With a release window of Spring 2020, Dying Light 2 could be considered a game that's floating a little bit under the radar. It'll launch around the same time as Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us: Part II following its unexpected delay, but that doesn't mean this open-world zombie survival simulator is an undertaking you should pass on. In fact, following the incredible experience that its predecessor had to offer, this is one you need to be keeping your eye on. To discuss Dying Light 2 in greater depth, we were lucky enough to catch up with lead game designer Tymon Smektala at EGX 2019 to talk narrative, choices, and the PlayStation 5.
Push Square: The original Dying Light was very much focused on combat and parkour, but with the sequel it seems like you've brought the narrative into it to become such an important core pillar. What inspired that choice?
Tymon Smektala: With Dying Light 1 we understood that we managed to create a great sandbox game, where it's all about the player finding their own solutions to problems. The only place where they couldn't do that was the story. There was a couple of moments that I know were extremely controversial, for example one quite early in the narrative, the main character Kyle Crane was destroying this huge crate of antizin which was supposed to save a lot of people's lives and he did it because he wanted to achieve something for himself. This was a moment where he chose his selfish needs over the needs of the collective and players could do nothing about it.
So, we understood to make the Dying Light experience complete, to make it a real sandbox game, we needed to have some kind of nonlinearity where the player can steer the narrative as much as they want. But it was a leap of faith because we didn't have any experience in that type of narrative so thankfully we managed to get the best guy possible for that - Chris Avellone.
He got excited about the project and liked what we wanted to achieve, so that was a huge honour for us. He joined the team and helped us to create the world, its lore, but also the process of working with non-linear storytelling, and we have built a whole team of internal writers around him.
In terms of these choices, obviously there will be a lot of them throughout the game, do you think it will be possible to encounter a fail state if your relationships with the various factions go so poorly?
It depends on the interpretation. We don't look at this in terms of good choices or bad choices, it's not a failure or a success. This is your story through the game and no matter what choices you make, you will reach some kind of conclusion, and you will have to judge for yourself if you like that ending or not.
There is a theme to the game, a meaning to the game. Which is what's most important, thinking about yourself and being selfish or thinking about people around you? And I think this is the main axis, the main context, the main lense through which you will look at whatever you end up with when you finish the game. So there aren't bad choices, there aren't failures. There are just choices that have logical consequences and it's up to you to judge and decide by yourself if you like that or not.
You have those choices in the base game, but obviously the original Dying Light was famed for its support with DLC, both free and paid for afterwards. It was quoted that you plan on doing that again with Dying Light 2, maybe up to four years of support. Do you think that will follow a similar structure to Dying Light 1 where you had The Following, which was paid, and then free DLC throughout?
I don't want to spill the beans too much but yes there will be huge expansions, and yes there will be a lot of additional drops, free content, additional missions, weapons, and gameplay mechanics that you will be able to get by just investing your time in Dying Light 2 and just being part of the community. So it's safe to say the model will be very similar.
With the game coming out in Spring 2020, and post-launch content coming afterwards, that takes us into a realm where the PlayStation 5 launches late next year. It was said that Dying Light 2 will be a cross-generational game, is that correct?
We don't need to say that if it comes in Spring because we won't have the next systems by then, but of course we have the next-gen consoles in our studio and of course we have a plan for them and I think that's the most I can say.
Is there anything about the next-gen consoles that's particularly excited you in terms of development?
I'm not a technical person so I don't get overly excited by data describing what's better in the console, I get excited when I see the benefit of those improvements in gameplay or in what surrounds me. The thing with new consoles is that they allow me to access huge amounts of data almost instantly and this is really a game-changer because it's also very in line with what we have decided to do as a company.
We want to make first-person, open world games with, as we call it, high fidelity immersion. So we want to create scenes where you really feel like this is real, like if you see that cup [Tymon picks up a cup on the table next to us and drops it back down] it should react as it should. If you look around you in a place like this [The busy show floor of EGX 2019] you should see a lot of different people so we want you to see those different NPCs. Not just five NPCs copied hundreds and hundreds of times - really different people with different looks and different behaviour. And this is what the next-gen can provide for us. Of course, this will take some time until we understand how to use all of that power and all of that data.
Just to wrap up, Spring 2020. We're still on course for that launch date?
Yes, absolutely. Last stage of production and polishing the game, so keep your fingers crossed!
We'd like to thank Tymon Smektala for taking the time out of his day to sit down and talk to Push Square, and also Ola Sondej who made this interview possible. Dying Light 2 is scheduled to launch on PlayStation 4 during the Spring 2020 window.