Dying Light 2 is the perfect ‘7 out of 10’ game

Most of my favorite video games are what I call “7/10” games. To be clear, “7/10” is not a literal score. (We don’t make sheet music at Polygon anymore, thank goodness.) No, “7/10” represents a creative philosophy shared by a small but valuable collection of video games. The open world zombie hunter Dying Light 2 is my latest “7/10” game – and I love it for it.

“7/10s” tend to be mechanically ambitious but financially prohibited. Their creators might be trying to alchemy a new way to play, or they might be trying to do a bit of everything at once. There’s something magnetic about these games — Earth Defense Force, Pilot: San Franciscoand Death Stranding – who have the confidence to take risks, and not just fail, but fail spectacularly.

Eloquently explaining why or how “7/10” works is a headache in itself, as this method of game design is akin to YouTube creators who specialize in trick videos. They don’t throw a basketball from a building into the hoop because they are particularly better at basketball than everyone else; they hit the mark because they committed to putting in the time and failing a lot along the way.

Image: Techland via Polygon

Dying Light 2 falls into the “hands-on, master of nothing” camp. Its story is about 20-30 hours long, but its world could keep you entertained for 500 hours. That’s not a hyperbolic number: it’s the literal time the developers at Techland said players would need to see everything in the game. I spent my first 12 hours traversing the city of the game, only only to learn – much to my surprise and intimidation – that a much larger metropolis, filled with skyscrapers, had cast a literal shadow over my disguised prologue to an adventure.

500 hours seems like a lot, but it’s nothing when you consider that 20 years of AAA video game design has been crammed into a single game. Dying Light 2 has fort raids, multiple skill trees, loot and crafting systems, and a day and night cycle that dictates the missions available.

This video game meat is paired with a buffet of upgradable skill salads from many iconic series. So far I have mastered the parkour of mirror edgethe short wall of Titanfalland the glider The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Every few hours I’m like, “OK, I get what this game wants to be,” and just then the game violently knocks the table over and says, “You don’t know me!” You can’t define me! like a teenager who wants love but does not yet know how to receive it.

A flickering candle illuminates modern art and a meditation poster in Dying Light 2.

Image: Techland via Polygon

How could he receive love when he has so many feelings! Such feelings! The story pits a fascist paramilitary group against an uneasy federation of freedom fighters. But like some outdated echoes of the BioShock series, the characters make illogical decisions to reverse course again and again, to show the player that all sides are, in fact, pretty bad. I hope you like angst.

You play as Aidan, one of the early contenders for the title of the most generic video game protagonist of the 2020s. He is voiced by Jonah Scott, who is awesome as Legoshi in the Netflix anime Beastars, but is handcuffed here by a storyline that imprisons its voice, Ursula-style, in what I can only describe as “the Nolan North Realm.” The result is like a soup of Nathan Drake, Commander Shepherd, and Call of Duty’s myriad “I’m sorry sir, I forget your name” leads.

Very few things work on their own, because as you might guess, it’s hard to do any of the above things well, let alone all and all at once. But of course, there is the catch: it works. I mean, if we totally ignore the story, then yes, this game works.

An abandoned computer station gathers dust in Dying Light 2.

Image: Techland via Polygon

Dying Light 2 the creators try to do so much that, as per the rule of percentages, it at to finally work. At least once per game session in this sprawling world, everything clicks into place. It’s dark and I’m stealing cartons of cigarettes from a bodega when suddenly I’m spotted by an asshole ghoul who warns his brainless friends that a midnight snack is going to be served. I cleave him with a flaming battle ax that sends his flaming head hovering over the cash register. Within seconds I’m on the roof, weaving through the undead, running to a hideout a few hundred yards away.

I’m a superhero with the speed of a bullet and the grace of a ballerina.

These twenty years of video game experiences – parkour, wall runs, zombie hunting, crafting, hell, even an unspoken sense of time management and spatial problem solving – propel me more and more closer to my goal. There is no story at this point. The only dialogue is between me and my love of games.

And this rush, that I do not know whatthat’s when I know a game is “7/10”. Dying Light 2 everything is rough, but every once in a while I comfortably wrap my arms around him and give him a big hug. I can feel this was made by people who love this shit as much as I do. Let them care. And in return, me too.

Is it worth all the headaches? Definitively. I love trick shots, although it took countless balls of air to finally pull off that sweet, sweet swish.

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