I Want A Post-Apocalyptic Game That Just Lets Me Chill

A shot of the house you first reach in Dying Light 2, bathed in early morning sun.

Why would anyone every want to leave here?
Screenshot: Techland / Kotaku

I’ve started Dying Light 2 twice now, once on PC, and once on PS5. Both times I’ve had the same struggle: I don’t want to leave that starting location. A few rotting skeletons aside, it’s perfect—it’s where I want to be in an apocalypse. Screw this guy’s missing sister, she’s probably long dead. I want to settle down here, in this autumnal idyll.

There will one day be the post-apocalyptic game I have wanted to play my whole life. A game where there are no zombies, no aliens, no wandering gangs of murderous lunatics—just me, an abandoned planet, and time. As far as I’m concerned, the least interesting thing you can do with a post-apocalyptic storyline is fill it with other people, and I cannot fathom how no one has made the lonely, isolating game of absolute freedom I’ve craved for so long.

Dying Light 2 is that game! For 10 minutes. And then it immediately rushes you onward, toward the big city, a place so populated with humans, let alone zombies, that it feels like a busy Saturday in town. Some apocalypse. It’s just a really bad power cut.

But, you might wonder, surely without all the usual gaming guff, there wouldn’t be enough to do? Oh my goodness, there would be so much to do.

Will Forte pushing a t-rex skull onto a dining table in The Last Man On Earth.

Image: Fox / Kotaku

Remember the first episode of the wonderful The Last Man On Earth? When Will Forte’s character has found a home to live in, and we watch as he moves in his collected items to the enormous vestibule? There’s the rug from the Oval Office, a t-rex skull from the Museum of National History, a Monet, Dorothy’s red shoes, an Egyptian sarcophagus…that!

Then I want to be motivated to leave my chosen home by the opportunity to nose and steal. To rifle through strangers’ drawers, piecing together secrets about the long-gone, then walking into a gallery and taking all the prettiest paintings.

Think about the extraordinary complexity of so many modern open-world games, how they have entire cities to explore, but so little to find inside them. Imagine if the developmental efforts that go into creating fighting systems, reams and reams of tedious NPC dialogue you’re forced to sit through, and all those bloody cutscenes establishing the faction who lives here or whatever, were all replaced by spending time filling everywhere with stuff.

I want Gone Home-level narratives to piece together in house after house. I want Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey realms of details in museums. I’m talking triple-A stuff here, but with a focus not on combat, nor ticking off icons, but on just exploring. Sure, let’s also keep Dying Light 2‘s awesome parkour, but without being chased! Just because I can.

The view from the opening house in Dying Light 2, looking out from a veranda onto distant mountains.

I would live here forever
Screenshot: Techland / Kotaku

I have given probably an unhealthy amount of thought to what I might do were I the last person on Earth. I know, from speaking to many others, that this doesn’t possess the same appeal for them as it does for me. This is perhaps because they aren’t misanthropes or something. In fact, many have told me that in that situation, their first choice would be to die. To escape the horror of being totally alone. Although maybe their kids aren’t as noisy as mine.

So it is that when I start Dying Light 2, that home you arrive in during the opening minutes, it’s where I want to stay. Just without that other chap pestering me. Yes, get rid of those dead bodies, perhaps sweep some of the leaves off the patio, you know, generally tidy up. And then set about making it home, a place from which I can go for strolls through that gorgeously rendered woodland, or on more ambitious days, set out with a picnic for a point on the horizon.

Maybe there would be missions to head into the big towns. Optional, of course, because this is my apocalypse. Not to save anything, or prevent the robot uprising, but just to find a bunch of cool shit. Imagine that incredible space but free from zombies and nagging NPCs, all replaced by the remains of their abandoned lives. I could spend forever in that game.

Instead I have to make do with the opening minutes of secluded paradise, then eventually abandon it to the noise and fuss of an over-populated city of odd-jobs and peril, in an albeit very decent parkour zombie-fest. There’s this whole extraordinary world, crafted by extraordinary developers, and it could have been mine! Indeed, there are dozens of such worlds! Open worlds built for one game, used only for one game, then tossed aside. Surely they could be recycled? Surely I could have my game built from the abandoned remains of those that came before?

One day it shall be created. It will be a surprise hit. It will have “NO MULTIPLAYER” in its highlighted features. Together, except not together, we misanthropes will have our idyll, and we will be so happy there without each other.

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