A screenshot from Dying Light in a wooded area facing a sunset with a teammate holding an automatic rifle and another in a cowboy hat with a sword with extra swords bolted on

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”

Check it out!

Vintage RPG

Many years later, set upon by thugs and the infected, you will remember the day when Dylan Thomas penned a poem for his sick, dying father. You cannot imagine that the air of resistance and defiance of death, together with the feelings of sorrow, hope, unfulfillment, passion, and a thirst for life, could be revived by your epic adventure in an alternative post-apocalyptic scenario.

At first glance, you are the opposite of moribund Mr. Thomas. You are a vigorous Harran Superman jumping between rooftops, catching and singing the sun in flight. Yet these are mere deceptions, as a malaise lurks maliciously under your skin since you were bitten and infected by the virus after a terrible parachute landing. Antizin is not an elixir but only a temporary cure to delay the process of mutation. That means before the real story even begins, you have been informed of what will happen to you in the end and you will not know when it comes. Though the fear of impending death is rendered moot by respawn mechanics, you know it will eventually run out. Still, you flatly refuse to go gentle into that good night.

Roaming the devastated environment, you have to stay alert for both the walking dead and hostile mankind. In the face of disaster the established order quickly collapsed, with the law of the jungle taking its place. Abuse of power and violence prevails, and men are forced to spurn the trappings of civilization. Armed with better equipment, Kadir Suleiman (a.k.a. Rais) and his kneelers want to dominate the city by arbitrarily pursuing a policy of brutal oppression and following more primitive instincts. Essentially, their plan is to replace the sublime with the vile. They drag you down to the same moral low ground and make you accept savagery and barbarism as the natural state.

Like those wise men at the end, you know dark is right, but the inevitability of death does not stop you from forking more lightning. As an undercover agent of Global Relief Effort (GRE), your mission is to recover a stolen file from Suleiman. As always, things don’t go as planned. You are rescued by strangers and escorted to the Tower, a large residential building controlled by a man named Brecken and a group of survivors, mostly parkour runners good at taking advantage of their agility and the city’s terrain to scavenge for life-saving supplies. With no further clues of the target, you can only join their ranks for the time being, waiting for your opportunity.

A screenshot from Dying Light in a castle cellar or dungeon with barrels and bricks and torchlight and skeletons in medieval soldier helmets and swords

Originally, as a grave man near death, you see the world with blinding sight. You are so naive that you do not realize that, as Sir Humphrey quips, the history of the world is the history of triumph of the heartless over the mindless. You burn boxes of Antizin in order to create opportunity for further negotiation with Suleiman. However, even blind eyes can blaze like meteors and be gay. After rounds of crossing swords and firing guns, you finally reject your untimely infantilism and put an end to the reign of a psychopath. You know there must be new mob bosses burgeoning, but your valiant record will be “molded in brass, carved in marble, limned in pictures” for eternity, and when your deeds are spread and appreciated in other places of world, people will be finally emancipated, free from any form of tyrannical authorities.

As you participate more, you are connected more with the city and its people; the more well-rounded the images of characters become in your mind, the more you find every day a struggle. You see, death is so common in the quarantined city. Even for an adept survivor like you who has to cope with every single day, you cannot help drowning in sorrow when the people you met along the journey slip away. In fact, you could have been more indifferent and less sentimental. You are an outsider, and all you need to do is achieve the mission profile and extract yourself. You do not owe the Tower anything. You can simply ignore these people, pretend to be caring and friendly, and decamp, quickly and quietly.

But you can’t. You find it difficult to forget past lives. You are mentally tormented by something more precious than gold in hell – conscience, duty, hope. In a trance, you remember the story of Martin Walker, a captain who led his squad on a recon mission in Dubai and never returned. People say he was mesmerized by his self-righteous pursuit of saving innocent people from desperation, not really knowing it is precisely in the process of self-congratulation that he pushes others into the abyss of destruction. You worry if you are repeating his mistake.

Screenshot of Dying Light where the main character in camo gear is jumping to a rooftop over palm trees and hordes of zombies

You are trying to help, but your efforts directly or indirectly caused the death of Amir, Rahim, Jade, Dr. Zere, and, if justifiable, other bandits who also want to make livings like you. Driven by the unfinished business of the dead and the expectations of the living, you carry on killing more zombies and scumbags that dare to threaten you, not caring about which of your teammates may be killed next. Usually time heals all wounds, but as long as the show goes on, your anguish is doomed to emerge over and over again. Eventually your frail deeds may dance in the bay, but you won’t be able to share this scene with your brothers and sisters in arms anymore. At this moment, you start questioning yourself:

“What if I didn’t make it at the outset?”

Stop! You are tired of this pretentiousness. “It’s just a game,” you say to yourself, and turn off the screen, as if the unnamable sadness was never there. No matter how hard you try, the world cannot escape its ultimate destiny. Dylan’s father died. Dylan died young, in his late thirties. Harran fell. You may either die in a nuclear bomb explosion or succumb to the virus and become a Volatile yourself. Even if you are lucky and dodge the fate for the time being, one day you too will say goodbye to the world. At that time, before nightfall, with infinite regret and anger, you will recall Thomas’s poetic lines and, with the last of your strength, burn and rave at close of day.

You are Kyle Crane. You are who you choose to be.


Zonghang Zhou is a small-town boy seeking to write about games and culture in the English department. He is waiting with anticipation for someone to find him @zhzhou86.

Books, Games