Dying Light 2 celebrates a second birthday, eyes three more years of support
By Owen S. Good, Contributor
Then again, Dying Light (which launched in 2015) got seven years of post-launch support. Few would expect this of a “boxed, triple-A open world game,” as franchise director Tymon Smektala called the series in an interview.
There’s a lot of idealism in both video games development and fandom, but it’s clear that Dying Light 2 means a lot to the Wroclaw, Poland-based developers who made it. And for the past two years, they’ve given it title and content updates, fun cosmetic crossovers, and new modes, not only to live up to a commitment, but also as a matter of pride in the 33-year-old studio’s signature title.
“Dying Light is our baby, our IP, our franchise,” Smektala said. “Keeping players interested in the game for such a long time, it works two ways. The first is it allows us to better understand what Dying Light is for those players, and how their expectations changed through the years. …And the second, it allows us to make the game relevant for the changing gaming audiences, right? Because new people come in, or some people lose interest in it for various other reasons. But because we do what we do, we can really prolong the interest and relevance of time, as an IP and a series in the gaming world.”
The changes aren’t just cosmetic—Dying Light 2 still saw plenty of those over its first full year of post-launch support. The nighttime gameplay cycle was remade into something a lot riskier and threatening than what was presented at launch. Combat has been refined, and the traversal system has been continually improved, but subtly enough that the best way to understand the improvements is simply to revisit and play the game.
Those who picked up Dying Light 2 at launch in the winter of 2022, beat it within a month or so, and have either dabbled in it or left altogether might be surprised by what they see after the “Good Night, Good Luck” update of June 2023, Smektala suggested.
“Now when you start playing it, you might not even understand what has been changed precisely,” Smektala said. “But you’re saying, ‘Wow. Was it really so much fun back then?’ Gameplay-wise, this is something that is very important for us, and I think Techland, generally, is a studio that’s built on gameplay and tries to specialize in gameplay, in that second-to-second, visceral feeling you get. I think it will surprise you how much more we managed to squeeze out of it.”
The result of two years’ worth of support, Smektala said, is an active player count that isn’t just holding steady, it’s increasing—which is remarkable for something that isn’t typically considered a live-service game. “We have numbers of monthly active users which exceeds millions of players,” he said, “so, this is a phenomenal number for a game that has been released two years ago.”
What can players expect in 2024? In a word, more. Dying Light 2’s last publicly announced content roadmap has delivered on promises like a new weapon rarity, replayable GRE Anomaly challenges, and the ability to repair (and therefore keep) your go-to axes and clubs. But notably, the game doesn't yet feature firearms, a huge gameplay change that would seem to demand some kind of narrative setup. Nor has it yet seen the Nightmare difficulty setting that hardcore fans enjoyed in the first Dying Light.
“Basically, stay tuned,” said Smektala, who worked as a games journalist before he joined Techland in 2013. “I think one thing we have learned over the last few months is that we should really start announcing things once they are almost ready. We are so excited about the world, generally, and so into the community that we want to reveal as much as possible and tell everyone about the cool things that we are working on as soon as possible. But then it also sometimes backfires when things take more time in development.”
An expansion has also been announced for 2024, though it hasn’t been given a release window (or any other details) just yet. This would be similar in scope to the Bloody Ties story-based expansion that launched in November 2022, which introduced new enemies, weapons, and Carnage Hall, a replayable, gladiator-style combat arena.
Bloody Ties landed well with some players, but others are still craving deeper survival features, higher stakes, and more fight-for-your-life scenarios in the open world, which Smektala acknowledged. Fair play to Techland, it has responded to its community throughout Dying Light 2’s release. One example is mod support, in the form of community-created and curated maps available to all platforms; another is Community Update 3, the title update that delivered loads of player-requested changes.
“[Community Update 3 is] where we really showed people and proved to our community, our players, that their voice is really heard,” Smektala said, “and what they say really makes it into the game. It wasn’t the first time we did this, but I think the scope of what was in Community Update 3, and how deep we looked at the expectations of our community, and how much we managed to deliver...Their response to it was so amazing.”
The update’s content—some of which was laid out in the fall roadmap—was greatly informed by a council of influencers that Techland assembled from its most dedicated players. They consult with developers regularly about new ideas, they test prototypes and changes and give their responses, and are “actively involved in the development of the game,” Smektala said. The fact they even have such a council—which one would expect from a live-service title or an MMO—underlines Smektala’s original point about Dying Light 2’s staying power. Techland sees the game as something fans continue to play, rather than beat, put on the shelf, and admire.
It also answers why Techland could make a five-year support commitment for Dying Light 2 and know they could back it up. Dying Light supplied plenty of lessons to the studio—not only that such a roadmap was sustainable, but that it was worthwhile. “The biggest lesson we learned is that it makes a lot of sense, on all possible levels, to support the game, a triple-A, boxed, open-world game, for such a long time, because it works on a business level,” Smektala said.
And it also means Techland can recruit and regenerate its developer corps, thanks to the fact that Dying Light 2 is a current game, even if it isn’t an iterative work like a sports game, or a live service title like Fortnite. “It allows us to introduce and tutor more of our developers into working on Dying Light 2, because they are working on the series as a franchise,” Smektala said. And that will pay dividends in Techland’s future works, whether that is a hypothetical Dying Light 3 or something else.
“Constantly working on a game allows us to increase the experience of the developers in our studio, and their understanding of what it is, because they basically learn by supporting the previous title,” Smektala said.
It all comes with a bittersweet touch, though. Techland’s willingness to change and reformulate what other industry figures would regard as a fully finished work didn’t come entirely from a business plan. That creative effort has to be sustained by something other than the money the project makes, or the reviews it draws initially.
“We're like, we tried something, we knew that we had something special, and it wasn't really appreciated,” Smektala said about the launch of Dying Light 2 two years ago. “And then what happened is, our players, they started appreciating it. They started, basically, telling their friends about it. And they started recommending the game to everyone that they knew. And then, I would say, the community’s response, the players’ response, really gave us the courage, the motivation, to work on the game again.”
Dying Light 2 is available on the Epic Games Store.