Dying Light was the little zombie game that could, and Dying Light 2, which we got a new taste of at E3 2019, looks even better. Even after some less-than-fantastic review scores, the original game's blend of zombie bashing and hardcore parkour maintained high levels of interest for years. With The Following DLC, which let you roam an expansive countryside while smooshing the undead beneath an armored buggy, and and a battle royale-esque spin-off, Dying Light has managed to stick around far longer than most other zombie action games.
That's why it's so refreshing to see Techland tackling a proper sequel. Announced at E3 2018 with a snazzy trailer, Techland hasn't been shy about sharing some key details on the changes coming to the apocalypse. Here's everything we know about Dying Light 2.
Dying Light 2's release date: when to expect it
At the Microsoft E3 2019 conference, we learned that Dying Light 2 will release in Spring 2020. It could drop anywhere from March to May.
Dying Light 2's setting: Chris Avellone is helping to bring it to life
It says a lot that the first voice you hear in Dying Light 2's E3 gameplay trailer is that of Chris Avellone. If that name sounds familiar, think KOTOR 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Fallout: New Vegas to name just an inch of the amazing projects he's been a part of. Avellone has worked as a lead writer or designer (sometimes both) on a whole host of our favorite RPGs. He's become one of the industry's most coveted storytellers, and he's a key part of Dying Light 2.
Lead designer Tymon Smektala discussed Avellone's involvemenet with Digital Foundry, saying the writer was involved from the beginning to help the team define a "modern dark ages."
"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."
Avellone is 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 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 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.
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 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.
Dying Light 2's zombies will be a fearsome bunch, but we haven't seen nighttime yet
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 building interiors to wait for nightfall, shoulder to shoulder. 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.