Just don’t call it battle royale
Like the hordes of zombie antagonists it features, Dying Light refuses to die. There’s a passionate community that keeps the game alive, and Techland is happy to oblige these players with continued support. Before a GDC demo in San Francisco this week, a Techland representative tells us there are still 2.5 million active players. That’s a remarkable number, especially considering Dying Light isn’t something along the lines of a persistent MMO.
Techland’s next step in keeping people interested sort of follows industry trends while staying uniquely Dying Light. A standalone expansion called Dying Light: Bad Blood is set to release later this year on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It’s a competitive multiplayer mode, which is the first time it has tried this angle (aside from the Left 4 Dead-like humans versus zombies from the base game). This is piggybacking on the ever-popular battle royale billing.
It feels pertinent to get this out of the way up front: Bad Blood is not really battle royale despite plenty of other outlets reporting it that way. Bad Blood is a six-player mode — more of a battle miniature than anything else. Everyone has only a single life, so there is a pervasive cautiousness about it all. But a lot of games were doing that well before battle royale became so profitable.
Instead, Bad Blood leverages its systems to make a multiplayer mode that uses its existing environmental hazards, and simply adds a human threat. The premise has six players dropped off on a map, everyone with a different dumpster to land in (exactly where I belong, according to some people). They have to collect infected blood samples for their employer to come pick them back up. But, due to a helicopter design that seems awfully deficient, there’s only one seat on the chopper. You see where this is going.
Finding zombie hives and taking out their biggest guardians is the most surefire way of finding blood. It’s a loop of getting into buildings to loot, using those weapons to grab some blood, and that blood triggering level-ups so the player becomes even stronger. By the end-game, you might be level five while the only other player is level two. They could theoretically gank you at the extraction site, stealing all your blood and riding off into the sunset. You can probably just make quick work of them, though.
The decreased player count obviously means you’re more likely to win any given round. Skill aside, it’s just plain statistical favor that a one-in-six chance is better than one-in-one-hundred odds. There’s another benefit though: Rounds are significantly shorter. We played through two rounds of Bad Blood, and they were about 10 minutes each. That time commitment is easier to swallow when a horrid mistake leaves you suddenly dead.
Despite all my claims that Bad Blood mostly skirts the battle royale designation, there’s one important inclusion that has become a genre staple. There are hotly-contested airdrops that contain the very best equipment. Our second round ended like that scenario two paragraphs up: A lower-level player against a high-level player. But, the former found an airdrop that had guns in it. The extraction zone wasn’t much of a final showdown. The low-leveler calmly fired away at range, and all of the other guy’s melee weapons weren’t much of a threat.
We saw a pretty complete-feeling demo of Bad Blood, but there are still a lot of unknowns. We aren’t sure how many maps there will be. We don’t know when or how much it’ll launch for. Maybe most important for Dying Light fans, we don’t know if earnings from Bad Blood will somehow translate into rewards in either the base game or the Following expansion.
Even so, Dying Light is still going strong against all conventional wisdom. Bad Blood looks as if it’ll be a continuation of that. It’s a fun and interesting competitive multiplayer twist on a three-year-old game. It’s delightful to parkour around a zombie playland while trying to off other humans. Just, you know, it’s not really battle royale.