Dying Light: Platinum Edition Review (Switch)
You know what nobody says? “We need more things with zombies.”
And yet here we are, in 2021, with still so many things starring everyone’s favorite flesh-consuming monsters. But I like open worlds, and especially RPGs, so when the original Dying Light released back in 2015, I was curious. Curious enough to pick up the game on PC and, for a time, enjoy playing it before succumbing once again to whatever MMO mistress I was courting at the time. And hey, these guys were the ones responsible for creating Dead Island, another zombie RPG that I enjoyed once upon a time. Can’t be that bad, right?
Fast forward to October of 2021 and we now have Dying Light: Platinum Edition on the Nintendo Switch. And like so many games before it, the Switch has once again provided another means to experience a game whether on the go, or on the couch. Sold. Having now completed the main campaign of this adventure, I can honestly say this: Dying Light: Platinum Edition may not do everything right, but it certainly puts a refreshing spin on an extremely tired trope.
Dying Light: Platinum Edition takes place in Harran, a now quarantined city that is in the midst of everyone’s favorite nightmare: a “zombie” outbreak. The player controls Kyle Crane, who serves as the boots on the ground for the Global Relief Effort, an organization responsible for sending much-needed aid to the trapped inhabitants of the city. Crane’s objective, however, is not to help those in the quarantine, but rather to blend in enough to ultimately track down a highly sensitive document that could spell disaster for the GRE should it fall into the wrong hands.
While there are a few twists and turns in this relatively straightforward plot, Dying Light: Platinum Edition narratively suffers the most from simply being predictable and, at times, unconvincing. It’s pretty obvious how things ultimately go even from knowing the little bit shared here, and key emotional moments often fail to hit their mark due to a failure to establish a meaningful connection in the first place.
It also doesn’t help that the final showdown boils down to a glorified quicktime event. Besides that flaw, it’s not like anything is particularly “bad” in regards to the story, but it’s not going to be the reason to keep one invested for a long time. This all applies only to the base campaign – there is additional story content provided through the included DLC that may very well shine a better light on the otherwise lackluster narrative presented here.
Dying Light: Platinum Edition throws Kyle Crane into the massive, overrun city of Harran and doesn’t clip his wings. The standout feature of the game is the parkour system, which allows the player to run, climb, swing, and jump through any obstacles, buildings, or even infected that might come their way. Virtually anything that can be seen within the vicinity of the city can be reached. See those buildings far off in the distance? Chances are they can be scaled and/or explored – there may even be someone in need there. The parkour system is something unexpected that completely makes sense in the context of the situation. And fortunately, it works well…but also manages to keep the player grounded. Get too overconfident in tumbling through Harran, and one could easily faceplant the bloody streets. Parkour doesn’t make the player invincible, and it shouldn’t, but it does open up all sorts of opportunities not only to escape the horde, but also to explore the vast city. The freedom in verticality, however, will not save Crane from all the horrors that await him in Harran. Yes, there are zombies that can climb.
Dying Light: Platinum Edition is about survival in a zombie-like apocalypse, after all, so the name of the game is scavenging through what has been left, all while avoiding/hacking your way through hordes of the faux undead. Crane is able to make use of just about anything that can be found in Harran, and anything that he cannot equip or make into something with crafting can be sold to the various traders around the city.
Combat is a bit of a mixed bag in Dying Light: Platinum Edition. Crane can utilize everything from pipes and planks, to throwing stars, molotovs, and guns, and often only certain weaponry will suit specific situations. My personal go-to was the bow, which can easily kill most basic infected with a single headshot. Guns and the aforementioned bow will never break, but the majority of everything else either has charges or durability to keep an eye on.
Melee weapons will degrade and eventually break over time, but with the constant stream of new equipment that shouldn’t be a huge issue. Most weaponry can be upgraded and customized via the crafting system, but honestly much of that portion of the system feels like fluff more than anything else. The reason being is how enemy power scales with your own – it feels like you never really get any stronger even with big upgrades. There’s also a bit of RNG with how many hits enemies can take; the same kind of enemy that just took a single blow to the head may take three or four hits the next time you face them. Eventually, the player gains access to some abilities that are guaranteed to one-shot the majority of enemies, though, so it does eventually balance out a little bit.
How does one gain those abilities, you ask? Dying Light: Platinum Edition features a slew of skill trees, some of which only become available under or after certain conditions. The three basic trees, however, are Survivor, Power, and Agility. Each of these progress independently from one another, and are fueled by taking on quests and helping survivors, engaging in combat, and tumbling around Harran, respectively. Leveling up any given tree will allow for the player to expand their capabilities. While decisions will have to be made early on on how to spend the points, it is possible to unlock everything in each of the trees eventually. In other words, Dying Light: Platinum Edition rewards the player doing just about anything.
The player may not always want to do everything, though, depending on the time of day. Dying Light: Platinum Edition features a day and night cycle that cranks up both the challenge and the rewards when roaming the city at night. Those that are brave can gain skill tree points substantially faster by traveling at night, but it’s certainly more difficult. There’s also a wide array of side activities in the form of quests, challenges, and bounties at the player’s disposal, most of which can be tackled either solo, or with friends in local co-op or online multiplayer. And of course there’s a ton of DLC content included with this package that adds even more meat to the bone. There’s no denying the sheer amount of content available here.
Graphics, Performance, and Sound
Dying Light: Platinum Edition is easily one of the most impressive games to be ported to the Nintendo Switch, but only to those that don’t mind constant resolution scaling and a healthy dose of texture and asset pop-in. If it were any other game it may be a little too much, but considering that constant platforming is a core component, it’s hard to fault the team for prioritizing performance over quality. Still, there are times where the player can walk in and out of a few feet from an object and it pop in-and-out of existence, drastically change in quality, or both. While the framerate can still dip sometimes, it is surprisingly consistent in most cases considering how much can be going on and how quickly the player can cross large distances. Those textures way off in the distance are especially muddy, sure, but it honestly takes away little from the impressive draw distance and scope of Harran.
When it comes to sound, Dying Light: Platinum Edition does what it needs to do. There aren’t any crazy, stand-out tracks, but there should really only be a slight ambience and constantly tense undertones in a survival horror game anyway. Sound effects are good, from the guttural moans and cries of the infected to the chunky impacts of weapon strikes. There is always a sense of unease in the city, even when the player has the upper hand, and that’s the way it should be.
Dying Light: Platinum Edition proves that old dogs – in this case, the zombie apocalypse – can be taught new tricks. The heavy emphasis on RPG mechanics is appreciated here, and the parkour system feels right at home in a landscape that constantly throws dangers your way. The story may be underwhelming and the combat may feel a bit off at times, but there’s an undeniable sense of joy that comes with making your way through Harran, whether going head-first into the sea of infected or jumping around and firing your grappling hook onto rooftops like you’re a bonafide ninja. All things considered, Dying Light: Platinum Edition is one of the better open-world RPGs available on the Nintendo Switch.