Dying Light 2 Bloody Ties Review: "Fleshed Out And Genuinely Interesting"
When reviewing games, like in all things in life, we have to play the hands we are dealt. Sometimes you review a game you know plenty about, sometimes it's a game entirely outside of your wheelhouse. Sometimes, you are tasked with reviewing a DLC for a game you did not play, because the person who originally reviewed the base game has moved on to another job. That is the situation I found myself in when taking a look at Dying Light 2: Bloody Ties, the first story DLC for Dying Light 2. Here are my thoughts, as someone coming at this game from an entirely different angle.
Ties That (Loosely) Bind
Dying Light 2: Bloody Ties is entirely its own story, as our protagonist Aiden becomes embroiled in a tale of revenge, power, and gladiatorial combat. The crux around which this DLC is formed is Carnage Hall, a Thunderdome-esque arena where those seeking fame and fortune fight for prizes. The story begins with a mysterious stranger contacting Aiden over the radio, telling him that there is a plot to attack the city brewing at Carnage Hall, and he must get there to prevent it. While entering the competition, Aiden meets Ciro, a young man determined to succeed in the arena, to follow in his father's footsteps, and avenge his brother.
The first issue with this DLC has presented itself, the characters. First of all, the mysterious stranger who first drafts us into the situation is so unnecessary at the beginning that I forgot they existed until they made contact again at Carnage Hall. The introduction to the DLC focuses much more on Ciro, who we must work with throughout the initial trials.
Ciro is perhaps the least likeable person ever conceived. He is petulant, annoying, and forces his "help" on you, quickly becoming someone you need to babysit. His father, a former champion of the arena, warns you to leave his son alone, a request I would have gladly agreed to had the story allowed it. Before long, Ciro ends up in trouble and Aiden is recruited by his father to head off to Carnage Hall to rescue him.
Thankfully, there are more interesting and memorable characters waiting for us on the main stage, the new location where the majority of this story takes place, Carnage Hall.
Dying Time's Here
Carnage Hall is where the DLC really comes into its own. This new location is an enormous, palatial structure surrounded by a sprawling garden. As a video game level, it wouldn't be far out of place in a Hitman game. This UFC arena at the end of the world is an impressive place to explore. There are crowds of people baying for blood, circus-style performers twirling and juggling things that are usually on fire, statues and other remains of the building's decadent past, and the occasional undead monstrosity caged for safe viewing. The extravagance is not simply aesthetical either, there is depth to the story of this place.
The events at Carnage Hall are more than just repetitive gladiatorial combat. Much like the ancient Colosseum, this arena can be repurposed for all kinds of activities. Yes, you will do your fair share of fighting hordes of zombies and scores of other humans, but there are more events on the card than that. There are boss fights with powerful enemies, recreations of famous battles, and obstacle courses that challenge your parkour skills rather than your combat abilities. The variety of activities in the arena itself goes a long way in keeping this story fresh and fun the whole way through. Bloody Ties plays a dangerous game, flirting with the dreaded anime tournament arc, but never really dipping into the typical issues that might entail.
Your progress through the arena is punctuated regularly with the events of the plot, keeping the variety high and the intrigue going. Without spoiling anything beyond the initial premise, your goal is to work your way up the ranks of Carnage Hall. For your own benefit as you can earn some powerful gear, but also because you are seeking out our best friend Ciro, while also trying to root out the plot to attack the city. It all comes together in a package that, might be rough around the edges, but is overall a lot of fun to play through.
Considering this sizable episode of interesting content comes with a price tag of just $9.99/£7.99, this is an easy recommendation to anyone who enjoyed their time with the base game. There is way more content in here than you would expect at that price point, and what you might expect to be a repetitive, tacked-on mode is something fleshed out and genuinely interesting. As someone who never got around to playing through the whole of the base game itself, this DLC experience was enough to convince me that it is worth a try.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.