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Dying Light went from frustrating mess to probably the best open world game i’ve ever played

Content of the article: "Dying Light went from frustrating mess to probably the best open world game i’ve ever played"

and it took 4 skills and 20 hours to do it.

for context, i played through on hard, and had played the game years before on normal.

the game has the most frustrating, terribly balanced skill tree i've ever seen. you go through weapons in a matter of minutes, sometimes taking upwards of 20 hits to kill a single normal zombie until you get jumped and bitten by some nob shambling up behind you, then the 10 minute escapade to desperately level up your power skill undoubtedly attracts some screeching, hateful viral that starts sprinting and grimacing at you like a 6 year old who thinks he's intimidating, dodging every one of your swings and countering quicker than space-time usually allows. meanwhile, none of the zombies you originally attacked are dead because you only hit them 50,000 times and the game sees that as an amateur effort, your health is slipping away faster than the medkits (of which you only have 2) can account for, your stamina is drained and your kick does nothing. then you inevitably die, lose all your progress in the survivor skill tree, and wake up with 3 broken weapons that weren't doing anything in the first place. it's a frustrating, monotonous, unfair experience, a challenge not of your level of skill or problem-solving but more of persistence and lack of sanity, where most "guides" and "tips" usually tell you to avoid the zombies altogether, leaving your power levels utterly emaciated by the time you really need them. i was hating it, my co-op partner was hating it. we felt like we'd missed some class and the game knew something that we didn't, like those people who play Bloodborne and fail to realise that you're supposed to get your first weapon at the Hunter's Dream.

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then we unlocked herbal medkits, tackle, stomp and the grappling hook. shit got wild, fast.

killing zombies all of a sudden became fun. we would come up against a group and think "oh shit, how are we gonna deal with this" instead of "oh shit, why are we even here". we were mixing up our attacks, sprinting around, flanking, knocking zombies over, waiting for the opportunity to finish one off, picking them off one at a time, whittling down their numbers in glorious melee combat. we could back up, identify each individual zombie type and come up with new strategies to single them out. jump up to a ledge to aggro the virals, tackle them off then stomp them, tackle through the groups of shambling dickheads to attack the one with the gas tank on his back, let the explosion kill the rest of them. if it ever got too hectic, we could zip straight out of there with a grappling hook then take the 10 minutes the game requires to get our health back up to where it should be. it became a satisfying, cathartic experience, where we actually looked forward to the challenge of the fight and the chase of getting outnumbered cause we actually had a way of defending ourselves. which begs the question; why did it take us 20 hours to get there?

your character, at their baseline, simply isn't prepared for the challenges that the game puts you up against. you die, fast, and have neither the defence or the offence to counter it. your weapons are maddeningly weak, your kick only serves to (very briefly) push a zombie back (sometimes), and the zombies come in such huge packs that any sense of progress is quickly squashed by being flanked or attacked from behind. we left every single encounter with countless broken weapons and maybe 2 out of the 20 zombies we went up against dead, we simply didn't have the health, time or inclination to get through the rest of them. running works, sometimes, provided you're not out at night or attracting virals, but it felt less like a strategic decision and more of a necessity. i get that the entire point is to use tactical cowardice, to pick your fights and know when to run, but when the game rewards the usage of tactics with upgrades to their respective skill trees, avoiding fights because you're weak is counter-productive. the only way for the combat to get better (by which i mean both easier and actually fun) is to be using the combat. it felt like, both at the time and afterwards with retrospect, that the game simply doesn't give you the skills you need fast enough. it felt like playing Dark Souls without a roll or Gears Of War without cover; doable, but at the cost of any fun i could've been having. i've never played a game that took such a huge turn in terms of quality based on such simple, basic changes. if they'd have given you stomp from the get-go, even with the tiny amount of health kits and no reliable way of getting the zombies down, it'd probably go down as one of my favourite games of all time, but the opening hours are so frustrating that it just soured the whole experience for me.

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pre-stomp; 5/10

post-stomp; 9/10


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