Dying Light 2: Stay Human makes running away cool

Killing zombies is fun, but with Dying Light 2's parkour system I’d rather finesse my way past them

Lying on the ground inside a huge hall as an enemy with a makeshift electrified hammer stands over you in Dying Light 2

Twenty years after the events of the first Dying Light game, the zombie virus has spread throughout the entire human population. It hasn’t taken hold of everyone yet, though – humans in the post-apocalyptic stronghold of Villedor track the progress of their infection with a biomarker, and keep it under control by staying away from the dark.

During the day, the streets are packed with lurching hordes on every corner, but the night holds even more terrors – not only do the zombies enrage when the sun sets, protagonist Aiden Caldwell is also in danger of losing his humanity as the dial on his biomarker steadily ticks down the longer he spends in the darkness.

Personally, I’d set up a UV nightclub and spend every evening drinking enough not to notice when I inevitably turn. Aiden, however, is a cool guy on a mission to find his sister, so he spends every waking moment risking it all for complete strangers, because you don’t survive very long in the end times without making a few allies.

And everyone wants a favour, it turns out. Dying Light 2’s open world is absolutely stuffed with side quests. So far I’ve vaulted into parkour challenges, scavenged spare parts for fellow Villedorians, and recovered a mink stole for a lady I found warbling on a rooftop. Next up I’m on my way to the Bazaar, a sanctuary set up inside a repurposed cathedral for a faction of survivors called, er, the Survivors.

A string of UV lights providing safety at night in Dying Light 2

They’re suspicious when I meet them at the gates, but a quick flash of my biomarker disarms them. They offer to show me around, and Aiden responds: “What a nice change from wanting to hang me.” Presumably our first meeting didn’t go so well. In Villedor, it feels like I’m just as likely to be targeted by my fellow humans as the infected that come out at night.

Everything that made Dying Light fun has been improved

The Bazaar is reminiscent of a hipster bar, with its floors covered in woven tapestries, string lights, and bunting festooning the wooden beams. If this were Shoreditch there’d be a penny-farthing rack outside. It’s a welcome reprieve from the desolate streets. Inside I meet a cast of grizzled Survivors who are, just like everyone else in Villedor, going through some stuff. Allies are worth more than gold here, so I accept a rescue mission from a headstrong woman called Sophie, whose brother foolishly ventured into a dark zone while wounded.

The mission takes place at night when the city is even less welcoming. Rooftop gardens, once populated by survivors huddled around a fire singing songs, are now full of zombies who tear through the nooks and crannies of the building in search of their next meal, snarling and screaming as they go – maybe they’re also singing in their own special way. If you’re lucky, these gardens will still contain honey and chamomile, which can be used to make bandages, and if you’re really lucky then you’ll find glowing blue UV mushrooms that bolster your resistance to infection, letting you spend more time away from the light.

A well-armoured man has captured three other humans and threatens to execute them in Dying Light 2

Villedor is a parkour playground. There are plenty of ziplines, streetlights, and ladders to haul and shimmy yourself around, and handily marked piles of trash and mattresses to cushion your fall. You can chain together some seriously impressive moves, but the architecture feels organic enough to make you feel at least a little clever for figuring out a route across the rooftops.

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When I get to my destination, a man begs me to help restore power to their windmill and get their UV lights working again. I can choose to ignore him and focus on the mission, but I agree to help, and try to figure out how to get to the top of the tower – it’s a vertical climbing puzzle, much like the antenna towers in the first game. Even good deeds can have unintended consequences; when I eventually find Sophie’s brother and the young boy he brought with him, I wonder if things would have turned out differently had I arrived earlier.

The choices you make influence both the trajectory of the story and the physical world around you. There are three factions in Dying Light 2 – the community-focused Survivors, authoritarian Peacekeepers, and anarchic Renegades. By favouring one faction over another, you influence the city’s general alignment and cause the story to branch out, setting you on a different path.

Lawan stands on a rooftop at night in Dying Light 2

Dying Light 2 lead designer Tymon Smektała tells me just how divergent these paths can become. “At some point,” he explains, “the story branches, and huge main story quests, which take around 40 minutes to complete, ask you to do completely different things. Depending on the choices you make you won’t see one of those.” For obvious reasons, Smektała refrains from disclosing much about alternate endings, but he’s keen to point out that rather than branching out only in the final quests, they’re “based on your choices throughout the whole game”. In co-op, choices are made by the host, so dropping into a friend’s game will allow you to play out an alternate series of events.

These decisions aren’t black-and-white, and as my quest to save Barney revealed, you can’t help everyone. Do I hand over the power station to the Peacekeepers who helped me secure the building, or the Survivors who tipped me off to its location? To complicate matters further, they each offer different rewards. The Survivors would renovate their zones so they’re easier to traverse, while the Peacekeepers would install traps in their territories, which you can use to quickly kill any undead who are chasing you.

Villedor is a parkour playground

Later on I’m handed an old paraglider to help me explore downtown. As the sun rises, I strap it to my back and leap off the side of a building; with the wind in my sails, I gently steer myself down to safety. The downtown area is packed with skyscrapers, which makes for a stunning view, but it’s nigh impossible to get around the rooftops quickly.

The paraglider is the perfect addition to Dying Light’s freerunning recipe. Sprinting desperately toward the nearest building, scrambling up the masonry, and then hurling yourself across the rooftop is even more fun when you can then swan dive off the edge and spiral around to a different spot. With enough practice, I’ll be able to upgrade my parkour skills so I can sink my heel into a zombie’s skull as I land, splattering their brains all over the floor.

Using the Dying Light 2 paraglider to glide between buildings

The combat feels a little sharper than in the first game, too, and there’s some superb smushing sounds when you crater an enemy’s face with a club. There are no guns in Dying Light 2, but I didn’t feel too helpless without them, as my electrified axe was more than enough to keep the zombies at bay, as long as I was careful to avoid being overwhelmed by large groups. Slashing away mindlessly isn’t the best way to approach a fight; after depleting an enemy’s stance meter, they can be staggered, allowing you to capitalise on their vulnerability. As I gain combat experience, I unlock powerful new moves that allow me to take enemies down even faster.

Everything that made Dying Light fun has been improved on, but for me the real test will come when I can invite friends to join me. No matter how great the story is and how well written and acted the NPCs are, I’m looking for the emotional payoff from outpacing my screaming friends and leaving them to fall under a zombie avalanche as I glide gracefully into the night. And I’ll have to wait for the Dying Light 2 release date for that schadenfreudian delight.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human Dying Light 2: Stay Human Dying Light 2: Stay Human Humble $59.99 Pre-order Network N earns affiliate commission from qualifying sales.

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