conference, Dying Light 2 originally gave a spring 2020 release window. In January 2020, Techland announced that the sequel has been delayed.
Watch the 25-minute Dying Light 2 gameplay demo
The long demo shown behind closed doors at E3 2019 is finally here for all to see, and it was worth the wait. The demo is an impressive showcase of Dying Light 2's ambitious expanded parkour systems, combat, and choice-driven story. We also see new traversal gadgets, like pulleys that zip Aiden to a rooftop, a swinging hook, and a glider.
Dying Light 2's delay will help Techland expand its story
It's a bummer to hear that Techland is indefinitely delaying Dying Light 2, but the bright side is the studio is using that time to work on the game's story. "Delaying the game opened opportunities to nail down the story part of the game, choices our players can make, as well as up the level of open world opportunities that player will face," lead producer Eugen Harton told Official PlayStation Magazine. "Building this world takes time and we want Dying Light 2 to be the evolution of what we started with in the first game.”
That's great to hear, even if it means we might not get our hands on Dying Light until 2021. Based on what we've seen, it should be worth the wait.
Dying Light 2 premier trailer: here's what gameplay looks like in the zombie sequel
Dying Light 2's gameplay trailer gave us a snapshot of what to expect from the game's branching storyline, where entire parts of the city will change based on your choices. Check it out above.
Dying Light 2 doubles the parkour moves from the original
Techland says it has "doubled" the parkour options this time around. In the demo, you can see this with Aiden's wallrunning, but there are also more subtle moves. Aiden can seemingly vault through the tops of doorways, slide under tables, and use a loose pipe as a pole vault.
Dying Light 2's map is four times bigger than the original
But what good is all the player-driven choice in the world if you don't have somewhere badass to hop around? Dying Light 2 switches out its predecessor's grimy favela for the aforementioned 'modern dark ages' European city, four times larger than the original's map. It looks closer in style to the tighter Old Town portion of the original Dying Light than the wider slums, but with everything cranked to 11. There's a whole mess of banners marking faction territories, windmills covered in solar panels groan with years of disrepair, and some crumbling clock towers. Some soldiers like the Peacekeepers wear armor that looks like the Knights of the Round Table meet Mad Max. Despite the increased population in this city (compared to Harran), nature has still reclaimed portions of the buildings and streets.
Oddly enough, there's even a structure that looks suspiciously like the Arc de Triomphe, but it's got what looks like a black market operating around it serviced by elevators made from the shells of school buses.
Dying Light 2 is definitely building off of the original's strong parkour gameplay. Aside from the typical running, wall-running, jumping, sliding, and climbing, Smektala has said there are twice as many parkour moves.
In a very Three Musketeers move, players can dig a blade into a banner and use it to glide down to the street level. There's also some ropes and cables to swing from, whether it be from one building to the next or onto said banner. In the gameplay premiere trailer, we also see the player jumping from a building and onto the back of a moving truck.
Parkour is for more than just evasion and traversal, though. When the player confronts some smugglers, we see him jump up, grab onto a pipe hanging from the ceiling, and power kicking some poor schmuck off the edge of the building. You'd think a cutthroat wastelander wouldn't put his back to certain death, but here we are.
Dying Light 2's setting
Lead designer Tymon Smektala discussed the "modern dark ages" setting with Digital Foundry, saying that they had partnered with Chris Avellone to define the world and its rules. (Avellone is no longer contributing to Dying Light 2 after he was accused of sexual misconduct by several individuals.)
"It's a setting that explains, presents a world where the civilisation has gone back to [the] dark ages," Smektala told Digital Foundry. "Right now, everything is brutal, primal and merciless. Chris Avellone helped us to define that world, define the rules that govern it, and [helped] define the factions that operate in the city."
Techland is also joined by at least one member of The Witcher 3 writing team: Karolina Stachyra, known for her work on the Bloody Baron questline.
Though specifics on Dying Light 2's plot haven't been revealed, the developers have given us some broad strokes of what we can expect. Set 15 years after the first game, your mission is to retrieve an object which could 'change the future of humankind.' A source of clean water? A way to turn the Wi-Fi back on? Your guess is as good as ours. But you're not alone in this grim locale. Far from it, actually. The city is full of multiple human factions, each of which will vie for your assistance, cooperation, or death.
Dying Light 2's story is around 20 hours, but it has 'more than 100' hours of total content
In an interview with Prankster101, Dying Light 2 lead game designer Tymon Smektala shared some details about the game's length. While the main story will take around "15 to 20" hours to complete, wrapping up everything will take closer to 100 hours or more.
"It is very hard to measure in an open-world game. How long it actually takes to complete the game because of the things that happen between points A and points B of a quest, so basically it’s up to you how you play it," said Smektala. I imagine this metric is also bolstered by Dying Light 2's diverging story choices and the natural replayability that comes from choosing a different path.
Dying Light 2 has narrative choices, here's how they work
One of Dying Light 2's big changes is how the city around you will be transformed (both physically and tonally) once you ally with one of several groups.
During E3, our own Steven saw a hands-off demo that showed this branching world building at play. A group of NPCs have managed to gain control over a water source, putting an air of uncertainty over the future of the surrounding communities. The Peacekeepers, a group of law and order obsessed folks, sent out an emissary to see what they could do to get the water for their people, but because this is a computer game, the emissary has gone missing and it's up to you to figure things out.
When you find the water smugglers, you can choose to exact retribution on them with some old-fashioned murder, allowing the Peacekeepers to waltz in and spruce the place up. The streets will be a bit safer, water will flow for the locals, and some environmental additions will make parkour easier. Unfortunately for trouble-doers, the Peacekeepers will rule with an iron fist, practicing their favorite pastime of hanging anyone they deem a criminal. Maybe they'll turn against you someday.
If you side with the smugglers, the area turns ruthless, where the desperate are charged for drinking water. Your grateful partners will cut you in on the profits, however.
More practically, depending on which faction you choose, you'll see corresponding banners and colors splash a bit of life (or misery) into the region. The Peacekeepers will unfurl their banners over buildings, erect a bunch of outposts, and build walls. Smektala was quick to clarify that your struggles won't always be between just two factions, and it won't always be as simple as a 'join us or die' dialogue prompt, meaning achieving or failing a mission objective might result in some unexpected power shifts. As is usually the case in post-apocalypse tales, there's always a chance that you'll just make things worse.
Some narrative choices can be reversed, but not easily
Speaking to Official Xbox Magazine, lead designer Tymon Smektala explained how choice reversal isn't a simple reset button. "It’s not like you can like go back to the moment of that decision and just change it," Smektala said. "You need to do some additional stuff, like complete a couple of extra missions, to fix the things that you think you wronged. But apart from those rare instances, all of the decisions are permanent."
Make no mistake, choices still carry significant consequences. Most decisions can't be undone, but it was important for Techland to allow for reflection in some cases. "So sometimes in crucial moments for the narrative where we feel there’s a space for you to think back and realize that maybe what you decided to do wasn’t the thing you really wanted to do, even if that’s not a ‘good’ thing... there are a couple of instances where we give you a chance to rewrite those decisions," Smektala said.
Dying Light 2's combat should offer more crafting variety
Speaking of combat, the same first-person melee looks like it's still our primary way of bashing heads in. Just like the last game, it looks like you can combine weapons with certain elements to add a little flavor to your swing. We've seen tomahawk axes with what look like electrical cords, plus a street sign cut in half.
Smektala has said the crafting is being expanded, and that there will be around 50 new combos you can apply to weapons, but you'll also be using the environment to fight back. We've seen the player whip a bucket at an enemy's head, creating an opening to shove him off the roof.
The black market seen atop that Arc lookalike will sell you weapon blueprints, drugs that give you extra powers, or just more brutal tools of torture. Stealth will also play a larger role in Dying Light 2, with bushes and trash bins to hide if things get grisly. You'll also be able to sneak up on enemies for quieter kills.
We haven't seen Dying Light 2's night yet, but there are Dark Zones
The original game's awesome day and night cycle mechanic is back, but instead of swerving around the undead on the bright streets, most of them have clustered together in Dark Zones, infected buildings with shoulder to shoulder zombies. It's enough to make the Saturday grocery shopper in me flinch. You're welcome to pilfer the place for extra special loot, but make a noisy misstep and you'll be fleeing faster than your parent's house party. Of course, you can wait until the nighttime to do all this, it's just that your undead guests will be, you know, everywhere.
The superpowered volatiles are returning, too, although we're not sure which, if any will be making a comeback. As always, they'll chase you in a dead sprint, forcing you to get crafty with your UV flashlight and some environmental tools.
In the meantime, Dying Light is still getting DLCs
Techland released a new DLC in 2020 for the original Dying Light game, a fantasy horror adventure set inside an arcade cabinet. Hellraid is actually based on an older Techland project by the same name.
Even so many years after Dying Light's release, Techland's senior PR manager Ola Sondej tells Gamecrate that "We don’t think of Dying Light—Hellraid as the final DLC and we plan to continue our support for Dying Light."