Note: Dying Light Platinum Edition is unavailable on Switch eShop in Europe at the time of writing pending an issue with the game being banned in Germany.
In 2011, Techland released Dead Island on most seventh generation consoles to mostly positive reception. Still, Dead Island had never quite been the game that Techland envisioned it to be, due both to creative differences with the publisher and hardware limitations. As a result, the studio struck out on its own and began development of Dying Light, a much more ambitious release that would hopefully be much closer to the studio’s original vision.
Dying Light released a few years later in 2015 to much more positive reception and sales, and now Techland has pulled off the herculean task of squeezing its flagship release onto the Switch. While there are some undeniable hardware limitations, Dying Light Platinum Edition nonetheless translates the full experience in all its horrifying, undead glory to the Switch with impressive results.
Dying Light places you in the role of Kyle Crane, a member of an organization called the Global Relief Effort which is evidently aimed at curbing the issues that sprung out of the zombie pandemic. We start with Kyle performing a HALO jump into the city of Harran—which has been wholly overrun by zombies—in search of a man who’s believed to have files related to a potential cure for the infection. Of course, things don’t exactly go according to plan, and Kyle is almost immediately bitten, but he’s saved by a local coalition of survivors and soon joins their ranks as a ‘Scout’ who runs supplies around town. Dying Light may not feature a particularly memorable or gripping narrative, but the story still strikes the right tone and doesn’t much get in the way of the enjoyable gameplay.
At its heart, Dying Light is a first-person platformer and brawler, with some light RPG elements sprinkled in to keep things interesting. As an open-world action game, Dying Light follows the tried and tested method of giving you a big ol’ playground to explore and complete quests in. The bulk of your time will be spent roaming the decrepit streets – crawling with undead – trying to find the most efficient routes over buildings and other environmental objects as you go here to fetch an item or there to kill another special foe. Kyle is particularly proficient at freerunning, and this athleticism is crucial to survival as you vault, climb, and jump over practically everything.
Looking at any surface and tapping ‘R’ will prompt Kyle to climb, and your mobility is often your most important asset to getting through in one piece. You can always fight the zombies, and there are often situations where you have no choice, but it’s made abundantly clear that this isn’t the most ideal option.
For one thing, guns aren’t much of a factor here. Not only are bullets extremely hard to find, but firing off any shots runs the risk of attracting the attention of zombies who are much more difficult to shake by just hopping over a fence. Most of your time will be spent using pipes, socket wrenches, boards, and whatever else you feel can decapitate a zombie if you swing it hard enough. Everything has different power levels and rarity, and using any one weapon too often will result in it breaking and becoming effectively useless. Not to worry, however, as you can use spare parts to repair and even enhance your favorite weapons with new upgrades if you have the right materials.
In practice, it feels a bit like a less infuriating version of the equipment system in Breath of the Wild. Your weapons aren’t necessarily made of glass but, much like the free-flowing gameplay, you’re encouraged to avoid stagnation and keep moving on to other equipment. But if you really like that socket wrench, you can maybe toss a mod on it that’ll light your enemies on fire and make the weapon that much more viable.
The RPG elements come in even more strongly when it comes to building out Kyle, who starts with three branching skill trees that govern his abilities. Every single time you pull yourself up another ledge or jump over another car hood, Kyle will gain a few more points towards leveling his Agility Tree. Every time you bludgeon another zombie with a piece of wood, you’ll gain a few points towards your Power tree. This creates a nicely rewarding feedback loop where no instance of Dying Light’s gameplay feels like it’s being wasted. No matter what you do, something is leveling up and eventually giving you rewards to make the game that much easier.
This being the Platinum Edition, you can rest assured that there is an absolute mountain of content to chew through. While it may sometimes feel like Dying Light 2 has perpetually been the game that’s coming out ‘soon’, Techland has been keeping fans busy by maintaining a near constant stream of updates and DLC for the last six years. For Switch, all this content comes free, and easily adds on an additional fifty or so hours to an already sizable base game. Plus, those of you who want to forage through this content with a friend or two can enjoy local (wireless) or online co-op. There’s even a fun ‘Be the Zombie’ game mode for those of you who want to battle it out with other players, though it must be said that this feels more like an amusing distraction than a full-fledged game mode. All of this is to say, Dying Light is an awfully good bang for your buck; it’s exceedingly likely that you won’t finish this one feeling like you’ve been ripped off.
The only major complaint we can really muster against Dying Light is that this Switch port is obviously not the prettiest version on the market. The 30FPS framerate holds reasonably close to its goal, but things tend to get choppier when there’s more happening on screen, and this can be especially egregious when fleeing from night hordes.
Beyond this, the muddier textures, blurrier shadows, and more frequent pop-in also take away a bit from the thrill of the action. That all said, let’s not discount what a miracle effort went into getting Dying Light running at all on the Switch’s humble hardware. It may look rather rough around the edges, but these visual compromises are easily waved away by the convenience of playing such an ambitious release on the go. Given this, it thus goes without saying that if you’re not one to take your Switch out of the dock or the house very often, there’s not much reason to buy this version unless you don’t have access to other, more powerful hardware to run it on.
Dying Light on Switch is quite a remarkable achievement, and we’re happy to report that Techland has mostly stuck the landing with this one. Its ambitious open world full of zombies is unlike anything else in the Switch’s library and, between the core campaign and six years of constant DLC updates, there’s potentially hundreds of hours of enjoyment to be had here. Granted, all of this comes at the cost of performance that can be middling compared to other platforms, but this is neatly balanced out by the convenience of playing in handheld mode. We’d give Dying Light a strong recommendation, though with the caveat that Switch owners who rarely play in portable mode may want to pause and consider buying it elsewhere. Wherever you may fall, we’d strongly encourage you to consider this Switch port; it really is quite good.