Aiden Caldwell, enigmatic hero of Dying Light 2: Stay Human, is a member of the Pilgrims—a loose gathering of post-apocalyptic drifters wandering the ruins of the old world. He arrives in the City, the nameless metropolis where the game is set, looking for his sister, Mia. “Aiden is plagued by vague, disconnected memories of her,” says lead game designer Tymon SmektaÅ‚a. “When he learns the people responsible for what happened to her have been found there, he embarks on a mission to learn the truth.”
This open-world zombie game is going a step beyond the original, backing its free-running, undead swarms, and brutal melee combat up with an interactive, branching story you can have a real impact on. The City isn’t just home to countless numbers of aggressive infected, but warring factions of human survivors too. It’s a big old mess, but a compelling setting for a survival horror game. And one of the most interesting features in Dying Light 2 is how the City changes dramatically depending on the time of day.
When night falls, the streets are overrun with infected. The safe option is to stay on the rooftops and wait for the sun to send them scurrying back into their lairs. But if you’re feeling brave, venturing down into the depths of the city can net you some quality loot. Building interiors that are usually teeming with zombies are suddenly empty, with only a few stragglers remaining, letting you sneak in to grab gear and upgrades. Then you just have to worry about making it out and back to the relative safety of the rooftops.
“The City transforms at night,” says SmektaÅ‚a. “Citizens hide away in their hiding places, the glow of UV lamps is visible everywhere, and the silence of the night is interrupted by the sound of monsters crawling out into the streets. A world full of dangers by day becomes a whole different challenge at night. The lairs of the infected become empty, giving you the opportunity to explore and find useful and sometimes very valuable items.”
Techland describes Dying Light 2’s setting as a ‘modern dark age.’ While most zombie games are set in the immediate aftermath of an outbreak, or long after it, this story takes place just as the world has gotten over the initial shock and is starting to rebuild. “Fifteen years have passed since the global apocalypse that followed the virus emerging, and we’ve tried to make the City reflect this in a realistic and credible way,” says SmektaÅ‚a. “We looked for inspiration in the cities where we live. We let our imaginations run wild and thought about what would change if such a major catastrophe occurred.
“We imagined what parts of the city would stay human, and which parts would be reclaimed by nature. What kind of living spaces would be created by people, and what structures would be formed during these 15 years by the hands of people who cut off from technology. This is how our modern dark age was created—a civilization that returned to medieval times in the modern day, and with the memory of the world before the fall.”
Interestingly, the City isn’t a totally fixed, static environment. Parts of it can change based on the many decisions you make over the course of the game. Meaningful player choice is something the developer is striving for—including making you feel bad as the consequences of your actions play out in front of you. As you progress through the story, you’ll affect the lives of people in small, individual ways, but also change the layout of the City itself.
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