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My heart was pounding as the sun slipped below the horizon, my palms damp with sweat as I tried to outrun the darkness. The sound of my own ragged panting filled my ears. I was so close to the tower. So close. But so were they. I frantically searched for open pathways and sprang from rooftop to rooftop. Jump. Climb. Run. Pray. I could hear them right behind me. Suddenly sanctuary loomed large ahead. One last leap to freedom and I ran through the welcoming doorway, pulling myself onto the ledge and safety. This, my friends, is what it’s like to play Dying Light, the first person zombie apocalypse survival game from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

I’ve been a gamer for years, but have played MMOs pretty exclusively, but this was my first experience with a game of this type. With that in consideration, I’m writing this review from a very subjective “fun” standpoint. I’m also doing my best to avoid direct spoilers. A lot of the fun of this game for me was the surprise of discovery.

After I completed the Steam download (I’m playing the Windows PC platform), I fired the game up to see what it could throw at me. Dying Light starts with a lengthy title sequence that does a fantastic job establishing the why and where of what’s happening. It then launches into a series of early quests designed to take the player on a brief tour of “the tower” – our current home base – and introduce us to various important denizens. Several of the tasks also serve to teach the basics of movement and actions. I struggled a bit with some of the parkour elements, mostly from being unfamiliar with the play style. I poked around in the various key bindings and found the answers I needed, and an hour later was smoothly making my way around the slums of Harran. I would guess that this is a non-issue for anyone with experience playing first-person shooters and other similar games. If I got lost during a part of the training sequence I just had to pay attention to my surroundings. There are plenty of arrows and other indicators to help point you in the right direction, something that also appears out in the world. You will do a LOT of climbing, and I would not recommend this game for anyone who has a serious fear of heights. It’s only a video game, but I could see the realism causing some anxiety for the agoraphobia.

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I felt pretty good about my training in the tower, but the first quest that sent me out into the world gave me pause. I was nervous my first time out. Hell, who wouldn’t be??? There were zombies out there. They wanted to eat me. I had no issues finishing this quest, but it made me realize what an excellent job Dying Light has done of creating a very immersive world. The graphics are gorgeous (despite a few slowdown and hitches), the sound is super creepy, and the quests are fun. One drawback is that the game can be a bit on the grindy side, especially when it comes to the crafting component. I found myself spending a LOT of time exploring and searching for things to loot. It seems like a lot of useless crap at first, but as you gain more blueprints everything comes in handy. I’ve always been way into crafting in games, so I was happy to have the opportunity to build fun toys like flaming baseball bats and Molotov cocktails.

I spent about a week playing Dying Light on and off. My exploration of the world initially kept me from getting super far into the actual narrative of the game, but after a few days of clearing random safe zones and opening tons of chests (lock picking gets old really fast) I switched over to focusing more on the quest lines. There is some stuff that happens in this game that is f*cked up. It’s a compelling story, and I found myself torn over some of the things I had to do. It really makes me wonder about the bigger picture, and I can’t wait to get into the next major area to see how things progress. The game offers a main quest line that furthers the story and optional side quests that reward large chunks of experience. Experience boosts levels across 3 different talent trees, and a level up provides the players with a choice of new power-increasing talents. It’s a solid system, and as with the story progression I can’t wait to get further into it. The biggest plus is that it seems to reward you for your preferred playstyle. I did a lot of climbing and avoidance instead of head-on zombie assault, so I received points in agility and was able to become stronger in that tree first.

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There are also random events and vendors that pop up across the map, adding a sense of newness to play that can be slightly monotonous at times. I did find a few of the quests somewhat difficult and had to google solutions…but that may come as much from my impatience as my newness to the genre. Once I found what I needed to do I was able to apply that knowledge to later missions and everything slowly fell into place.

I can’t express enough how important it is to be aware of your surroundings while playing. More than once I thought I was fine only to have a herd of zombies break down a door and attempt to make me into a sandwich. I also learned early on not to underestimate the big zombies (I was destroyed by some jerk carrying a mace made of rebar and concrete). There are also various puzzles to solve (hint: if the ground is electrified there must be something electric that’s somehow touching it). Last, but most important, is the clock. The game is named Dying Light for a reason, and I learned two very important things:

SUNSET MEANS ANGRY SPEEDY ZOMBIES.
DARKNESS MEANS SUPER SPIDER-MAN FACESUCKER ZOMBIES!!!

You aren’t actually battling the clock until it appears on the right side of your in-game menu. Before that point the early quests are still showing what the game has to offer…and you’ll know when it’s time to experience the setting sun. Being outside at night grants a bonus to your stats, a bonus to your experience, and is absolutely terrifying (but in a good way)! The difference between day and night play is a great game component and something that really sets Dying Light apart from other games that I’ve tried. Overall, the game itself is solid. It does a fantastic job of immersing the player in a very realistic environment. The quests and plot line are interesting. I have a great deal more of the game to play through and feel that I’ve only scratched the surface, but based on my experience so far I would solidly recommend it.

[easyreview title=”Dying Light Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]

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Jennifer Paxton