Dying Light 2 review artwork and logo

Dying Light 2 is a game that tries to take itself seriously with a bombastic plot and massive stakes, yet it's at its best when you're smacking bandits off buildings with your magically enchanted table leg of pyromania. Even climbing up to the rooftop is just as much fun as chucking someone off it, because between the expansive open world and some top-notch parkour movement, messing around in Dying Light 2 is a delight!

So if you're curious about how Dying Light 2 compares to the original, as well as what the narrative is even all about, allow me to share my thoughts after spending about thirty hours falling off all sorts of buildings!

Video version of this review (~16 minutes)

Movement and Exploration

Much like the original, the highlight of Dying Light 2 is the environment and the ways you can interact with it. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, hanging off tiny ledges while a zombie horde cheers you on, drop-kicking bandits into other bandits and then off a balcony, swinging from one dubious platform to another - all of it is great fun!

Naturally, I didn't start off my adventure as the virtuoso of verticality. The path there was fraught with failure and missed jumps that lead me straight into the loving embrace of a zombie, but since the movement in Dying Light 2 is so fluid none of that ever stung all that badly. Instead, I took every fall and face-plant into a wall as a learning opportunity, slowly but surely mapping the vibrant city of Villedor and its many sky-high routes.

It took around ten hours for everything to click for me, but once it did I found myself entranced with Dying Light 2's movement. There's just something uniquely exciting about being able to jump off a massive building onto the street below, fully knowing that you timed everything perfectly and that you'll be able to bounce right back up before any zombie can even think about swiping at you.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of the parkour system

Some of the jumps look terrifying, but are more than doable once you get the hang of it

Things only get better at night when the stakes are higher as the zombies litter the streets in large numbers, while special variants start to pop up all over the place in order to give you a run for your money. And run you will, because if you are spotted or make too much noise, a 'chase' will be initiated. Each chase has four different tiers to represent just how boned you truly are, with each one spawning progressively more zombies, along with more powerful variants that want to chew on your face.

You can ditch your pursuers by reaching any friendly location with a UV light, something that is remarkably easy to do once you've already explored the map. However, if you decide to take some risks and get caught in unknown territory, a chase can be nerve-wracking yet also exhilarating at the same time. I only had a couple that went really out of hand, but each of those panicked chases across the rooftops ended up being such a memorable experience for me that I'm now convinced that Dying Light 2 has made a grave mistake by including so many safe areas.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of a big zombie at night

Nothing gets the blood pumping like a few dozen zombies breathing down your neck!

Besides giving the zombies some much-needed exercise, the main reason you'll want to venture out into the night are the various dark zones. These are areas that are tightly packed with zombies during the day, while throughout the night they offer a high risk, high reward approach to looting.

At night the majority of the really nasty zombies are busy howling outside, while the ones left inside are mostly stuck in a sort of catatonic state. While they're like this they are easy to avoid, though as with any sleepover, there's always one or two that are restlessly stomping around and making noise. So in order to avoid rousing an entire zombie horde you'll need to carefully navigate around the sleeping ones, stealthily take out the active ones, and ideally strip the place clean of any delicious loot in the process.

The most valuable of these items are inhibitors, three of which combined allow you to select a health or stamina boost. While you will uncover a fair few of these inhibitors throughout the main story campaign, the bulk of them is found in interesting places throughout the world, so you're highly encouraged to take risks and explore. It's a great idea, though I just wish the difficulty was cranked up a bit higher so you couldn't ignore the tense stealth sections by funneling zombies into a tight corridor and simply slicing them into ribbons.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of the sneaking sections

You could just beat them up, but sneaking around is much more entertaining

Combat and Weapons

Speaking of slicing, the combat in Dying Light 2 feels pretty much identical to the original, and that includes all of the good and bad elements. In other words, hitting enemies with improvised weapons that are capable of setting them ablaze or chopping heads straight off is always enjoyable, as is drop-kicking bandits into a boatload of zombies! The downside is that the combat system is very simple and once you master the basics pretty much all of the challenge will simply evaporate.

In theory the special zombies and the smarter human opponents are supposed to compensate for that by requiring more advanced tactics to take down, but for the most part you can just do the same dodge-hit-dodge routine from the very start to the very end without any issue. I didn't actually mind that too much, however, as the combat in Dying Light 2 is at its best when you're just clowning around, and the mild difficulty curve allows for just that.

Instead of being efficient and simply hitting a group of enemies over the head with a poisonous cricket bat, why not throw the baddies off rooftops, chuck carefully timed explosive canisters at them, kick them into environmental traps like fires or spikes, or maybe even make them fight another faction while you sit on a nearby car observing the carnage. It's certainly a far more engaging experience than simply mashing 'mouse 1' until there's nothing left.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of a chain of explosions

Sitting back and enjoying the chaos you caused is half the fun in Dying Light 2

The weapons themselves are also a nice bit of fun, though there is very little difference between them since a rusty pipe seems about as effective as an actual axe. That's probably a good thing because Dying Light 2's durability system makes it so you can never stick to your favorites for too long. You can slightly extend a weapon's lifespan by adding ridiculously over-the-top enhancements like fire attacks or a chance to electrocute enemies, but sooner or later you'll have to ditch it for something new.

I tend to find this sort of system annoying as it often results in you using underpowered and boring weapons in an effort to preserve your actually useful ones, but thankfully that's not the case in Dying Light 2. Instead, the system actually seems remarkably balanced as I always had at least one exciting new weapon waiting for me in reserve.

So rather than dread the moment when my fire-imbued block of wood would finally expire, I always found myself looking forward to crafting the next weapon and seeing just how stupid I could make it. While this often had the undesirable effect of reducing the difficulty even further, it did give me a nice sense of progression as I was always moving onto something bigger and more explosive than ever before.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of a mace hitting a bandit

Bonking bandits is fun, but look how tempting that giant window is!

Character Progression

Unfortunately, the weapon balance is not the only aspect of Dying Light 2 that suffers from the RPG-like progression system. I say this because when you first start playing Dying Light 2 the parkour will likely feel restrictive, bordering on clunky even. The reason for this is that many of the highly useful abilities like sliding, sprinting, wall-running and long-jumping need to be unlocked through the skill tree, so your moveset at the very beginning of the game will be comparatively barren.

The issue is then further compounded by the fact that there's a bunch of quality-of-life improvements in the parkour skill tree - things that are incredibly useful to have, yet so far down the priority list that you simply won't get them until the late-game. For example, you'll spend a fair bit of time sneaking around so having faster and nimbler movement while crouching would be a godsend, yet 'wasting' a point on that feels so incredibly bad when you can instead have wall-running or the ability to fall out of the sky without transforming your legs into a modern art piece.

While I mostly focused on the parkour side of things here, it's important to mention that the problems are mirrored in the combat skill tree as well. Getting fun abilities like stomping on fallen enemies or creating shockwaves when you fall out of the sky is highly discouraged when your limited points are better spent on more frequently used abilities like dodges or power attacks.

So either more skill points needed to be given out early in the campaign in order to flesh out the player's moveset, or some of the more niche abilities should've been combined into one. At the end of the day, do I really need to spend three hard-earned skill points in order to make something as simple as ledge-climbing a bit faster?

Dying Light 2 parkour skill tree

With a few less filler perks the skill tree would be a great addition

Story and Pacing

As for my opinion on the story, well, it's the type of narrative that's not bad enough that I'd want to make fun of it, yet also not good enough that I'd want to dive deep into its intricacies. The writing and a good portion of the voice acting are on the quality level of a B-grade zombie movie, which while very thematic, doesn't leave much of a lasting impression.

Without spoiling too much, your quest to find your long-lost sister Mia quickly gets derailed by local politics between two warring groups: Peacekeepers that are essentially a rules-obsessed police state, and Survivors which are a disorganized group of farmers, tinkerers and straight up madmen. Both groups are sadly portrayed as absolutely insufferable idiots throughout the story, yet you will still want to align yourself with one of them in order to unlock a variety of nifty benefits.

The Survivors expand your free-running repertoire with well-placed lifts, ziplines and other assorted parkour knickknacks, while the Peacekeepers help you fight zombies with improvised traps that range from practical to downright ridiculous. Choosing one over the other pushes some of the missions in a slightly different direction, while the main storyline is more or less identical between the two.

While I don't particularly mind that, I do have a problem with the campaign's pacing. Far too many missions boil down to doing the exact same thing over and over again, which initially made me think that Dying Light 2 is padding for time because it lacks content, yet the truth was surprisingly different! Somewhere around the 12-15 hour mark Dying Light 2 gave me access to a large new area to explore, the very first ranged weapon, as well as an incredibly fun glider - all at the same time!

If these toys were given out in more regular increments throughout the campaign, I think I would've had a much easier time accepting some of its flaws. As it stands, the lulls in the story only serve to point out just how unlikable the vast majority of the characters are, which for a game with as much dialogue as Dying Light 2 really is a shame.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of the glider

It's also a darn shame the glider becomes available so late in the campaign

World Design

However, while the writing might leave a lot to be desired, the world design is fairly well thought out and features far more color than what you might expect from a zombie game. After all, fifteen years have gone by since the world collapsed, so it makes sense that not everything is covered in dust and grime. Naturally, there's still plenty of that to be found within the disused buildings and underground service tunnels, though there's also plenty of areas where nature has transformed fields of concrete into fields of flowers.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when you're running across rooftops that are almost completely overgrown, either intentionally as a part of a farming project, or simply due to a decade of neglect. This sort of scenery gives Dying Light 2 a strong atmosphere as the contrast between the natural beauty of the world and the shambling hordes of the infected really drives home that 'end of the world' feeling.

The only issue I have with the world design is the overly liberal use of the copy/paste tool for building interiors, especially the ones that aren't story related. I think I've explored the exact same house over a dozen times throughout my adventures, and the same goes for many of the rooftop resorts which have identical item placements, down to the same travel bags you can rummage through for scraps.

In an average playthrough that's probably not going to be too big of an issue since the story will ping-pong you across the map, but if you're looking to go for 100% completion, I'd highly recommend you reconsider. There's a real sense of bloat to Dying Light 2's content, and if you force yourself to do missions or explore areas you might not have an interest in, you will likely burn out before you even finish the story as there is just far, far too much stuff to do.

Dying Light 2 screenshot of the world map

There's a ton of places to explore, so make sure to pace yourself

Performance and Bugs

To end all of this on a positive note, I have to say that I'm genuinely impressed by how stable Dying Light 2 was for me. Throughout my entire playthrough I don't think I've encountered more than a handful of bugs, and none of them have been even remotely disruptive. In fact, pretty much all of them have been hilarious as they involved enemies getting flinged into the stratosphere team rocket style or embedded into a nearby wall after a particularly savage drop-kick.

Performance has also been rock solid, even on my now-aging machine. The only time I ever encountered any sort of noticeable frame drops was immediately after loading the game, though even that quickly faded. So regardless if I was fighting a horde of zombies face-to-face or gliding from the top of a skyscraper, I'm happy to say that Dying Light 2 was at its best behaviour!

Dying Light 2 screenshot of the old city at night

Closing Thoughts

Dying Light 2 is a game with many flaws and many triumphs. For every obnoxious character or repetitive mission there's a building that's simply begging to be climbed or a zombie that's just perfectly positioned for a goomba stomp. Combine that with some of the best free-running mechanics around and an open world that's brimming with locations to explore, and you've got yourself a rather entertaining apocalypse.

So if you enjoy creating your own fun as you mess around in open world games, and you also don't mind a bit of repetition, then I feel like I can heartily recommend Dying Light 2. On the other hand, if you're looking for tightly designed missions and a story that will keep you at the edge of your seat with excitement, I'm afraid you won't find that here.

The final thing worth mentioning is that Dying Light 2 has a massive amount of potential, and if Techland sticks with it like they did with the original, I have no doubt that at some point down the line it could become a true classic. As it stands, Dying Light 2 is a slightly misguided yet highly enjoyable bandit-kicking simulator!

Dying Light 2 throwing a zombie off the roof

Kicking people off buildings is so integral to the experience it's on the promo art!