I miss Dying Light. I know—silly thing to say, right? There’s no need to miss a game I already have access to; with my Steam account, I can just go replay Dying Light any time. But all the same, I miss it. I miss what it felt like when it was a new and different experience.
Dying Light was always sort of the logical conclusion to the zombie genre. It turned evasion into one of the game’s most enjoyable and iconic mechanics. If zombies were to one day overtake the world, and it was up to ordinary human beings to survive, simply avoiding the horde would be more pivotal than hand to hand combat or gun power. Parkour, while physically demanding, would be a vital and enviable skill: those with the ability to Jackie Chan their way through a densely packed city would be a huge advantage over those who couldn’t (after all, there’s something to be said for being able to vault over an attacking enemy). It’s such an interesting concept, I wish Techland had had the guts to ditch the weapons and crafting system in Dying Light altogether.
It’s this same advantage that has made my experience this week with Dying Light: Bad Blood, the Dying Light answer to PUBG and Fortnite, more enjoyable than the other battle royale games. Set in a contained area resembling the original setting of Dying Light, the game pits 12 people against each other in a small arena, where they compete to be the first to collect zombie blood samples to secure the single spot on an evacuation helicopter. The danger is not just in the zombies themselves (stronger mutants, of course, guard the more plentiful hives), but in the hostile players, who will immediately chase you down and murder you for harvested samples. While Bad Blood retains the tension of a last-man-standing mode, it has the distinction of making that eventual confrontation interesting. Since running away has an element of risk, it becomes a gutsy strategy move instead of straight up cowardice, and the feeling of satisfaction as you slip away from an enemy in pursuit is thrilling. I love the excitement of dashing and sliding my way through the tiny stairways and shack windows of Harran, too panicked to collect blood samples, and too terrified to look back.
My praise for Dying Light: Bad Blood (which is still in Early Access) isn’t to say that the game is better than PUBG or Fortnite. I often favor evasion over combat because the adrenaline of direct encounters is too much for my nerves. But parkour is a such a unique way to encourage players to interact with virtual settings that I can’t help but feel as though Bad Blood holds its own. Whether pulling yourself up on a ledge or darting over a fence, the escape has such a satisfying chainlike fluidity, and in a game where the idea is to avoid detection or confrontation with other players, it’s a great way to make the escape just as much fun as the rest of the experience. Whether or not battle royale games are approaching peak saturation on the market is up for debate, and for many, parkour may not be enough to pull them away from the big titles already dominating the scene. But as far as I’m concerned, Dying Light: Bad Blood still deserves a fair shot.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.