Right at the start of 2015, Dying Light was released to the world. A strange hybrid of Mirror’s Edge and Dead Island, it was a hit but not necessarily the kind of hit it deserved. It’s one of the most underrated games of this generation, though its reception at the time of its release ran quite the gamut, no doubt influenced by the glut of zombie games out at the time. AngryJoe fans will doubtlessly remember the infamous intro to his review of the game.
Fastforward to 2018 and while the zombie trend is as dead as the zombies themselves, Dying Light lives on. Even three years after launch, Dying Light is still getting updates. Quite the achievement for a game that many had written off before they’d even played it.
So, how did Techland, the game’s developers, turn a rough and ready open-world zombie game into a one of the most beloved slow-burn success stories in gaming? It’s simple: they listened to the fans they had and did everything they could to earn new ones. Just in case you were wondering how it’s faring these days in terms of popularity, there were 3000 players active on Steam at this time of writing, which is ten times the current player count of Call of Duty: WWII.
The updates to the game started off very simply, to improve optimisation and performance — particularly on PC. When it first landed on PC, Dying Light wasn’t all that hot. Techland stuck with it, though, and it’s now one of the best-performing and best-looking games you can find on Steam. Quite how gigantic studios can use Steam as the dumping ground for their half-baked AAA releases to then barely receive any improvements whereas a relatively small Polish developer decided to dedicate themselves to getting the game just right is beyond me.
A year after launch, Techland released The Following and the Enhanced Edition with it. Instead of being just a small chunk of DLC, The Following offered a map that was twice as large as the one found in the main game and filled with new items, missions, collectibles, and vehicles. It was a hefty add-on that enriched what was already a game rich with ideas and innovation; a far cry from the scant content found in season passes that we are sadly so accustomed to.
Following the success of The Following, the game was reinvigorated and its community happy to keep drop-kicking zombies directly in the face for the foreseeable future. Once the dust had settled, it was expected that Techland would get to work on a fully-fledged sequel. Instead of doing that, they refined what they had even further and continued to support the game past the point of conventional industry logic.
With the announcement of their “10-In-12” scheme, Techland promised to introduce ten new pieces of content throughout the next year as a thank you to their fans for garnering 500000 weekly players so long after release. It started off relatively small with new weapons and skins –still nothing to turn your nose up at– but the most recent update, Content Drop #4, introduced an entirely new mode called Prison Heist.
I recently logged back into Dying Light after playing it back in 2016 and was simply staggered by how much had changed. Notification after notification came my way to tell me about content updates, but the world itself was also just so much fuller and packed with things to see and do. Even though I had spent countless hours exploring the desolate city of Harran and the expansive countryside, I wasted no time in diving right back in.
Just how well supported Dying Light is and will continue to be made me realise how poorly other studios and the publishers overseeing them keep their fanbase happy. The most notorious example of this, in my eyes, is Destiny. Since it launched in 2013, the franchise has barely had a meaningful update without a price tag, keeping all of the interesting additions behind the walls of a meager “expansion”. Appallingly, an expansion for Destiny 2 actually locked base game players out from unlocking trophies and achievements at one point.
There’s also how important transparency is if you want to prove that you’re pro-consumer and not pro-investors. Bungie went silent and then totally evasive when controversies surrounded the shady and opportunistic business practices of Destiny 2. Techland, meanwhile, have been completely upfront about Dying Light from day one. There’s something about Polish developers that gamers find so trustworthy, apparently — just look how revered CD Projekt Red are.
Dying Light is nowhere near dead and could possibly continue to last for years. A sequel feels inevitable at this point, but rather than rushing something out with less than meaningful changes, Techland have instead refined their rough diamond and most likely taught themselves the craft for when they do want to release a sequel. That, and so many other reasons, is why I would play Dying Light 2 over something like Destiny 3 any day.
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