Exclusive: How Dying Light 2 Uses Player Choice to Build its Ambitious World

The highly-anticipated sequel to Techland’s 2015 title Dying Light, Dying Light 2 was first announced at E3 last year. Taking the core of the original game and building significantly upon it with new human factions and choice-driven storytelling, Techland certainly has ambitious goals for their next upcoming game. Dying Light 2 was recently shown off at E3 2019, giving fans a new trailer and a first look at gameplay. Although there’s no confirmed release date yet, the title is anticipated to release sometime in the first half of 2020. Recently, we had the chance to interview Tymon Smektala, the Lead Game Designer of Dying Light 2, about the new game’s design and what fans can expect to see when it does eventually release.

VGR’s Interview with Lead Game Designer Tymon Smektala

Do you think Dying Light 2 will feel familiar to fans of the first game, or is the gameplay substantially different?

“Well I hope that from the first moment you push the stick forward and use that first-person parkour, you know you’re playing a Dying Light game. We’re adding and improving so much over Dying Light, but one of the phrases we’re saying a lot in the studio is ‘evolution not revolution’.

“We’ve taken our time developing the sequel because we wanted to improve almost every aspect of the first game, as well as bringing some brand new innovations. But that doesn’t mean we want to lose sight of what our fans fundamentally love about Dying Light.”

How has player movement, parkour, and the navigation of the game’s environment changed and improved since the first game?

“We’ve doubled the number of parkour moves for starters. We want Dying Light fans to feel comfortable right from the start. But then they’re going to discover ‘Oh, I can wallrun across this gap’ or ‘I can slide down this wall with my knife.’ Again – we’re evolving the parkour system but not fundamentally changing the way it works.

“How you manage stamina is slightly different and we have what we call ‘parkour puzzles’, where you’ll have to string together a set of moves while managing stamina to reach a particular area. And then we also have new ways of getting around, like the paraglider which we’ve shown in our E3 demo.”

Dying Light 2 E3 Trailer Interview 2

With more choice and improved player systems, can players expect to see more in the way of RPG mechanics; upgrades, skill unlocks, customisation, etc.?

“Dying Light 2 is an action game – nothing’s changing there. If you defeat a powerful enemy or make it to a destination in time, it’s because you had the skill to do that — not because you had enough points in some arbitrary levelling system. We do have players stats, skill unlocks, weapon upgrades etc. But these empowerment choices are in place to support the most important thing – the player’s actual skill, their command over the controller.

“The big new addition, of course, is how you can make decisions. And we’ve definitely been inspired by some RPG games on that. In Dying Light 2 your decisions can have really spectacular outcomes — even changing the fundamental shape of the city.”

Does Dying Light 2 focus more on human enemies than zombies? Certainly, the 2018 trailers hardly showed the non-human enemies.

“I wouldn’t say we’re focusing more on one or the other. It’s a case of defining their roles within this world that we’re creating. Just referring to the lore for a moment, in the first game we saw the immediate impact of the Harran virus — streets swarming with infected and humans huddled in safe houses not knowing what to do.

“Dying Light 2 is set 15 years later. There’s a kind of uneasy coexistence between the humans and the infected. There are unspoken ‘rules’, like how the infected tend to hide in buildings during the day because of their sensitivity to UV light.

Dying Light 2 E3 Trailer Interview 5

“For me as a designer, these ‘rules’ translate to systems that I can manipulate to create interesting gameplay opportunities. Yes, the infected hide inside during the day — but what if you as a player can take an action to disrupt this system? How can you use that to your advantage? This for me creates more interesting gameplay than simply having lots of infected everywhere, as we did with the first game.”

Will there be more variety from those non-human enemies? If so, can you say anything about any new types that players might see?

“The answer is yes. But sorry — some things we want to leave for players to discover for themselves.”

Can you give an example of how deep player choices will go in Dying Light 2?

“The choices in the game run across a broad spectrum. There are several major decision points in the game, where your action will determine everything from the layout of the world, to the fate of its citizens, to the fragile politics between factions. What we showed in our E3 demo is an example of this — where shutting off the water opened up a whole new section of the city. The player could have chosen not to do this — or maybe they took a different choice way earlier in the game, and didn’t even get this quest.

“But I’m particularly excited by the many smaller, dynamic choices that appear throughout the game. Like powering electrical boxes around the City to create a plantation which produces specific types of herbal buffs for you… but also results in more powerful enemies because they have access to these herbs as well.

“And then there’s the ongoing choice of how much you explore The City. Our world is rich with details to discover, and maybe through exploring you will find some information that will affect a key decision later on.”

Dying Light 2 E3 Trailer Interview 3

Does Dying Light 2 continue any of the stories found in the first game, or does it tell a totally new and self-contained story?

“It’s the same universe and the same virus, but 15 years later and in a different city. So for those reasons it is a different story. But if you’re willing to explore then you may discover some references to Harran.”

How many factions can players expect to encounter in the Dying Light 2 setting?

“I don’t want to reveal too many details, as this is obviously spoiler territory, but of course there are a few things I can say safely. I hope… So there are two main factions that claim their rule over The City – the Peacekeepers and the Scavengers. But there are also other groups – a few of them – who don’t really want to have power over others,  they just want to survive, maybe even build a new society. In between these huge powerhouses you’ll find smaller groups and communities – ones that we call “wildcard groups”. You don’t see their members on the streets, you don’t really fight with them… but they play a part in the overall narrative and their existence depends on the choices you make.”

Dying Light 2 E3 Trailer Interview 1

Will the game still feature multiplayer, and will that be a standalone mode, or will the main story mode allow for multiplayer?

“We have big ideas for multiplayer, but I’m sorry — it’s too soon to share anything specific on that. What we can confirm right now is that the game offers a 4-player co-op mode and you can play the whole story with your gang. But the really cool thing is that when you play the game you shape The City according with your choices, and this creates a sandbox space that’s unique to your play session. When you invite your friends for a co-op round they see your version of the world… but when you visit their games you can play in a place that’s completely different.”

Dying Light had a packed post-launch DLC schedule. Is that a model you plan to repeat with Dying Light 2?

“We set the bar pretty high for ourselves with Dying Light 1, so of course we need to go bigger and better the second time around. Supporting our games is important to us so yes, we’ll be adding plenty more after launch.”