In some people's minds, it's all about that trailer. Techland's Dead Island premiered with an emotionally striking trailer, one of the first in a wave of slowed down cinematics that pulled at the heartstrings. People remember that debut more than the rest of the game, a fun but clunky zombie actioner with goofy weapons and a sense of humor completely divorced from the promotional materials.
With Dying Light 2, Techland might finally produce a game that matches with that promo clip's sense of weight and sentimentality. The sequel to Dead Island's spiritual successor, Dying Light 2 puts focus on storytelling. Players make choices that have consequences, and nothing is ever black and white. In a closed hour-long presentation, I saw how a typical mission progressed, with all the twists and turns you'd expect from a top in class first person narrative.
Aiden wakes up in a bar located in the last human occupied city on Earth. The patrons are having a hell of a night, mostly to "celebrate" their last day of fresh water. Aiden and his companions are aiming to meet with The Colonel, a supposed tyrant who's keeping the liquid gold all to himself. He sends a convoy of men to pick you up and supposedly kills one of your friends in the process.
This is where the first choice occurs in the demo. Aiden can stay with his friend or pursue the fan carrying the murderers. The developer chose to run, and Aiden's friend died during the pursuit. All throughout, Aiden is running across rooftops and through decrepit construction sights. The environment is impressively interactive, with beams that move like seesaws and let you get higher as you're going.
From what was said, staying with Aiden's friend would lead to a different outcome, as does your choice of who to trust in your confrontation with The Colonel. There were at least three choices I saw, and the consequences of each seemed to change aspects of the game fundamentally. I would have loved to see a real-time example of a choice going both ways in my demo, but the video I did see made the story feel pretty open-ended.
Of course, that's not to say that the goofy weapons of Dead Island are completely gone. Main character Aiden Caldwell has all the parkour moves and high-velocity stomping abilities of his predecessor. He also has a knack for edged weapons, inflicting several graphic zombie beheadings that made the audience in attendance gasp. Even if it's clearly no longer the focus, Techland's combat design prowess continues to shine.
Everything I've seen of Dying Light 2 makes it seem like it's going to make a big splash. The first game was a bit of a cult hit, and Techland used that status to build out an expansive experience for its fanbase. With Dying Light 2, they have a chance to hit even more players, filling in where certain other open-world shooters have been lacking. If they nail this narrative, Dying Light 2 might just be one of 2020's best.
TechRaptor previewed Dying Light 2 via a hand-off presentation by Techland at E3 2019.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.