The original Dying Light has a very scrappy charm to it. Mantling over zombies' heads, barely making it safely - it holds this certain tenseness that's only accentuated by the great open-world you exist in.
That being said, it’s very fond of breaking apart at the seams. It often clashes with its own internal logic to deliver something fun.
Unfortunately, the game as a whole could be seen as weaker because of it. One of the biggest culprits of this switch is the addition of easy to acquire firearms in the late game. If done correctly, the sequel's decision to remove them could be one of its biggest strengths.
Why Is This?
To fully encapsulate why Dying Light does what it does at the halfway point, it’s important to understand where the studio came from.
Dying Light was made by Techland, as a grittier, more brutal companion to the very arcadey Dead Island franchise. It doesn't have that verticality Dying Light is known for and went for much more compact spaces. Working as a sequence of areas, it never quite feels as open as Dying Light.
The limitation of this world makes sense for firearms to be a regular part of a civilian's inventory. Traveling through the island from the ground, there is less to hit, making for easier shots.
Guns are loud and deadly, attracting zombies, but the hordes of Dead Island never feel as full or hectic as those found in Dying Light. This is why sneaking in a headshot or a machine gun spray made more sense.
Not only this, but the speed of both games is wildly different. Dead Island can be tackled at a walking pace - runners in Dying Light aren’t nearly as lucky.
Fundamentally, a more linear world and slower zombies led to different design philosophies. Dying Light is still influenced by Techland’s other popular zombie franchise and loses a little of its own uniqueness in that exchange.
Why Taking Out Firearms Could Work?
Dying Light works due to its scrappiness. It emulates that raw survival instinct gameplay of sprinting through towns and swinging at the heads of zombies. Guns don’t fit into this equation very well. They are too slow and methodical and actively pause your movement to use.
However, the studio said they’re taking out firearms, not ranged weapons completely. Things like bows and throwing knives can still be used while moving and could even have their own skill trees or ways of upgrading.
Dying Light’s greatest asset is the way it uses momentum. The world is built to allow you to traverse as quickly as possible. If the strongest weapon in the game is also one that takes that speed away from you, it makes your choice of play less fun.
Dying Light also takes full advantage of its audio mechanics. It plays with night and day well and messes with space and height, and yet - putting a gun in Kyle Cranes hand made it feel like a typical FPS. Dying Light 2 is capable of more.
What Does Losing Firearms Mean?
This signifies confidence in the game they have. Letting go of somewhat archaic design choices of their past will allow them to fully explore the game they want to make. This isn’t just the follow-up to a beloved series, it is its own beast.
Like the zombies of Harran, being left in the dark has allowed it to mutate into something darker and much more interesting. Losing firearms gives our new main character less power to fight but much more power to control those around him.
You have relationships with characters, you affect the environment - your biggest asset in this toolbox is your own brain. Hopefully, without that firepower, you can keep it away from the clawing hands of the infected.