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E3 2019

Dying Light 2 Developer Techland’s Leap of Faith is Paying Off

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Dying Light 2 is an ambitious sequel, especially when compared to its predecessor. The awkward marriage between parkour and zombies may have been little more than a gimmick the first time around, but now Techland is taking risks thanks to a newfound faith in its creative ideas. Techland’s sequel is crafting a realized, living world that can see drastic changes at every story beat and the changes to parkour are only the icing on the cake. Sometimes, forgetting Dying Light 2 falls into a sub-genre as beaten-to-death as zombies is easy, thanks to gameplay that is so damn impressive.

During E3 2019, OnlySP was invited to take a hands-off, private look at the game’s latest demo build which featured nearly an hour of story content. Along with the expected newly fleshed out parkour systems, the demo gave a peek into a world that can be completely melded by a player’s decisions and actions.

The demo opens up with the series’s new protagonist, Aiden Caldwell, as he struggles with fighting the zombie infection. After pulling himself together, the demo gives a solid look into dialogue and interactions with NPCs. For the most part, the dialogue options are staying simplistic, likely so players have a clear idea as to what choices they will be making. Throughout the presentation, Techland ensured that the choices made in Dying Light 2 have deep, interconnecting effects on the world and narrative. With that idea in mind, keeping dialogue options to only two choices seems like a smart call for now.

Dying Light 2

Caldwell heads into a bar where he meets up with some of his friends and presumed clan mates to discuss their group’s plan of action to get water for their people. Though the acting and dialogue is only a slight step up from the previous title, this bar scene is the first step into a fully-realized, lived-in world. Upon exiting the building, the demo showcased rooftops littered with friendly NPCs as far as the eye can see. These people are building on pre-existing structures, cleaning, cooking, and even farming on rooftops in many cases. Dying Light 2 is not just full of hazardous brain-deads: the game is populated with living, breathing people that are all just trying to rebuild.

Before Caldwell travels too far out into the world, a rival faction shows up and starts stirring up trouble on the streets below. In an instant, chaos ensues, and the rival faction attacks a group of Caldwell’s allies. Caldwell leaps from the rooftop and lands on a member of the enemy faction to break his fall, leading to the first combat sequence.

With one exception, the combat looks to be mostly the same as it was in the first Dying Light. Combat in the original title was by no means bad, just a little uninspired. The exception, however, is the new beefed up modding system. During this first fight, Caldwell initiates an electricity amplifier to send bolts of lightning through enemies. Later, after the player runs out of ammo for their gun, a button can be pressed to flip the rifle around in order to use it as a melee weapon.

Dying Light 2

Back to the first fight, Caldwell is given the choice to help his wounded friend or pursue the enemy truck that got away in the hope of finding fresh water. Of course, Caldwell begins a near 15-minute romp over rooftops to cut off the escaping vehicle. Along with parkour systems that fit the architecture unique to Dying Light 2’s city, Caldwell has been given some new tools. First, a grappling hook can be used to swing from nearly any ceiling or rooftop, and a paraglider for slow descents to the infested streets below. As an added bonus for those paranoid of taking fall damage, Caldwell can also tackle zombies through windows and over ledges and use them to break his fall, nullifying any potential fall damage. In general, quality of life changes to the game’s movement options can be found across the board.

By the time Caldwell tracks the vehicle down to the enemy headquarters at a riverside plant, the ripples of past decisions start to make waves. The friend from earlier has died and he could have been saved. Angered, Caldwell sneaks into the building to confront the faction leader, the Colonel. The Colonel gives the player two options: Fight back to open floodgates that could bring fresh water to the city or heed the Colonel’s warnings that Caldwell’s so-called friends could be working in a plot against him. Ultimately, the demo opts to turn open the floodgates. What happens next bodes well for Dying Light 2, assuming the team can consistently pull off such a feat.

Dying Light 2

Opening the floodgates saves the player’s people from dehydration and certain death, but also reveals a horrible secret. The floodgates had been keeping a lower level of the city completely submerged, which is now free for the player to openly explore. Within the sunken city, though, is a new breed of zombie that will inevitably wreak havoc now that it has been set free.

Seeing the water level lower to reveal and entire area with its own missions and quests simply because of a split decision was staggering. Players who make that same decision will have fundamentally changed their Dying Light 2 experience. If Techland is committed enough, the end product could see Quantic Dream-levels of branching story paths.

Considering the wide story is coupled with tight-looking gameplay, Dying Light 2 is posed to be a strong contender at next year’s award shows. Even if the overall narrative in the launch product leaves something to be desired, Techland may finally put the same plans so many others have poorly executed into action. Time will tell if the game is set to redefine the zombie sub-genre like it so clearly aims to do.

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E3 2019

The Outer Worlds is Proof of Obsidian’s Ability to Build a Universe

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The Outer Worlds

Obsidian Entertainment has consistently put out stellar RPGs for the last decade, but all of its creative juices have been strained of originality. Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth, while loved by many, are not synonymous with the Obsidian name. Though the developer has taken a crack at its own IP before, The Outer Worlds looks like the world’s first real taste of an unhinged Obsidian. Bringing together everything fans love about Obsidian-led games with the production values of a AAA RPG, The Outer Worlds plans to show players what the team can do when given time and the right tools.

Thanks to Obsidian’s generosity, OnlySP was given the chance to check out a behind-closed-doors viewing of the game at E3 2019. Even though the footage was hands-off, what was shown was more than enough to justify high hopes.

Obsidian has worked up enough goodwill in the last decade to fill a wasteland. From the moment the demo started, The Outer Worlds proved that Obsidian deserves all of its praise. 

Falbrook, a town on the planet Monarch, was showcased in the demo’s early moments and looked to offer Rockstar Games-levels of character. Townsfolk were walking around, talking with each other as business carried on as usual. The western, sci-fi fusion felt lived-in and was a nice reminder that Obsidian can do more than just make gripping RPG gameplay.

From the streets of Falbrook, the player walked into a nearby bar area to talk with an NPC. Here, dialogue and the importance of choice was shown in full effect. Those familiar with Fallout: New Vegas will find similar NPC interactivity here, as dialogue options have varying paths to take. Of course, standard options can be chosen to progress the story or learn more about another character’s background. Again following the example of Fallout was how dialogue can change depending on how the player character is set up. Obsidian did not go into detail about how dynamic this feature can be but did give the example of unique dialogue options for players who choose to have a low-intelligence character.

A true Fallout: New Vegas spiritual successor needs more than the classic RPG developer’s advanced dialogue, though, and The Outer Worlds’s combat offered just that. Though appearing sluggish during the first encounter, combat can pick up quickly. For example, The Outer World’s has a slow-motion mechanic called Tactical Time Dilation, which can most easily be compared to Fallout’s V.A.T.S. mechanic. This spin on an ability familiar to both Obsidian and Fallout fans alike is a great example of the developer’s willingness to blend its past experience with new ideas. Similar mechanics have been a staple of modern games, though normally can only be found in arcade-like games. Seeing such an arcadey ability used in a proper RPG was refreshing and should offer some hope to those worried The Outer Worlds could be all bark and no bite.

Obsidian doubled down on the importance of choice shortly after the first encounter by stressing the choices players can make both outside and inside combat. Again, as seen in many modern games, The Outer Worlds promises the option to take a stealth approach when infiltrating enemy lines.

What was really stunning about everything shown in the demo was the world and universe building. Leaving the town of Falbrook, which was interesting in its own right, led to fungal treetops that towered over the landscape. Pollen and spores filled the air as the player progressed onward. Obsidian claims the game will remind players of the team’s dark sense of humor, and the creatures and environments are unique both in name and appearance. The Outer Worlds looks to be both lived-in and well-realized, thus justifying its existence in the process. The entire reason Obsidian, or any developer for that matter, needed to take a leap of faith with its own IP was to prove it can produce a world worth living in. Despite gameplay and RPG mechanics that may not be wholly unique, the game’s namesake is.

Obsidian is promising outer worlds that are brimming with character. The Outer Worlds, while not promising anything too outside of the box in terms of gameplay, looks to offer a world like no one has ever seen before. Expect a much more polished Fallout: New Vegas with environments built from the ground up when The Outer Worlds finally finds its way to shelves on October 25, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. 

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