Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2: Which Game Is Best For You?

Dying Light 2 and Dead Island 2 have a lot in common, but it's their differences that will ultimately determine which zombie game is the best zombie game for you.

Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2
Photo: Deep Silver/Techland

On the surface, Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 look and play like very similar games. Not surprising since they both can trace their roots back to 2011’s Dead Island. After working on that game, developer Techland went off down their own path to create the spiritual sequel Dying Light, followed by Dying Light 2. And then Deep Silver gave Dambuster Studio the Dead Island reins (following a long and complicated development cycle). However, looks can be deceiving.

While Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 share many similarities (i.e., both are first-person zombie titles with light RPG progression mechanics), they also sport many differences. These include tone, weapons, and the zombies themselves. Here are but a few we’ve noticed to help you decide which game is right for you. Don’t worry; spoilers will be kept to a minimum.

Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2 Differences: The Protagonists

While they share certain qualities (heroes with impressive stamina and skill trees), the protagonists of Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 differ in notable ways.

In Dead Island 2, players start the game by picking one of several characters. Each one has unique stat distributions (e.g., faster health recovery, higher defense) and starting skills that determine playstyles. Subsequent skills can be acquired (and altered) via discoverable “skill cards.” Moreover, each character has their own personality quirks, but they all essentially act the same to help them fit into Dead Island 2’s narrative. Early on, they discover they are essentially genetically chosen ones that are immune to the zombie virus. Sure, that has narrative ramifications later down the line, but it’s also a reason why zombie bites do nothing to them.

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Dying Light 2, meanwhile, has only one playable protagonist who goes through the game however players wish. While he has stats, these are mostly determined by his equippable gear. With the right loadouts, players can easily change their builds if they so please. Unlike Dead Island 2, Dying Light 2’s protagonist isn’t immune to the zombie virus; he’s as infected as everyone else, and the only thing keeping him human is UV light. This factor plays a large part in the game’s exploration and narrative.

Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2 Differences: The Combat

The combat systems of Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 share a lot of similarities thanks to their similar ancestry. Most notably, both games focus on dismembering zombies with weapons. Players need to chain together kicks, light attacks, and heavy attacks, but also stay on the defense with blocks and dodges. But despite these similarities, Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 offer fundamentally different approaches to combat.

Overall, Dead Island 2 is the more “arcadey” of the two titles. Combat is faster, and you can dodge infinitely in every direction. While Dead Island 2 doesn’t have a system that slows down time whenever a player properly times a dodge or block, they do get to execute zombies if they perfectly parry or dodge a zombie (or knock a zombie down). Later in the game, players can unlock a super rage mode. To add to the arcadey feel, Dead Island 2 has a large focus on environmental combat, as players can chain together oil, water, acid, electricity, and fire to take out large portions of zombies. But, many zombies have elemental affinities of their own that make them resistant to these elements, or worse, turn the environment against the player.

Dying Light 2 is actually the slower of the two titles, despite its emphasis on parkour-based exploration. Dodging is still extremely useful, but dodging too often without a break will make the main character trip and fall, which is never good during a zombie onslaught. Players can still head-stomp prone enemies, but the game doesn’t give them an execution prompt if they properly dodge or block an enemy, mostly because there is no such thing as a perfect block or dodge (you either avoid damage or you don’t). Moreover, throwable items are limited. If you run out of them, you can’t use any until you craft some more. These systems make Dying Light 2 combat feel more grounded and realistic.

Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2 Differences: The World

Many pieces of zombie media share several similarities, Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 included. In both games, society is in shambles, and, depending on how long the zombies have been around, the world is in various states of disrepair. However, key, yet subtle, differences between the worlds help set them apart.

Dead Island 2 takes place in the middle of a zombie outbreak in California. If it wasn’t for all the corpses, busted cars, and abandoned luggage, the game world would look quite beautiful. Since human infrastructure is still sort of functional in Dead Island 2, many buildings still have electricity, and exploration puzzles usually revolve around finding keys or inserting one-use breakers. Also, while most of Dead Island 2 revolves around melee weapons, guns are an available and viable option since they recently existed in the world. While that world can be explored, it is divided into cordoned-off areas.

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Dying Light 2, meanwhile, takes place in the fictional European city of Villedor, many years after a zombie virus outbreak. Because human society has all but collapsed, guns are a rarity in the world. Players are free to explore the sprawling and vertical location, although doing so is no easy task (more on that later). As the game progresses, players can make choices that impact the look and feel of the city, as well as who controls it. Moreover, since Dying Light 2 takes place in a huge, open-world city, the game focuses heavily on parkour skills, and it even gives players a grappling hook and paraglider for good measure.

Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2 Differences: The Enemies

Players spend most of their time in zombie games fighting said zombies. However, no two zombies are infected the same way. These differences affect not only their appearances but also the challenges they pose.

Even though the original Dead Island includes both zombie and human opponents, Dead Island 2’s enemy roster is exclusively made up of zombies. You’ve got your standard decaying shamblers and quick-footed runners, but also buff bodybuilders and bloated obese zombies that put the “projectile” in projectile vomit. Some zombies even have elemental affinities and are permanently on fire or discharging electricity. These zombies are seemingly the result of random mutations and tie into Dead Island 2’s more arcadey feel. They also explode and fall apart in often comically gory ways.

Dying Light 2‘s enemy roster is split between humans and zombies. Depending on who players side with, they will fight different opposing human factions, although individual enemies still come in several flavors of specialization regardless. As for the zombies, they too sport different unique forms and strategies, some of which only come out at night. Unlike zombies in other games, Dying Light 2’s more powerful variants are portrayed as “natural” progressions of the zombie infection, which helps give the game a more realistic and grounded setting.

Dead Island 2 vs. Dying Light 2 Differences: Unique Mechanics

Since Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 both feature a ton of weapons to collect, they share several base mechanics. For instance, weapons in both games come in a variety of shapes and rarities, are customizable, and break after continued use (although they are far more durable than weapons in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild). Still, Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 offer different takes on these same ideas, as well as unique mechanics, that set each other apart.

Since Dead Island 2 is more arcadey, weapons take full advantage of gamified systems. For instance, players can augment these items with a mod that alters or improves its damage output, as well as a variable number of perks that change weapon stats and add passive bonuses. Moreover, players can repair weapons an infinite amount of times and level them up to make their stats scale with the character level. However, limited money and resources will serve as a roadblock in this regard. Dead Island 2 places a heavy emphasis on the game world’s pre-existing infrastructure. Locked doors can be opened with one-use fuses, and many cars and windows trigger blaring alarms when broken. Before you ask, those alarms do attract/spawn zombies.

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Dying Light 2 sticks to its more grounded systems, even in weapon mechanics. Players can still mod their weapons, but they only have three slots to work with. Plus, each mod is divided into Power (it activates during a charged attack), Crit (it activates on a critical hit), and Blast (it activates after passively recharging). Moreover, these mods are tied into the durability system. You can only repair a weapon by attaching a mod, which means Dying Light 2 encourages players to upgrade weapons later down the line, and more importantly, no weapon lasts forever in that game. The game’s lockpicks, however, can last a long time if players know how to use them.

Dying Light 2’s signature. and most important, mechanics are tied to its exploration. The game features a day/night cycle, which is admittedly standard for most games, but unlike other titles, Dying Light 2’s nighttime sections are when the action gets good. During these twilight hours, the game’s most powerful zombies hunt the streets, and, when they do, regular runs turn into dangerous chases. However, anyone who braves the night will find that the hiding spots these UV-averse zombies sleep in are vacated and ripe for pilfering. Regardless, whenever the main character leaves the safety of the sun or UV lamps, Dying Light 2 begins a countdown. If it reaches zero, the protagonist is zombified and it’s game over.

That should give you everything you need to know about the differences between Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2. Here’s hoping this guide helps you pick the one that’s right for you. Are you more attracted to Dead Island 2’s arcadey style or Dying Light 2’s more grounded survival systems?