It's an ingenious inversion of the daytime play. With the sun overhead you are largely master of your surroundings, able to evade zombies easily and pick your fights at will. In darkness, you're far more reliant on luck and your ability to react. Furthermore, Techland cleverly balance night-play. They rarely force
you out at night, instead preferring to lure you into darkness with the promise of double experience points and fat bonuses for surviving the night.
Of course, this is nothing new. Minecraft pioneered the simple idea of easy days and tough, spooky nights. Indeed, little about Dying Light is original, but it's how Techland puts everything together that makes it such an intriguing, engaging survival game. That said, it isn't a perfect blend.
To start with the writing is very uneven. Some of the characterisation is fantastic. Two characters in particular, Brecken and Zere, stand out. Brecken is the leader of the
Tower, and is ably voiced by Stephen Merchant as man whose responsibilities outweigh his capabilities. Meanwhile, Roger Aaron Brown turns in a beautifully grounded performance as Zere, the gentle-voiced doctor seeking a cure to the virus that caused the zombie outbreak.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case with open-world games, the vast majority of characters act as glorified quest-dispensers who are quickly abandoned as the locus of the action shifts. And for every good character there are two or three middling to poor ones. The lead antagonist, Rais, is a one-dimensional wall-chewing madman, while Crane himself is tonally all over the place, a supposedly experienced spy who frequently whines like a teenager and is shocked when a covert government agency asks him to perform ethically dubious actions.
Dying Light is also quite a baggy game. Most of the side-quests are individually tailored, yet Techland can't help but throw in some completely incongruous cookie-cutter activities like running races. Meanwhile, other distractions like "airdrops" and the late-game fortress assaults are very obviously underdeveloped. The former are significant early on but rapidly dwindle to a very simple side-attraction, while the latter appears to be a last-minute inclusion to service FPS fans.
The more substantial side-quests are a mixed bag too. Many are of the "find three objects" variety, except they disguise it under multiple layers. So one person might send you to talk to another person who will refer you to a third person who will then
tell you to fetch three things. That said, there are a few gems. The "Fan Zone" mission which appears late in the game is absolutely superb, a brilliant play on a familiar zombie trope. It's also worth noting that the whole of Harran can be explored cooperatively, as is obligatory these days with any open-world game.
The best recommendation I can give Dying Light is that it managed to temporarily override my feeling of complete exhaustion toward zombie games. Its slick systems, speedy play and cleverly contrasting days and nights result in easily the most fun virtual interpretation of the Z-word since Turtle Rock's Left4Dead. Techland have done a fine job. Now please, for the love of all that is unholy, let's have a game that focuses on other monsters.