How Techland pulled Hellraid off the shelf to inspire its new Dying Light DLC

(Image credit: Techland)

Before diving into Dying Light's new Hellraid DLC, let’s address the herd of elephants in the room. Yes, Techland is still working on Dying Light 2. Yes, Hellraid, the studio's dark fantasy hack n' slash, is still technically on hold and not in active development. And yes, Dying Light really is still receiving paid DLC five years on from its debut, just months before the PS5 and Xbox Series X are set to release. Narrative designer Paweł Płaza promises Techland’s latest launch isn't as crazy as it sounds. In fact, he says, it makes perfect sense. 

"We got the idea while playing old Hellraid builds," he tells me ahead of today's Dying Light: Hellraid launch. "Most members of our current Dying Light post-launch support team joined Techland in recent years, after Hellraid was put on hold, so naturally curiosity took over."

"Playing the builds we found the perfect building blocks for creating great and enjoyable dungeons. With its brutal melee combat and grim, dark fantasy setting, Hellraid feels unique, while also being true to the core Dying Light experience. We hope that we managed to capture the essence of what Hellraid should be about – a brutal fight for survival in a dungeon filled with terrifying monsters."

Blast from the past

(Image credit: Techland)

Originally revealed by Techland in 2013, Hellraid was meant to launch in the same year as Dying Light, but the studio decided to focus its efforts entirely on supporting the latter with an ambitious roadmap, leaving Hellraid to cool off "in the fridge" after the project struggled to meet some of its internal goalposts. 

The project remains tentatively shelved for now, ready to return to at some point in Techland's future, and level designer Mateusz Piaskiewicz is keen to stress that Hellraid DLC should not be mistaken for an official demo, explaining that Techland’s first foray into fantasy “was meant to be an entirely different game than Dying Light."

"We wanted to move away from typical open world elements like traversing towards a goal through open spaces and filling out quests for strangers. When moving Hellraid’s Prison into Dying Light, we wanted to implement this premise, but  also adjust the geometry to the classic Dying Light parkour mechanics. We managed to incorporate the experience of fighting monsters in a dungeon, but we didn’t want to move too far from Dying Light’s core."

The result is a mode that takes place separately to the core Dying Light experience, as players are transported via a demonic arcade machine into the world of Hellraid for a two-hour gauntlet through its dungeons. There's skeletal warriors, medieval weaponry, and potentially even a boss fight or two, and any of the loot you gain from the trial can be brought with you back into Harran. That structural device of the arcade machine, according to designer Agnesa Belegu, reflects an "intent to create a clear separation of the two universes". Don't expect a shared Techlandiverse anytime soon, basically.

(Image credit: Techland)

"We had our limits when it came to how far we could push Dying Light’s universe before risking breaking design and consistency,” says Belegu. “Each world lives in its own bubble, so to speak, and what happens in Hellraid need not relate to the world of Harran. This allows us to use Dying Light’s systems to craft an experience as true to the feel of the original Hellraid as we can, all the while injecting more emergent gameplay, maintaining the free-flow cathartic combat with Crane’s abilities, and give players a challenging new playground to master."

And challenging is absolutely the right word to describe Dying Light: Hellraid. Like Harran’s Viral hunters, the dungeon’s pantheon of enemies are fast, unforgiving, and often genuinely terrifying, charging at the player with the ferocity of a predator on the hunt. Throw on top of this the various environmental traps and claustrophobic confines of the dungeons (a far cry from the parkour playgrounds of Harran's urban jungles), and you can see why the Hellraid DLC is a Dying Light experience designed to appeal to the millions of players that have stuck with the game since its initial release. 

"The enemies in Hellraid were designed upon the standing narrative that these creatures are not the mindless zombies created by the Harran virus," Belegu continues. "They have a motive, they have a goal, and you are the wrench in their perfectly engineered machine. What they are and how they came to be is revealed to the player in subtle hints through environmental storytelling or, for the curious mind, through collectibles found in the map. Ultimately, Hellraid is a DLC of Dying Light, so of course we wanted players to have a sense of familiarity with the new content we introduce. Intertwining these systems and innovating within them helped us make Hellraid feel like its own unique experience."

Hell on Earth

(Image credit: Techland)

"We hope that we managed to capture the essence of what Hellraid should be about."

Paweł Płaza

True to its reputation for committing to every new release, Techland will continue to support Dying Light: Hellraid throughout the year, with the first major update expected this September. Płaza reveals that this patch will include "two new weapons, bounties and new collectibles", alongside potential "buff potions, similar to those from Dying Light's Halloween events, that our players know and love."

"For the future free updates, we will decide after we see the initial reactions from players," he says. "As with the beta, we believe that community feedback will help us determine the way forward."

As a way to tide over your appetite for Dying Light 2 and/or Hellraid, Techland's latest effort couldn't be more fitting. Few studios are willing to acknowledge the hard truth that development of a project has run into roadblocks, but – in a stroke of small genius – Poland's second largest game creator is happy to draw from Hellraid to keep Dying Light fans happy while they continue to await the sequel. 

Stay up to date with all of the latest releases with our upcoming games 2020 list, or watch the video below for our latest episode of Dialogue Options. 

Alex Avard

I'm GamesRadar's Features Writer, which makes me responsible for gracing the internet with as many of my words as possible, including reviews, previews, interviews, and more. Lucky internet!