When you have an open world, the main challenge is to fill it with things and activities to bring it to life. Dying Light had the city of Harran and Dying Light 2 stepped it up with the larger city of Villedor. Both games presented a huge parkour playground to jump around and climb all while hordes of undead nip at your heels. With so much to see, each one provides a huge to-do list of optional missions and errands to run in addition to the story. However, while Dying Light 2 definitely has more than its predecessor, they're far less fulfilling.
This piece contains spoilers for Dying Light and Dying Light 2: Stay Human.
The Dying Light Standard
Within a few hours of playing the first Dying Light, you can get a general feel for Harran's layout and how to effectively explore it. You start off in the low-building area of the Slums before reaching the heights of Old Town and the lows of the coast. Each area has its own features, dangers, and side quests to complete. You can find them by talking to people, encountering events in the field, or even taking on the bulletin. Though there are far fewer quests, this allows for more time to really design some of the more interesting and unusual ones to make an impact.
One of these missions is encountered in the Slums involving an unusual character named Dahlia. She has a mysterious air about her and claims to be able to understand how the infected function and can use this against them. After listening to this, you'll receive a quest called "Witch Queen," which involves completing a number of steps to make a magic potion. Each one involves reaching a special area, gathering a specific item, and hunting certain types of infected. After each step, you'll return to Dahlia to receive a new version of the potion that prevents zombies from detecting you but also has some pretty trippy side effects like reversing controls or flipping perspective upside down. Still, it's worth it to go through all this testing to end up with the true potion that you can make yourself, and it will work without any side effects.
Another stand-out mission can be found in Old Town, a place filled with tight spaces and tall buildings to make the area feel more intimidating. There's also far more infected wandering around as well as a whole batch of new side quests, including "Fan Zone." After talking to a man named Noah, you'll learn of a distress call coming from somewhere in the area.
Once you find it, you'll start hearing the panicked pleas of a man hiding in a nearby building. He's asking for aid to care for the women and children in the building so you'll enter and make it up to his floor. You'll see a floor filled with corpses as the stress call is revealed to be a recorded message. After turning it off, the man's voice is heard over the intercom as he exposes his psychopathic nature and starts filling the room with gas, which rapidly drains your energy. The man will take this opportunity to attack you with a rifle, so you'll be fighting for your life as you try not to choke to death.
The Best of the Sequel
With the much bigger world of Villedor comes a much longer list of things to do. You'll quickly realize that many of them have the same kind of structure, so they'll all blend together. While running across the rooftops, exclamation points will frequently pop up on your HUD to direct you to a person in need. Despite what context they provide, most of their tasks boil down to "go here and get something," or they'll just point you in the direction of combat and parkour challenges. You may occasionally encounter some conflict with characters you meet during the quest, but it will always end in either a quick resolution or a bloody mess. This means that a majority of Dying Light 2's side quests are just busywork, but there's one that stands above the rest.
While playing through the story, you'll encounter characters dressed in neat dark green uniforms with messenger bags and sometimes hoods. Talking to them reveals that they are members of the Carrier's Guild, an elite organization with a big responsibility. After talking to a few members, you'll be directed to the Guild HQ to interview for a position with the leader, Driscoll. He reveals that the carriers are responsible for safely delivering messages, packages, and information across the city for the purpose of re-establishing a communication network. Unlike Pilgrims such as Aiden, Carriers do this first and foremost for the people rather than for material reward.
After pushing, you get a chance to prove yourself to the Guild by using your skills to retrieve lost packages from high places or dropped correspondence from infected-infested dark zones. You then get a chance to deliver letters to people around Villedor and in settlements. Upon delivery, you'll get a nice bit of narrative that helps flesh out this world while actually making you feel like you're making a difference. This is one of the longer side quests that has you making multiple deliveries as you move up the ranks and revive the system that started with ancient Egypt centuries ago, at least according to Driscoll.
Quantity Over Quality
From looking at these quests, we can that the main thing they share in common is a sense of scale. Whether it's brewing multiple potions until you get the recipe right to joining a secretive organization of new-age postal workers, the Dying Light series is definitely capable of providing missions that give a sense of accomplishment. However, what separates them is that since Dying Light 2 has aimed to have more quests, it has unwittingly followed the path of Skyrim: a huge world where everyone has a task for you, but only a handful of them feel important.
This has caused its questline to be stretched thin with many missions being copy-pasted to add padding. What's strange is that these examples prove that the Dying Light series has the formula for making good quests. The idea is to present a scenario that challenges us to overcome difficult obstacles in order to obtain a reward. It can either be a special item that we feel like we earned (the camouflage potion) or recognition for doing something meaningful (the Carrier's Guild). The first Dying Light was more contained but they made the most of its design while Dying Light 2 has opened up and expanded at the cost of memorable gameplay. Sometimes, "less is more" rings true.