In my initial preview of Dying Light 2 from E3 2019, I gave my write-up the headline of “Choice and Consequence is Everything.” That notion was further confirmed through my first hands-on session with the game last week. Throughout the story content, I not only decided with whom I wanted to align myself but also which benefits I wanted to confer upon the city. While I didn’t affect the city in the sweeping kind of ways I witnessed in that 2019 demo, in which an entirely new area was made accessible and a new zombie type emerged from a newly uncovered lakebed, my character had a refreshing amount of say in the way both the story and city progress.
According to Smektała, this was a directive delivered straight from creative director Adrian Ciszewski as the team began work on Dying Light 2. Ciszewski, who also served as a director on the original Dying Light, noted that the game delivered players the tools and moves to approach in-game obstacles how they want using the parkour and combat mechanics. However, once players started interacting with the story, it was scripted and rigid, not allowing players to make much impact on how things actually played out.
“Our goal for the second game is to try to give players the same amount of freedom in the story that they have in the gameplay,” Smektała says. “Of course, it’s a different beast with the narrative; you are always limited to branching narratives, but we took on that challenge, and we really tried hard to do that. I think we have achieved that, and we did a little bit more than just branching narratives.”
To achieve this, Techland instilled choice and consequence that work on three levels. The first level, according to Smektała, consists of all the major decisions you make in the main story. These decisions have an impact on the world, city, and characters, changing the very course of the narrative. I don’t want to spoil anything for the main story, but I witnessed this firsthand as I followed one questline through all the way to the end, opting to side completely with one of the main characters I encountered, bringing their arc to what feels like a satisfying conclusion.
The second level stems from the side content, where you make decisions with characters and you will later notice something related to that choice in the future; Smektała gives the example of an opera singer you can choose to help, and if you do, she’ll appear in one of The City’s hubs, singing arias.
The final layer of choices comes into play with the city alignment mechanics. Based on the choices you make, you align your interests with those of one of the factions that inhabit The City. The two factions prominently featured in my demo were the Survivors, a group of characters just trying to rebuild civilization, and the Peacekeepers, a well-armed militia that uses blunt force over strategy. In my playthrough, I sided with the Survivors, which changed the alignment of that district to give them more control. In doing so, I opened up more ziplines throughout that area of The City, giving me more traversal options for when I don’t feel like descending into the zombie-infested streets. Had I sided with the Peacekeepers, I would have unlocked car traps for helping to control the hordes, a less elegant solution than the ziplines, but still useful.
According to Techland, players will need to weigh the benefits in each district as they make their decisions. There are seven zones in which you can make these decisions, and there are seven levels of different rewards for each faction. As you continue to align with one, you can unlock more benefits with them, while making choices to align with the other will unlock benefits for that faction. The result is a city that is reactive to your various choices, even when you’re acting outside of the main narrative.
Of course, many of the most satisfying choices in any game is in how you develop your character. While I can’t say too much about the skill tree, Dying Light 2 gives you multiple skill trees to develop based on the play style you want to use. In addition, you can gather a kind of collectible through exploration that allows you to upgrade either your health or stamina.