I’m 11 posts old! I pushed through into ‘double-figures’ with my last offering; I’m through the preliminary investigations and the experiment has started properly. Laying down each of those first 10 posts has made me a little less apprehensive about hitting the ‘publish’ button and now the homepage is ‘populated’ rather than being simply speckled with a few entries. Tape-rewind-sound-effect back a few months to before my first post and I was looking up “blogging advice”. Only one thing really stuck, the often repeated mantra of “have a schedule”… I’m bad with schedules… I kept it realistic; ‘4 posts a month’, which has since been ‘corrected’ to 3 posts a month (on average)’. It’s mid-January and I’m struggling to keep up; the problem is ‘Dying Light’.
I’ve been playing ‘Dying Light’ almost exclusively during my gaming hours since that lost week between Christmas and New Year when the days all blend together and your only real concern is that the mince pies might run out at any moment. ‘Dying Light’ is good, and I (or we, as my partner and I are co-oping it) am enjoying it. Like the authors of so many of the articles I have read recently, I don’t think a game needs to be in excess of 20 hours to be good value for money. Anything with a campaign North of 15 hours needs to be considered carefully before I get on board and I’ll only undertake a couple of games topping 30 hours each year. So, having picked up good vibes, it was with no small amount of consideration that I leapt into the slums of Harran and I’m still merrily hacking away at its endless stream of former inhabitants some weeks later.
A review might have been the obvious direction for this post… And it would go something like this :
“Dying light is the smoothie you get when ‘Dead Island’, ‘Mirror’s Edge’, and ‘Far Cry 3’ are all popped in a blender – does that sound like your beverage of choice? If ‘Yes!’ you’ll like ‘Dying Light'”
That’s it… See? Not much of a blog post…
So, in the spirit of that new year diet, I’m going to take an electrified machete to ‘Dying Light’ and, rather than review it, cut away all those excess calories leaving us with a lean aggressive mustelid capable of untold damage. Or if you prefer I’ll just outline the features I’d remove from the game.
#1: Weapon Degradation: My gut reaction to weapon degradation is one of quiet resignation. I know it’s there to add a resource management aspect to the experience, but I can’t get excited about it. Put bluntly, it’s not the kind of thing that gets put in a clipart star on the box art to shift units. ‘Dying Light’ does weapon degradation so half-heartedly it could be easily trimmed. Weapons can be repaired a limited number of times with ‘scrap’ found everywhere, upgrades and abilities mean that degradation is slower and the repair limit is somewhat flexible. Finally, game progression means that you frequently pick up a better weapon than the one you’re holding, so rarely get to the repair limit.
#2: Around 60% of the Locked Boxes: Oooohhh! This box is locked! Clearly contains something good right?… Nope! Whilst it’s never stated explicitly, Harran’s citizens weren’t the sharpest tools in the box even before the zombie outbreak. Most of them were ritualistic in securing pieces of plastic pipe, scrap metal and string in large locked chests, sometimes having several in a single room. Even playing co-op and having 2/3 of us unpicking, clearing rooms of loot is arduous.
#3: Money: Harran’s outbreak is contained within the city limits. In this respect money is marginally more logical here than in some games; a few opportunistic ‘war profiteers’ making some easy cash on the expectation of surviving to spend it later. The problem is that it is everywhere; mugging zombies, selling loot and joining in with the bizarrely lucrative coffee trade all give you cash. The traders themselves sell a handful of mediocre weapons, typically only one of their offerings will carry the damage rating of the better finds around the city. As a result, I’m well into the black to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In terms of engagement, the constant loot/sell cycle becomes a chore with no reward and could easily be substituted for an actual ‘trade’ system to cut out the money.
#4: Weird Inventory Rules: The inventory is a mess, I’ll summarise so we’re all up to speed: You have a limited number of spaces in your backpack; you can equip 4 weapons which then don’t take from your backpack allowance; likewise you can equip 4 types of ‘throwables’ which then don’t take up space; valuables and crafting items have no limits and don’t take up backpack space; the items you craft however do take up space; ammunition doesn’t take up space, but has its own numerical limits (and can’t be moved to your storage bag); the UV flashlight does take up space, but can’t be sold or moved to your storage bag. In short you can carry a limited number of small knives, but several tonnes of scrap metal.
#5: A number of Kyle Cranes: Kyle Crane is our protagonist and I’m not the type to knowingly spoil without warning, so I’ll just say that he is ‘functional’ at pushing along the cliché-ridden plot. I’m not attached to him, to the point that I had to look up his first name to write that last sentence. The game’s lack of moral choice doesn’t even make Kyle a blank for us to mould into our own image, he’s just … there… It is both disconcerting and bizarre that players (like myself) going down the co-op route are all forced to play as Kyle; seeing another Kyle is weird enough, but with 3 or 4 players it gets downright surreal when you all congregate on a missions objective.
#6: ‘Pick Up’ Button Pushes: Be prepared to wear out whatever key you have assigned to use/pick-up. Taking a locked box as a common example – you need to press it to pick the lock, press again to open the box and press twice more if there are the standard two items contained; each time accompanied by the associated animation. given that 90% of what you find falls into the category of ‘craftable items’ (which don’t take up space) if seems like an open and collect all policy could be implemented. It’s also worth noting, adding to the weirdness, that ammo picks up automatically when you walk over it, but not money.
Whilst my slices might seem to attack some of the RPG elements of the game, many would still remain; the skill tree, weapon modifications and upgrades are all good features. My vision is that the slimline game would shift focus back onto the strengths of ‘Dying Light’; the fast paced 1st person combat linking seamlessly with free-running; the wide variety of story, side missions, and challenges; and the different play-style choices accommodated by the open-world nature of Harran.
… It took me an embarrassingly long time to come up with ‘Dying Lite’ as the title for this post…