Dying Light fans have been very well taken care of by Techland over the years. The studio's approach to post-launch support is commendable, to say the least, and the developer has constantly looked to feed its community with new things to do while, presumably, they continue to work on a more substantial full sequel. Part of this post-launch rollout of content is Bad Blood, a standalone addition to the franchise that takes the theme, mechanics, and assets from the base game and works it all into a hybrid battle royale experience.
In Bad Blood players take on a much more modest total of 12 players rather than the usual hundred-ish that you'll find in other battle royale games. After smacking each other senseless in one of the most brutal waiting areas we've ever frequented, the deadly dozen is dropped into the game's signature urban environment, at which point it's time for the standard weapon hunt and early game exploration that you'll know all too well from the likes of Fortnite and PUBG. The series' traditional melee focus is maintained in Bad Blood, and the vast majority of the things you'll be able to pick up at first come with a serrated edge. Whether you grab an axe, a machete, a scythe, or a bloody huge hammer, the emphasis is very much on smashing and slicing your way through players and zombie hordes alike.
The action is centred around a series of hives that are made up of infectious zombie filth. Each one is surrounded by a small group of the undead, with the number and strength of the zombies directly tied to the quality of the samples. Players then have to approach these groups, take out the undead that are on guard, and then take a blood sample before slipping away. The focus then moves to the next hive and getting enough blood to satisfy the folks back home who, when you (or someone else) have enough, send in a helicopter to retrieve you and your zombie science kit. Of course, things are made much trickier due to the fact that there are other players sniffing around, and if they were to, say, kill you, they could very easily loot your body and steal anything that you've been able to harvest thus far. And take our word for it: they will.
It's during these player-on-player encounters that the game leans most heavily on the melee system, and that's not always to the benefit of both of the players involved. The combat system is a bit tricky and if you're new to the game and you're up against someone who knows their way around the game, your pretty much guaranteed to come out of the encounter rather worse for wear. Simply put, Bad Blood caters very nicely for existing fans, but if you're new to the game we think you might struggle due to the sheer number of things that you've got to coordinate during a battle with a human player. Throw in a pack of zombies and a maybe even a ticking clock and you've got a recipe for panicked pressure.
And it's at this intersection of fear, between the nimble attacks of the undead and the more deft blows of your fellow human players, that Bad Blood sets its stall. You're constantly weighing things up, deciding on how to attack a group of undead and dislodge them from their defensive position, or maybe whether it's best to let another player do most of the heavy lifting before you slip in and take advantage of all their hard work. The scale of the challenge - because these groups of undead zeds are no pushover - gives Techland's game a very different texture when considered alongside the titles it's ostensibly up against, and we daresay the way you feel about the way other battle royale games handle in-match progression will dictate whether or not you gel with Bad Blood.
It's a very methodical experience. You can fill up to four weapon slots, and there's another four for your equipment. We were always on the lookout for throwing axes and grenades - the kinds of things that could put a bit of distance between us and whoever/whatever it is we were trying to fight. There are some ranged weapons but they're few and far between, and thus the focus is very much on the parkour traversal and melee combat system rather than grabbing a bunch of guns and going hell for leather. Bad Blood's matches don't take forever, but because there's an expectation that nearly all players are going to survive the first couple of minutes while they find their feet, there's more emphasis on building momentum. You gather strength not just by picking up and crafting improved weapons (you can grant them various elemental bonuses to give your attacks a bit more bite) but by taking risks; as you grab more DNA you level up and grow stronger, healthier, probably better looking too but it's first-person only so that's pure speculation on our part.
Techland should be commended for taking a different path with the battle royale concept, mixing in some genuinely distinct mechanics to set it apart from the growing crowd. Like in Hunt: Showdown, we're taken to a unique setting that feels plausible and well rounded, and while the zombie-theme extends across both games, its executed differently in either case. Also like Crytek's shooter, Dying Light: Bad Blood is in early access, and as expected from a game released before it's finished, there are plenty of rough edges. There's a general lack of polish, with enemy pathfinding particularly poor, as well more general technical hiccups such clipping and even the odd crash. Simply put, there's more work to be done in this respect.
The question is, then, is it worth picking up at this stage? Bad Blood is priced at around £15 at the time of writing, which isn't outrageous all things considered, but we still think it could offer a bit more (especially seeing as how there are microtransactions in there too). There's plenty of spit and polish still to administer, and we'd like new maps to play on in the future and maybe even different modes to mix things up, however, it remains to be seen just how far Techland can and will take this standalone experience. The emphasis on first-person parkour and zombie slashing, coupled with a few unique mechanics, makes for a distinct experience. The foundations are solid, and with the right rollout of post-launch content Bad Blood could have legs (given Techland's pedigree, we're optimistic), and the fact that it dares to stick out in a sea of PUBG clones could well do it plenty of favours in the long run.