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Dying Light team already has a devoted fanbase, now they want the attention of critics

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Dying Light 2 is Techland’s chance to step out of the shadows

When the original Dying Light was released in 2015, critics — including those here at Polygon — were lukewarm on the game. Despite years of nearly continuous downloadable content and major gameplay revisions, coverage of Techland’s game eventually tapered off. But its community of hardcore players has continued to grow. More than anything else, said lead designer Tymon Smektala, it’s that community which helped pave the way for Dying Light 2.

Polygon caught up with Smektala during this year’s E3 in Los Angeles. He said this time around his team is hoping to break into the mainstream.

Dying Light is a unique creation of the Wroclaw, Poland-based studio, a potent blend of melee combat and parkour. Players spend their time either leaping from rooftop to rooftop, a la Mirror’s Edge, or bashing in the brains of zombies in the style of Condemned. But, early on, the gaming press largely slept on the game.

“I have my own personal theory about this,” said Smektala. “We were outsiders from somewhere in Europe and we had zombies in our game. So, everyone was thinking, ‘Okay, so this is perhaps a small game from a small studio with zombies in it. Nothing special.’ And I think people realize that the gameplay that we have put together in the first Dying Light was quite unique and it was something entirely our own. People started talking about it, the people started enjoying this, those people started talking to their friends about it, and that’s how the snowball started rolling.”

Judging by Smektala’s numbers, it’s a pretty big snowball. Since 2015, he said that Dying Light has been played by more than 13 million people. Even more surprising, it’s still seeing over 500,000 unique players each week.

To keep those players invested in Dying Light 2, Smektala says that his team is keeping the combat and the movement systems largely intact. The big addition this time around is a branching storyline, produced with help of Chris Avellone, whose writing credits include Fallout 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Prey (2017) and many other games. Smektala explained that world of Dying Light 2 will be broken up into multiple districts. A player’s actions inside each district will determine which of the game’s multiple factions take control. That, in effect, will help determine the outcome of the game.

The goal, Smektala said, is to give those players who have already sunk hundreds or thousands of hours into the original Dying Light a reason to spend even more time playing Dying Light 2. But even the most devoted fans can be fickle.

“We tried to do our homework,” Smektala said. “We have a very supportive community, one that talks with us directly. [...] Now we want to give them them a narrative that supports playing the game over and over and over and over again. So the guy that played it for 4,500 hours can now play even more and it is more meaningful, because he is not just bashing zombies on the head. He gets something more out of it.”

Dying Light 2 is set to release on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. The game does not currently have a release date.