Every tower tells a story in Dying Light 2. Each explorable floor is like a living act within an architectural play, threading its own unique tales into the greater story of the overall structure. You'll be ascending and descending these floors not just to gain vertical advantages in traversal and combat as Alden Caldwell, then, but to learn more about the history, character, and secrets of The City; one of the most ambitious open worlds we've seen in quite some time.
"Dying Light 2 is full of infected, but also of humans, with their everyday activities and purposes," explains animation director Dawid Lubryka, as part of GamersRadar's Future Games Show E3 2021 showcase. "We are building Dying Light 2 around the simple rule: ground is death, and rooftops are life. What is cool is that NPC's act differently on each of those levels, and their behaviour depends on the choices you make, and the way you play."
In other words, you might find an idyllic paradise of hydroponic farms and familial communes atop the penthouse suite of one of The City's skyscrapers, but take the elevator shaft down a few floors, and you'll likely encounter something closer to a Hobbesian nightmare, filled with depraved monsters who have shed all facets of their former humanity.… and I'm not just talking about the zombies.
This is Dying Light 2's mission statement: to critically explore veneer theory in all its shades, and present players with the kind of harrowing choices and consequences you'd only expect from a dystopian future that developer Techland is calling the Modern Dark Ages. All in time for Christmas 2021.
"I know we all have great fun killing infected, but we also want to give players a deep, through-provoking experience that will let them be merged into the Dying Light 2 world for many hours," explains Lubryka when asked how Techland's sequel aims to mature the story that it first began with 2015's Dying Light. "Thanks to the choice and consequence mechanics, the story will be shaped differently depending on the way you play."
Lubryka is, of course, referring to the "narrative sandbox" that Techland has been pitching as a unique selling point for Dying Light 2 since the game was first announced back at E3 2018. In theory, whenever player makes a major decision as Aiden throughout his story, the entire city will reflect those choices; that might look like one district being given access to running water, allowing Aiden to heal himself at various stations throughout the area, or it might be more extreme, in which an entire faction takes over the district, littering the streets with its soldiers.
As for Aiden himself, Techland has finally shed more light on its new protagonists' background, and the motivations for his presence within The City; a new trailer – which debuted at The PC Gaming Show over the weekend – revealed that he's a runaway from a mysterious facility that conducted experiments on children. Could this be the source of his infection? Lubryka is hesitant to share any more, but does promise that Dying Light 2 will explore "what happened in the Dying Light franchise between both games."
Outside of the main story, Techland is also aiming to keep players busy and entertained with plenty of peripheral excursions, building on the replay value and staying power that the studio so effectively managed to capture with the original game.
"Side quests are an important part of world building in Dying Light 2", says Lubryka. "Through these quests, you can decide what The City will look like, or bring new opportunities for the citizens. Some citizens will support your decisions, some will not, but it is up to you to decide what The City will look like. We have a lot of game activities prepared for our players, but at this stage we want it to be a surprise for them!"
You won't have to be doing these quests alone, either. Continuing in the tradition of its predecessor, Dying Light 2 will allow you to play the whole campaign online with up to three other friends. While Lubryka stops short of suggesting that multiplayer is the best way to experience Dying Light 2, he does recommend it as an "opportunity to see how the world changes when your friend makes different decisions to you".
"In co-op, you can walk in their shoes to experience all those differences, but there really is no one way of playing Dying Light 2. It's up to you!"
A Christmas miracle
After finally confirming a release date of December 7, 2021 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, all eyes are now on Dying Light 2 to see whether it really delivers on the promises that it's been making up till now. Techland has – at least – been more transparent about its development pipeline over the last few months, making up for over a year of radio silence, and everything the team is saying has been encouraging news so far.
Still, the ambition of the narrative sandbox, the pressure to escape the hokey storytelling of the original Dying Light, and that looming deadline for the game to hit its confirmed release date in as polished a state as possible means we'll have to await Dying Light 2's launch with a healthy degree of cautious optimism for now. Even so, those rooftops have never looked more enticing.