Dying Light had a simple three-step method to its fun in its derelict, zombie-infested world: parkour antics, fast-paced first-person melee combat, and a deep and rewarding crafting system. It was popular enough to warrant a sequel (which is in development), and now there’s a spin-off in Steam Early Access: Bad Blood. This stab at the battle royale genre embodies some of the best parts of Dying Light while adding new ideas to the genre. It’s radically different from what you might be used to, with a lower player count and prevalent PvE encounters immediately setting it apart. But its current lack of depth makes Bad Blood more of an entertaining distraction than a viable player in the competitive battle royale market.
If you played the original Dying Light, Bad Blood will feel familiar. The tower that once acted as your primary mission hub in the original game stands tall in the center of the new bright and colorful map, surrounded by rooftop running routes and derelict rooms primed for scavenging. Though there are numerous twisting alleyways and dangerously exposed roads, it only takes a handful of matches to become comfortable with your surroundings.
Unlike most battle royale games, Bad Blood doesn’t start with a race to the ground from an airdrop. Instead, you and 11 other players (yes, that’s a total of just 12 in a match) are spawned straight into the action at random. After that, it’s a routine battle royale start. Rooms and buildings remain fixed, but their lootable contents change each match, and the opening seconds are generally a race to amass an inventory full of weapons, gadgets, and supplies. Cricket bats, crowbars, sickles and more make up a large arsenal of weapons, each of which can be upgraded with a single lootable item to augment attacks with bleeding, freezing, or electric damage. Bad Blood streamlines crafting and inventory management to keep you out of menus entirely, limiting your weapon and gadget slots to just five and four spaces respectively.
Bad Blood also doesn’t feature a shrinking circle to force players together and instead has a point total that each player needs to work towards. Once one player has collected enough points (called samples), a helicopter is summoned to a point on the map for evacuation. All players are made aware of the landing zone and the player attempting to evacuate, creating a tense conclusion where everyone is drawn to a singular area for an all-or-nothing final fight. You gather points from Hives, randomly placed locations around the map that are protected by zombies of varying sizes and strengths. Smaller Hives offer less of a challenge but fewer points to reward, while larger ones feature gruesome bosses to overcome but a greater possible contribution towards your goal. These AI-controlled foes are just as likely to kill you as other players are, forcing you to treat them with the same amount of caution and preparation.
You’ll need points to secure victory but also to level up and improve your overall health and damage output each match. Hunting down Hives is a logical and alluring prospect at the start, offering a quick way to collect points and level up. Your entire strategy can be moving between Hives and engaging only with the undead, avoiding other players entirely. But their ever-present threat can’t be understated. Other players can startle you in the midst of a fight around a Hive, picking you off in the chaos and stealing your amassed points. Bad Blood excels at never letting you catch a breath, while also rewarding players that manage to shift their principles from lonely scavenger to lethal predator at a moment’s notice.
Dying Light’s signature parkour platforming enables this, giving Bad Blood an exhilarating sense of verticality to its gameplay. Players won’t be picking you off with sniper rifles from a distance, but instead leaping down from rooftops onto your head for an instant kill. Using the twisting rooftops to pull off a daring escape is just as adrenaline-pumping as catching a foe after an extended chase, and Dying Light’s straightforward control scheme makes this boundless running about as easy as it is gratifying.
Disappointingly, though, the chase in Bad Blood is far more thrilling than the killing blow. While Dying Light’s tried and tested melee combat is still satisfying when you’re dismembering zombies limb by limb, it’s not yet as robust against other players. PvP encounters feel messy, with wild swings and tricky blocks making each skirmish feel less about skill and more about luck. While Bad Blood’s surrounding activities are engrossing, direct encounters lack the depth needed to maintain its momentum to the end of the match.
Bad Blood is exciting at first simply because of how different it is, a quality which is solidified by its exhilarating movement and additional focus on PvE play. But it’s a formula that wears thin fast. Without strong PvP play, the opportunities to continue learning with each match diminish quickly, not urging you to continue playing to understand it any further. Bad Blood is still in Early Access, and its future could drastically change what is available today. But right now, it’s more a reminder of how good Dying Light’s established gameplay is without anything truly compelling to keep you engaged for long.