Dying Light is a first-person zombie apocalypse-themed game set in an open world. Players traverse an expansive urban environment overrun by a vicious epidemic, scavenging the world for supplies and crafting weapons to defend against the growing infected population with a heavy focus on parkour mechanics, allowing players to perform actions such as climbing ledges, leaping off from edges, sliding, jumping from roofs to roofs and zip-lining. Parkour mechanics also applied on combat. Players can perform action such as drop-kicking when engaging combat with enemies. A grappling hook is also featured in the game, allowing players to climb up buildings and travel between places quickly.
The game is mostly melee-based with the majority of fighting using melee weapons. There are more than 100 weapons that can be used and more than 1000 weapon possibilities when players begin crafting new weapons. The melee-weapons have a limited lifespan and will be degraded and eventually broken if the player uses them for combat for a long time. Players can repair a weapon a limited number of times. Crafting weapons require crafting ingredients such as gauze and metal parts and a blueprint, which can be scavenged or purchased from a shop. Guns are also featured in the game, but players will only gain access to it in the later half of the game. However, ammo is often very scarce. The variety of guns consists of two types of assault rifles and a variety of small firearms and shotguns. Gun customization is very limited but guns don't break or become unusable after an extended amount of use.
Dying Light contains a dynamic day and night cycle. During the day, the player has to go out and scavenge for supplies to send back to the safe zones. They can set up traps, save random survivors, and make their way to airdrops. The infected are slow, apathetic, and easily visible, allowing the player to simply make their way past them, but their danger grows in numbers. Players can also use environmental traps, such as spikes and electrified fences to kill the infected. Lead game designer Maciej Binkowski stated that day time will last for approximately 64 minutes, while night time will last for approximately 7 minutes. The game also features a physics-based lighting system and a dynamic weather system, which includes a variety of conditions such as fog, rain, and wind.
At night the infected transform to become much more dangerous. Without daylight, the senses of the infected become more acute and accurate. They gain the ability to sprint after the player and have increased damage, as well as the ability to jump and climb buildings like the player. In order for players to avoid contact, they need to use their 'Survivor Sense' to locate the infected in the dark to stay out of their way. If spotted and trying to escape their pursuers, players can use distractions and traps to lower their numbers. Players can use sound to lure the enemies. The player's main defense against the infected is ultraviolet light, which slows them down.
A variety of actions in Dying Light can help players to earn experience points. Engaging in combat with enemies will help players to earn Power points, while performing parkour movement can earn Agility points. Completing missions, challenges and quests will help players to earn Survival points. If the players earns experience, they can spend skill points on a skill tree and upgrade the playable character with new skills. During daytime, if the player's character is killed, survival points will be deducted. In contrast, no survival point will be deducted if the player's character is killed at night. All experience points will also be boosted if the player explores at night.
On 1 October 2014, Techland announced that there will be over 50 hours of gameplay in the full version of the game including all downloadable content.
Online multiplayer features up to 4 players in the co-op mode. At EGX 2014, lead game designer Maciej Binkowski revealed that there will be challenges throughout the world for players to engage in for experience. Two challenges were showcased with one being a fight to kill as many infected as possible and the other being a race to an airdrop. The game's campaign is also fully playable in the co-op mode. The game offers an asymmetrical multiplayer feature. There's a game mode known as "Be the Zombie" that allows the player to play as a particularly strong and powerful infected called Night Hunter and join other players' worlds. The players who are playing as humans are tasked with destroying the infected nests and surviving attacks performed by the Night Hunter.
Players assume the role of Kyle Crane (Roger Craig Smith), an undercover operative sent to infiltrate the quarantine zone in the fictional city of Harran, during his mission to find Kadir "Rais" Suleiman (Jim Pirri), a political figure gone rogue who has a file that could destroy the reputation of his agency. But when he arrives, he must decide between completing his mission or helping the other survivors, who are being led by Harris Brecken (Matthew Wolf).
In the city of Harran, a mysterious viral outbreak has turned most of the population into hyper-aggressive zombie-like creatures, forcing Harran's Defence Ministry to quarantine the entire city. The Global Relief Effort (GRE) assists survivors still trapped in the city by regularly airdropping supplies. The GRE hires Kyle Crane (Roger Craig Smith) to infiltrate Harran in order to retrieve a sensitive file stolen from them by Kadir Suleiman (Jim Pirri), which he is using as leverage to blackmail them, with the threat of publicizing it if anything were to happen to him. Crane is airdropped into Harran, where he is ambushed by a gang of hostile bandits. As the infected attack, Crane is bitten and infected, but rescued by Jade Aldemir (Nazneen Contractor) and Amir Ghoreyshi (Roy Vongtama). Amir sacrifices himself to buy Jade and Crane time, and Jade takes him to a survivor sanctuary called the Tower. Crane wakes up and is introduced to Rahim Aldemir (Suraj Partha), Jade's brother. Rahim then teaches Crane parkour and sends him to Spike (Kevin Daniels), who gives him his first task as a resident of the tower. Crane learns that the Tower, which seeks to help other survivors, is being harassed by a gang of bandits led by a warlord named Rais who steals and hoards the supplies from the GRE airdrops, including Antizin; a drug that suppresses symptoms of infection and slows down the process of turning. After Harris Brecken (Matthew Wolf), leader of the tower is nearly killed by a rival runner in a mission to retrieve an Antizin drop, need for the drug becomes immense. Crane volunteers and manages to reach an airdrop containing Antizin, but despite the dire need of the medicine by the survivors, Crane is instructed by the GRE to destroy the airdrop, instructing him to reach out to Rais in order to buy the drug and possibly confirm his identity. Crane reluctantly complies and informs the Tower that the supplies have been looted.
Upset, Brecken tasks Crane with the job of making a deal with Rais. Upon meeting Rais, Crane is able to confirm that he is indeed Suleiman. He carries out a series of unethical tasks for Rais under the assumption that he will be rewarded with two crates of Antizin. Crane is unable to locate the file, and is later betrayed by Rais, who only gives him five vials of Antizin. He later breaks off business with the GRE when they halt the supply drops and refuse to help the Tower. The situation in the tower worsens, and a whole floor is sealed off when an outbreak occurs. In desperate hopes to find Antizin, Crane and Jade pull a raid on a supply storage facility run by Rais, which was formerly a school. They find no Antizin, but rather plastic explosives, which they choose to confiscate to prevent Rais from using them in the future. While doing an errand, Rahim tells Crane that he and Omar (Emmerson Brooks) were planning to bomb an infected nest with the explosives found at the school. Crane is opposed to this plan. After an argument over the radio, he gives chase to a fleeing Rahim. Upon catching up to him, he finds that Omar is dead, while Rahim has been wounded. He then executes Rahim's plans, resulting in the killing of the infected in the compound. When he gets back to Rahim he discovers that he was actually bitten and had turned while Crane was gone, forcing Crane to snap Rahim's neck when Rahim attacks Crane. Crane returns to the tower to inform Brecken of the news; Jade overhears them and, visibly upset, takes off.
Meanwhile, a scientist at the Tower named Dr. Imran Zere (Roger Aaron Brown), who was attempting to develop a cure for the virus, is kidnapped by Rais, prompting Crane to attempt a rescue mission. Crane is also captured by Rais, who reveals that the file he stole contains proof that the GRE intends to weaponize the virus rather than develop a cure and releases the file to the public. Crane manages to escape before being executed, and, in the process, cuts off Rais' hand. Dr. Zere is killed in the rescue attempt, but manages to tell Crane that he had entrusted his research to Jade, who is tasked with delivering it to another scientist named Dr. Allen Camden (Dan Gilvezan). As Crane goes to look for Jade, he finds out that the Defence Ministry is planning to bomb Harran in an effort to completely eradicate the outbreak, claiming that there are no survivors left in the city. He manages to reactivate a radio tower and broadcasts a message to the outside world, thwarting the Ministry's plan. Jade was captured by Rais, who also steals Dr. Zere's research. Crane manages to rescue Jade and recover a part of Dr. Zere's research, but Jade admits that she has been bitten, and pleads with Crane to stop Rais. Jade then succumbs to the wound, forcing Crane to mercifully kill her, also by snapping her neck. After killing Rais' second-in-command, Tahir (Michael Benyaer) with his own machete, Crane delivers the tissue samples to Dr. Camden, who believes that he is very close to the cure, but needs the rest of Dr. Zere's data. Crane then finds out that Rais has cut a deal with the GRE, in which he will hand over Dr. Zere's research data to them in return for extraction from Harran. Crane then assaults Rais' headquarters (filled with infected) and battles him atop a skyscraper, eventually stabbing Rais in the neck and throwing him off the building. He recovers the research data and decides to turn it over to Dr. Camden instead of the GRE, intending to stay in Harran to help the remaining survivors.
The development of Dying Light started in early 2012 by the core team of Techland, which developed Dead Island in 2011. Reports claimed that Dying Light was originally a Dead Island sequel, but members from Techland later confirmed that the game is "an original title from its very beginning.", and that the team would like to create "something bigger and better" with no relation to any existing IP. Techland's director Adrian Ciszewski also responded that there is a great difference in terms of creative vision between the studio and the Dead Island publisher Deep Silver and they considered themselves "not in a very good business position" with Dead Island. Therefore, Techland decided to split with publisher Deep Silver and start developing a new IP. Ciszewski also revealed that developing a new game can bring the team more freedom than developing Dead Island 2 and they are free to bring the elements originally planned for Dead Island, such as new types of enemies, combat, skills and day-night cycle which was not implemented due to limited team size and time, to a new project.
The new project was later revealed to be Dying Light on 23 May 2013, and the first trailer of the game debuted in Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013. Techland promised that Dying Light would be of better quality than Dead Island due to its complex gameplay, extensive story as well as its more serious and mature tone. The development team also considered Dying Light an opportunity "to prove to people that we (Techland) have made a AAA game". Part way through development, the parkour system received an overhaul. Originally aiming to feature a system similar to that of Mirror's Edge, in which players climb up rooftops or walls by interacting with the interactive element, the development team later shifted to put more emphasis on "Natural Movement", in which players can determine what parkour movement can be performed and when to perform them. The overhaul aimed at giving players more freedom in environmental navigation, and it resulted in major changes in animations and artificial intelligence (AI). The studio also abandoned most ideas for story and quests and created them again from scratch. The story of the game was designed to suit the taste of North American audiences. Therefore, Techland invited Dan Jolley, who have written few comics for DC Comic, to write the story of the game. Inspiration for the story was also drawn from novels such as The Plague as well as Heart of Darkness.
The game was originally planned to release in 2014. However, on 8 May 2014, Techland announced that the game was delayed until February 2015 due to a "desire to innovate", as well as to improve the parkour elements of the game. At E3 2014, Techland announced that Dying Light will have a strong emphasis on role-playing. The game's release date was later pushed forward to January 2015.
On 28 October 2014, Techland announced that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game have been cancelled. The decision was based on "thorough internal testing" that showed that the consoles could not handle the game properly.
Techland originally aimed to deliver the game at 60 frames per second (FPS) on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, according to senior game producer Adrian Ciszewski, Dying Light's frame rate will be locked at 30 FPS on consoles in order to be able to deliver native 1080p graphics, reduce input lag to minimum, as well as to provide a smoother and more gameplay-tailored performance. He considered 1080p/30 FPS "the optimal solution for Dying Light and all its gameplay features on consoles".
A season pass for the game was announced on 4 December 2014 offering a range of new content for the game, including missions, weapons and outfits. The first downloadable content (DLC), Cuisine & Cargo will be available first to season pass holders. An Ultimate Edition, which includes both the base game and the season pass was also announced.
On 17 January 2015, Techland announced that physical copies of Dying Light have been delayed to an unspecified date due to a "longer lead time than digital". The delay affects the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Techland has announced that the game will still be available digitally on its scheduled release date. On 24 January 2015, Techland announced that the physical copies of Dying Light for the affected regions will be released on 27 February 2015. "Be the Zombie mode", originally a pre-order bonus, was made free for everyone who purchases the game regardless of platform and territory. Preorders of the physical copies of the game will receive the Cuisine & Cargo DLC and the Ultimate Survivor Bundle DLC packs for free.
On 2 February 2015, patch 1.2.1 disabled mod support for the game. At the same time a mod that removes film grain from the game was taken down from Mediafire by Entertainment Software Association (ESA) using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Techland later explained that the problem is an accident, caused by a side-effect of the release of a patch, and were developing a new patch to restore modding. ESA later apologized for issuing the takedown, saying that "the requests were issued erroneously by a third-party vendor on the organization's behalf." On 6 February 2015, Techland announced that they were developing free mod tools for PC. The company stated that "Modders were a massive part of our gaming community since Call of Juarez 2 and Dead Island, and we wish to continue that with Dying Light." On 12 February 2015 Techland announced that they will release a free update to improve the game's difficulty to make it harder, as well as extending the duration of night time after critics complained that it was too easy. On 15 February 2015, a patch that restores modding was released.
A "My Apocalypse Collectors Edition", which costs £250,000, roughly $380,000, at release, was announced on 25 February 2015. It includes content such as free parkour lessons, a custom shelter, night vision goggles and a trip to Poland. On 4 March 2015, Techland announced the "Ultimate Survivor Bundle" DLC for release on 10 March 2015. The DLC includes three new skins and four new weapon blueprints. The DLC is free to season pass holders. On 14 April 2015, Techland released a Developer Tool pack on Steam, allowing players to create custom content such as new maps, story and challenges. The last DLC, titled The Bozak Horde, which will add a new location called Harran Stadium and a horde mode, which tasks players to complete various objectives, was scheduled to be released on 26 May 2015.
The marketing campaign of the game received criticisms from critics for using a quote from YouTube celebrity PewDiePie in an advertisement poster for the game. It was quoted from one of his gameplay videos, which is seemingly sponsored by the developer Techland during VGX 2013. Critics noted that it is a "shady" and "ridiculous" approach in marketing, and the quote was also criticized for being grammatically incorrect. PewDiePie later responded through Twitter, claiming that he did not remember saying the quote at all.
On 25 June 2015, in parody of a promotional campaign between Destiny and Red Bull, Techland announced that it would give away codes for premium weapons to players who posted a picture of themselves drinking a glass of water on Twitter. This was later expanded into a "Drink for DLC" campaign, with the planned release of multiple pieces of free DLC for the game if a certain amount of pictures are posted.
On 29 July 2015, Techland announced that they are developing The Following, a standalone expansion for Dying Light. The title will be free to all players who purchased Dying Light's seasonal pass, but will also be available for separate purchase. The Following will introduce a new story campaign, controllable vehicles, and a new map, the size of which is the same as all the previous maps from Dying Light combined. It was released on 9 February 2016. The expansion released alongside Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition, which includes the base game, all the downloadable content and content updates, and the expansion.
A gameplay demo was released on 26 August 2015, approximately six months after the game's initial release. The demo offers three hour of gameplay content, and supports four-player co-operative multiplayer. Most gameplay mechanics, such as the day-night cycle and the crafting system are also featured in the demo.
On March 16 2016, a version of Dying Light: The Following, subtitled Enhanced Edition, was released on the DRM-free service GOG.com.
Paweł Błaszczak, the audio director of Techland, who has previously composed the music for The Witcher, Dead Island, and Call of Juarez, composed the music for Dying Light. According to Blaszczak, the music of the game was inspired by movie soundtracks in the 1970s and 1980s, as he considered that the noticeably sadder tone of such music is more appropriate for the game's post-apocalyptic setting than typical horror music. Synthesizers are commonly used within the music, so as to "present a feeling of abandonment, emptiness and sadness" to players. When composing music for the night section of the game, he aims to achieve the silence atmosphere of nighttime. The team eventually created a whistling sound, which played during the night section, so as to make enemy encounters at night "more frightening". The album was released digitally on 4 February 2015, approximately a week after the game's release. Upon release, the soundtrack was praised by David Houghton from GamesRadar for straying away from the typical orchestral music, as well as for giving the game "real texture and power". He also stated that the soundtrack played during the game had made the game "an impactful, ambient experience", and that the music of the game had delivered a unique tone and atmosphere that most other games fail to achieve.
Dying Light received generally positive reviews from critics upon release. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PlayStation 4 version 75.02% based on 43 reviews and 74/100 based on 58 reviews, the Xbox One version 74.60% based on 20 reviews and 74/100 based on 26 reviews and the Microsoft Windows version 72.80% based on 20 reviews and 75/100 based on 39 reviews.
Writing for IGN, Mikel Reparaz gave the game an 8.5/10, praising its vibrant, ambitious and unexpectedly huge open world, featuring natural and fluid parkour movement, enjoyable co-operative multiplayer, increasingly satisfying combat, as well as the rewarding, memorable and often surprising side-missions, which he described as "the part that the storytelling really shines". However, he criticized the under-developed characters, clichéd antagonist, unstable online matchmaking, occasionally clumsy combat and the punishing difficulty in the early stage of the game. He summarized the review by saying that "Dying Light gradually and gratifyingly evolves into a fast, hyper-violent celebration of vertical freedom and zombie destruction. It is one of the most engrossing open-world games – zombie-infested or otherwise – I've played in a while."
Brian Shea, writing for Game Informer also gave the game an 8.5/10, praising its graphics, immersive and well-executed narrative, accessible crafting system, rewarding melee-combat and satisfying combat animation, excellent cooperative multiplayer, huge variety of side-quests, as well the great difference between the day and the night. However, he criticized the unreliable parkour system, as well as the occasionally frustrating control scheme. He also criticized the gunplay, which he stated "don’t feature the same polish as the melee combat". He summarized the game by saying that "Dying Light is a strong open-world zombie game that delivers a good experience on nearly every front."
Steve Burns from VideoGamer.com gave the game an 8/10, saying that "Dying Light is a pleasant surprise. Compulsive and well built... [the perk and upgrade systems] elevate Techland's latest to heights the developer has rarely hit before." However, he stated that the game "isn't quite enough to really drag those who tire of zombie-swatting through to the end."
GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd gave Dying Light a 7/10, while he praised the game's day and night cycle, the free running mechanics, the co-op and competitive environment, he criticized the missions for being boring. Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead gave the game a 7/10, saying that "Dying Light represents an improvement on the technical front, but has lost some of its knockabout charm in the process".
Brandon Jones from GameTrailers gave the game a 6.8/10, while praising its accurate parkour system and the creative environment navigation, he criticized the lip movement which is rarely on track, limited facial animation, repeated character model, lack of a backstory, unnecessary upgrades, occasionally dim AI, texture pop-up, graphical issues and game-breaking glitches.
Arthur Gies from Polygon gave the game a 6.5/10. He praised its unique setting, as well as the navigational challenges, which he stated "has captured a distinctive sense of scale, height and vertigo" However, he criticized the clunky parkour system, poorly explained crafting system, confusing menus and inventory, excessive gore, overused fetch quests, lack of a fast travel system, lack of depth in the competitive multiplayer "Be the Zombie" mode and the aimless campaign.
Matthew Elliot from GamesRadar gave the game a 3/5, praising the threatening electro soundtrack, pleasing parkour, detailed environments and the day-night cycle. He stated that "the sense of urgency to get stuff done during daylight hours and the terrifying experience delivered at night has made Dying Light feel unique". However, he criticized the difficulty spike, the lack of characterisation, as well as the linear mission design of the story campaign, which he stated "the disappointing mission design contributes to the nagging sense that you’d rather be out hitting the restless dead with pipes."
Roger Hargreaves from Metro gave the game a 5/10, while praising the co-op challenges and the Mirror’s Edge style parkour system, he criticized the clumsy melee combat, the quick degradation of weapons, mediocre visuals, technical issues, terrible storytelling, flawed night sections, repetitive quests. He also criticized the Be the Zombie mode for not being enjoyable. He summarized the game by stating that "the game is a definite improvement on Dead Island but still behind the curve in terms of most games."
In the first week after its release, 1.2 million people played Dying Light. The retail version of Dying Light debuted in No. 1 in the U.S. software sales chart, outselling heavy competitors such as Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Dying Light has the highest-selling first month of sales for a new survival horror intellectual property, breaking the record previously held by The Evil Within. The game also debuted in No. 1 in the UK software retail chart for two weeks, outperforming other major releases in February such as The Order: 1886 and Evolve, despite the game was released a month early in digital format. In its first 45 days after its release, 3.2 million people played Dying Light, making it the most popular game the developer Techland ever developed. On 19 May 2015, Techland announced 4.5 million players have played the game as of June 2015. In May 2015, it was announced that the development of another Techland video game, Hellraid, had been put on hold so as to allow the studio to allocate resources and time to concentrate on the development of the Dying Light franchise. On 13 August 2015, Techland announced that the game had sold five million units.
A prequel novel, Nightmare Row, was announced by Techland on 13 January 2015. The story revolved around Mel Wyatt and her brother Paul, who were trapped in a hotel after the outbreak. The novel is written by Raymond Benson.