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Dying Light’s parkouring system and how the game encourages players to use it.

I've played dying light (nightmare difficulty only!) quite heavily on stream on and I really enjoyed my experience with the movement system in it. The key, IMHO, is that the entire game is centered around giving players unlimited ways to parkour around the city and encouraging it in various ways.

This is what I wrote for a video on the that topic and I'd like to ask whether this is an opinion the rest of youy hold or even if you disagree.

— What is Dying Light?

For those who might not know, Dying Light is a game developed by Techland, a studio in Poland, and was first published in 2015. The expansion DLC, called "The following", was released in 2016 and the game as a whole has had continuous small updates to this day.

It's set in a fictional middle-eastern city, Harran, that's been overrun by a virus that turns people into cannibalistic zombies. You play as Kyle Crane, a special forces operative dropped into the city in order to find a file held by a warlord that's formed the biggest and most ruthless gang in the ruins of the city.

The other refugees have clustered around a skyscraper that's become known as "The Tower". Crane is rescued by them and that's where the game begins.

— Movement in Dying Light

Dying Light is a game about parkouring. But what is parkour? you might ask. According to wikipedia:

"a training discipline where practicioners (called traceurs) aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assisting equipment and in the fastest and most eficient way possible"

Before I go on I should mention that there will be some minor spoilers about gameplay elements that you come across as you progress in the game.

You can, of course, run on the ground, just like any other game, but the game also has climbing as a base skill. As you accrue experience in parkouring activities, you'll be able to select perks like sliding and vaulting that allow you to traverse obstacles without slowing down.

Listed like that it doesn't seem that impressive. You also have running, climbing, sliding, and vaulting in many games. So why is Dying Light's movement more interesting than those of other games?

The answer lies in the urgency built into the gameplay. In most games you can take your time while climbing, the challenge is in the climbing itself. When you travel you might encounter enemies but that's an occasional hazard. Most of the time you're taking it easy and maybe even admiring the environment around you.

— How enemies encourage Parkouring

Dying light flips that on its head becuase it adds zombies, called infected in the game, to the ground levels. So what I hear you say? Zombies aren't unique to this game of course and just like many other games they slowly shuffle around and are easily avoidable. Individual zombies aren't particularly difficult to defeat and taking on one isn't that much of a challenge. Even nightmare difficulty doesn't make zombies particularly challenging, it just takes longer to polish them off.

But what Dying Light does is put zombies everywhere in great numbers. Anytime you stop there's likely to be 10 or more zombies that turn and slowly shuffle towards you. So why not just kill them you might say.

That's where the second aspect of Dying Light's zombies becomes apparent. They spwan continously. They'll crawl out from under cars and stumble out of sheds in a never ending swarm. Once you reach high enough levels it's possible to kill them fast enough to clear an area for a very short while but choosing to simply stand and swing a melee weapon at zombies is generally a losing proposition because all you'll do is damage your weapon while the zombies will continuously renew their numbers. It's something you only want to do as a last resort at higher levels, and not even feasible early on. You can find some respite on elevated areas like the roof of a building, upper floors or inside a building, or the top of vehicles.

So the game encourages you to stay off the ground where all the zombies are or keep moving while you're down there. You could accomplish the same by making the ground hazardous in other ways, such as making the already existing poison spills the default, but there's something satisfying about outsmarting zombies that hazardous objects don't offer to the same degree.

As a side note, the game does put a lot of the better loot like medkits and guaranteed weapons inside vans and you have to spend time on the ground at a standstill picking locks to get them. So you can take on some risk in order to get better loot.

Melee is difficult and slow to kill zombies, especially on higher difficulty levels, but let's say you get a gun. A few headshots should clear the area right? Dying Light has another type of zombie, called "runners", that are fast and capable in melee combat. Shoot a gun and you'll hear a scream in the distance as runners are drawn to the sound. Use a gun to kill the first few and you'll simply draw more. Again you find yourself faced with the choice of either running or facing more and more enemies.

The game design actively discourages players from engaging in combat with zombies. It's rarely worth it. No, what you should be doing is avoiding them.

Early on the easy way to avoid most zombies is to climb. So you're naturally pushed towards using your parkour abilities.

— How environment and perks encourage Parkouring

The city's layout is also intended to encourage that. It's easy to climb onto roofs. There's plenty of multi-story buildings. Awnings, balconies, air conditioning units, and other ledge like protrusions allow you to climb most walls. They're also grabblable so you can reach places that might at first seem too far to leap to. There's a level of verticality that most other games don't offer and you're encouraged to make use of it.

All of that is possible to do with just the basic abilities you start with.

You're also offered unlimited choice in how you traverse the environment. The entire city is open to you from the beginning and you can choose how you traverse it. You can choose to run or sprint everywhere, you can choose to leap across rooftops, or any mixture of the two.

The mechanics are fluid enough that once you understand the parkour system well enough you'll be moving at good speed and can criss-cross the city swiftly. It's quite enjoyable to run across the city while you easily avoid lumbering zombies.

Movement will evolve as the game progresses however. At some point runners will spawn without the use of guns, so whereas previously you could take your time as long as you were above ground level, now climbing too takes on urgency when runners are after you. This is equally encouraged by perks like stomp that make elevation an advantage over zombies.

Then the game will give you a grappling hook. From that point on you'll be able to move around at will in a spider-man like fashion, grappling across tall buildings without worrying about falling. It truly rewards progressing your skills over the game when you can fly across the city like this.

— In Summary

All of these aspects work in combination to create a satisfying and meaningful experience.

If the parkouring mechacnics were not fluid, then it would become a chore to parkour. But the game goes out of its way to make then as easy as running on level ground.

If the zombies weren't desinged in the way they are, you might not have the encouragement to learn the parkouring system.

If there wasn't a plethora of climbeable and leapeable buildings then you wouldn't have the opportunity to use those skills and the choice of routes keeps the experience fresh.

But put them all together and you have a travelling system that permits and rewards mastering it. And it's arguably the most satisfying aspect of Dying Light.

Source with footage illustrating what I'm talking about –


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