Hello there, fellow zombie hunters. Dying Light is upon us. Is the intense difficulty curve getting to you too? Here are the best techniques I've found to help get me through the night in the undead wasteland of Harran. Maybe even survive the whole next day, too! But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I've only managed to put 11 hours or so into Dying Light so far, so I don't consider these tips comprehensive by any measure. They're also heavily skewed towards the beginning of the game, which is by far the hardest part. I plan to follow up with advanced gameplay tips and tricks once we've all sunk more time into this vast zombie-riddled adventure. In the meantime, please let me know if you've found any useful tricks as well.

Alright, let's get down to the brain pickings. (See what I did there?)

Start Capturing Safe Houses Before Doing Anything Else

Safe houses are basically smaller versions of the friendly outposts from Far Cry 4. Whenever you capture one, you get a new spot on the map that you can escape to, rest in, and spawn into if you die. These are all very useful assets to have in a particular section of Harran, so the more outposts you have, the better. You also get a nice chunk of survivor points every time you unlock a safe house, which makes capturing them a handy way to beef up Crane's stats early on in the game.

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Capturing safe houses often involves fighting your way through a tough set of zombies, though. You should check out any unclaimed outpost that pops up on your mini-map with a bright red house-shaped icon. But you should also ask yourself how good a chance you have of successfully capturing it before picking a fight with some angry monsters.

Take Your Time With The Side-Quests

Dying Light's main story isn't very good. Some of the side-quests, on the other hand, are surprisingly well written and even moving. They're also a lot of fun, and a great resource for experience points. In other words: don't burn through the main story. Whenever you come across NPCs in one of Harran's safe zones, see if they want to talk. That usually means they have an errand for you.

To Unlock Co-Op: Do Spike's First Mission, Then Sleep

Dying Light's online co-op mode isn't immediately available. You have to do a few preliminary missions first. Don't fret if there's no "invite friends" option presenting itself when you first start the game.

If You're Playing On PC And Having Performance Issues, Here Are Some Tweaks

Like so many games coming out these days, Dying Light has been much shakier on PC than consoles. PC Gamer put together a handy guide for how to optimize the game's performance. Give it a read if you're running into technical issues.

If You're On PS4, Turn Off The "Immersive Sounds"

Dying Light has the single most annoying DualShock 4 audio feature I've ever encountered: the game defaults to making a rustling noise whenever you pick up an item. You'll hear this every single time you pick up a piece of loot. This is a game with a lot of loot. Every. Single. Time. Safe yourself from going insane by turning off "immersive sounds" in the options menu.

Juggle A Lot Of Different Quests At The Same Time

Pretty much every mission I've played in Dying Light starts with someone imploring you to travel to some point on the map, flip a switch or pick up a box (sometimes a satchel), and then return for a reward. Once you've gotten past the earliest missions, quests become more intricate by making you go to more than one spot on the map to interact with something. The game's checkpoint system is nicely granular, meanwhile, which means that your progress saves each incremental step on your fetch-quest-y journey. The minimap even highlights nearby areas that are critical to any of your ongoing missions regardless of which one you're technically pursuing. You can save yourself a lot of schlepping back and forth by taking on a ton of different quests (like, as many as you can find), and then deciding the order in which to approach them based on the relative proximity of their checkpoints.

There's No Fast Travel

Yep. Just gonna have to get used to that.

Well, Except For Two Special Circumstances

After traveling through the sewers to Sector 0, you unlock "Old Town." This is the second portion of Dying Light's map. At that point, you'll be able to fast travel between Old Town and The Slums, but only between them. You still can't zip between different safe-houses. Fast-travel is activated by walking up to posters in the relevant safe zone in each section of the map. If you're having trouble finding it, just toggle over to an open quest in the area you're trying to get to. This will put an indicator on the minimap telling you to head to the fast-travel spot.

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The only other way to cheat geography in Dying Light is with co-op. As one astute player pointed out on Reddit, if you set a custom waypoint and then accept the "race to that waypoint" challenge, you and your co-op buddies will all be teleported to the same general area.

Pay Close Attention To Time

Dying Light's world runs on a day-night cycle, and things change a lot depending on which of the two time frames you're in. Not having a fast-travel option means that you either have to make it back to a safehouse before night begins or face an army of ultra-powerful super-zombies that will one-hit kill you whenever they get the chance. If you don't want to find yourself stranded on the far side of town with miles of angry super-zombies between you and the nearest safe area, stick to a strict schedule. You can check the time of day by opening up the in-game menu—its the little clock face on the far right of the screen. The game also gives you plenty of warnings when night is approaching, so make sure to heed them.

Don't Die. It Can Fuck Up Your XP

Ok, so obviously you don't want to die in any game like this. But Dying Light has a uniquely vindictive way to punish you for dying. Whenever Crane is killed, experience points are deducted from his survivor skillset—the specific amount varies depending on how he died. It's not so insanely cruel that you actually go down in your overall level. But if you get stuck in a rough patch and die more than three or four times, you can easily end up losing almost an entire level's worth of progress.

In other words: be careful! It's much, much better to run away than try and die a hero's death.

Use Nighttime To Your Advantage

It might feel like you're helpless and terrified once the sun sets, but you actually have a few things going for you. First and foremost, just travelling around outside at night is a great way to gain experience. Running away from super-zombies is one of the quickest ways to level up Crane's agility skills—as long as you make it back to a safehouse in one piece at the end of a chase. And if you make it through a whole night outside, your survival skills will get an even larger boost.

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Crane's agility and power abilities also get a boost at night, and he doesn't suffer a loss of survivor points if he dies. In other words: going out at night can be very lucrative for you, experience-wise.

Don't Stress About Not Having A Gun

You'll see NPCs with guns very early on in Dying Light. You may even run into bandits outside who attack you with them. Getting a gun of your own takes a long time. And once you do, they're really not all that useful. Ammo is extremely scarce, and the noise alone makes the risk of using them outweigh any possible reward the vast majority of the time. Melee combat is very much the core of this game, so make improving your skills and equipment in that category a much higher priority than firearm proficiency.

But If You Really Want A Gun, Here's How To Get One

Don't feel like taking my advice? Well fine then! If you must have a firearm, you can pick up a handgun early on in the game. Follow the instructions in the video above to do so. Alternatively, here's where it's located on the map:

Pick it up from this poor dude. I'm pretty sure he's done using it anyways.

That's the easiest way to find a gun. It's not the only one. There are three other ways to acquire firearms:

  • Scavenge them from police vehicles you come across. This usually requires avoiding being eaten by nearby zombies.
  • Take one from one of Rais's men. That's a polite way of saying: kill someone and take their assault rifle. They can be found scrounging around airdrop locations.
  • Once you reach Survivor level 9, you can buy guns from merchants. Unsurprisingly, they're pretty expensive.

Don't Repair Weapons Until You Absolutely Have To

Weapon durability in Dying Light works a little differently than it did in Dead Island. This time around, each weapon comes with a specific number of "repairs" allotted to it, meaning that you're only able to fix it back up once its broken a handful of times. Don't let any of a weapon's zombie-hitting power go to waste by pressing the repair button (triangle on the PS4) before the game literally tells you: this weapon is broken, fix it.

Be Stingy With Your Weapon Upgrades And Modifications

Since every weapon has a limited lifespan, don't waste hard-earned crafting ingredients on something that only has one or two repairs left in it. You're better off using such a weapon until it's officially beyond repair and then dismantling it. That gives you metal parts, which are a key ingredient for repairing and crafting weapons.

Hold Onto Your Best Weapons So You Can Refurbish Them

If you've run out of repairs for a weapon, there's still a way to fix it: by doing escort missions. One helpful player who goes by KMFNR described how to do so on Reddit recently:

There are random survivors that appear on the minimap as a blue shield icon. It is an escort mission, and one of the reward options is "refurbish weapons". I've done these before for free weapon repairs, but tonight I noticed something extra - my katana was at 4/5 repairs before, and now it is back at 5.

I don't know if he just adds 1 repair or if he, well, refurbishes the weapon to new condition.

Like KMFNR, I've only had NPCs add a single repair to items. I'm also not sure how finite escort missions are, exactly. So only use this for your very best weapons if you can't stand losing them.

Try To Keep All Three Skill Types Around The Same Level

I suspect that different abilities will find specific abilities to be particularly useful depending on their individual play-style, so I have a hard time recommending specific abilities to "focus on" per se. In general, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you're at your most powerful when you're using all of Crane's myriad abilities in combination with one another. So don't lean to heavily on, say, parkour over melee (i.e., agility over power). Make sure you're making progress in all three skill sets at the same time.

Unlock These Abilities As Soon As You Can

You know what they say about RPG skills: all abilities are created equal, but some abilities are more equal than others. Here are the most useful ones you should go for in each of the three skill trees:

Survivor:

  • Backpacker, and then Master Backpacker. Lets you carry more stuff.
  • Lucky Repair. Gives you a chance to fix a weapon without using a repair slot.
  • Nimble Hands. Speeds up looting corpses, and gives you more loot.
  • Camouflage. Lets you pass by zombies without getting attacked quite as often.
  • Grappling Hook. Turns you into Spider-Man. It takes a while to get since it's all the way up at level 12, but once you do, it changes the entire game.

Power:

  • Kick Stun. Gives you a chance to immobilize enemies.
  • All Sturdiness levels. These increase your maximum health.
  • Stomp. Makes it much easier to kill knocked-over zombies.
  • Conserve Weapons. Greatly improves weapon durability.

Agility:

  • Health Regen (and Health Regen II). Increases the maximum level of health recovery without using medkits.
  • Vault. Lets you jump over zombies, very useful for getting through crowds.
  • Light Drop. Decreases fall damage.
  • Escape (and Instant Escape). Makes it easier to get away when a zombie's got you in their grasp.
  • Tic Tac. Adds wall-running to your parkour abilities.

Don't Forget To Kick. A Lot.

Speaking of weapon durability, the best way to enhance it is to only use a weapon when you absolutely have to. Sort of like the repairs, actually. Every single hit chips away at a weapon's life-span. And it eats away at Crane's attack stamina, too. Kicking zombies, on the other hand, doesn't cost Crane any stamina. And as far as I can tell, his leg hasn't started to show any wear and tear yet. Whenever possible, you should kick a zombie off their feet before using any other, more powerful tool to attack them.

Always Aim For The Head

Once a zombie is on the ground, it's very easy to hit them right where it hurts: in the noggin. Reserve your best weapons for these sorts of killing blows. If you begin attacking a zombie or group of zombies with your best stuff, it's very easy to go through an entire weapon (or even two or three) whacking at a monster's rib cage or shoulders. Blows like that don't deal enough damage to make the trade-off with a weapon's durability worth it. Again, this is why it's so important to always keep kicking.

Here's The Best Way To Kill (Standard) Zombies

Ok, let's just break it down in the most basic terms possible. This is the technique you should use to kill pretty much every normal zombie in the game. That means: the stock shambling dummies who are pretty much everywhere in Harran, and Virals (their faster and smarter brethren. Think of it as Zombie Killing 101.

Step One: Approach the zombie.

Step Two: Kick out the zombie's legs.

Keep kicking until the zombie is on the ground.

Step Three: Bash the zombie's head in.

Alternatively, you can also use the head-stomp ability once you've unlocked that. It really saves on weapon durability!

Step Four: Repeat steps 1-3 as many times as needed.

Make Note Of Store Locations

There are a lot of "safe zones" in Harran, but not all safe zones are created equally. Safehouses are usually just a room with a dirty mattress on the floor. Only the most strongly fortified and well populated safe zones have merchants in them. Before heading to a particularly safe zone, be sure to check for a "$" symbol on the map if you need to buy or sell anything.

Always Buy: Crafting Supplies, Blueprints, Medkits

Vendors demand a high price for weapons. You won't be able to afford most of what they sell for a while. Don't worry about that—you can always scrounge around outside for more baseball bats and hammers. The things you should scoop up the moment you see a merchant selling them are all the cheap odds and ends they have at the store.

Be On Constant Lookout For Loot

Crafting ingredients, or any kind of loot, really, are much harder to come by in Dying Light than they were in the Dead Island games. Every little bit helps. Finding things like metal parts, gauze, or string are particularly useful for weapon-making purposes. But seemingly useless items like coffee and cigarettes also fetch a high price with Harran's vendors.

Always Visit A Quartermaster When You're Near One

They give out free supplies and standard weapons. Head over to one if you're in dire need of crafting ingredients or—and this will happen much more often—all of your weapons are broken beyond repair.

If You're Stuck, You Can Duplicate Weapons And Items

Like its predecessor Dead Island, Dying Light has a popular exploit that lets you duplicate pretty much any item or weapon in the game. This opens the door for infinite weapons and money. The video above shows how to do it using your character's inventory, but it also works with the in-game stash:

I don't recommend using it unless you really feel like you need to. Or if you just want to grind through the game as fast as possible to max out your skills or something. Whatever your reason may be, bear in mind that using this exploit breaks Dying Light's loot system wide open, which really compromises the immersion and survival aspects of the game.

Scan Areas With Your Survivor Sense So You Don't Miss Anything

Using Crane's "survivor sense" (tapping X on the PS4) highlights all the loot in his immediate vicinity. A lot of stuff is hard to find otherwise since Dying Light doesn't have its items constantly flash on-screen like Far Cry 4 does. Make sure to scan through an area—particular the interiors of buildings or vehicles—before leaving. You might've missed that piece of string you really need!

Ration Medkits Carefully

Medkits are in very short supply at the beginning of the game. When Crane's been seriously injured, his health only recharges to 25% of its maximum value. Given these two factors, you should use health packs very sparingly. Unless you know you're heading straight back into combat, it's better to rely on Crane's parkour abilities to make it to a safehouse where he can rest to regain his health for free. It's not that hard to travel between different safe zones without taking any damage once you get a hang of the parkour controls.

Stock Up On Lockpicks And Firecrackers

Lockpicks let you open chests with the best loot. Throwing firecrackers distracts zombies and draws them away from stuff you're trying to get to. Except for maybe medkits, these are the two most important consumable items in the game by far. Thankfully, you can carry a ton of both. Make sure you have a healthy amount in your inventory every time you visit a merchant.

Firecrackers Are A Cheap And Easy Way To Kill Exploding Zombies

One of Dying Light's special zombie classes is this gross gasbag sort of thing that attacks by walking up to you and self-destructing. The best way to deal with these guys is to take them out from afar so you don't run the risk of ending up inside their blast radius. Dropping a firecracker near one tricks it into exploding, which is a great method because a) it's cheaper than using real weapons, and b) firecrackers also lure other zombies into the blast radius, so you can take out a whole crowd at once.

Pairing Them With Molotovs Works Well Too

I mean, luring a bunch of undead into a small area and then setting them all on fire is pretty much the oldest trick in the zombie-killing playbook, right?

Loud Noises Bring Out The Fast Zombies, And You Don't Want That

One specific class of zombies in Dying Light called "Virals" are incredibly fast and incredibly deadly. Unlike normal zombies who shamble around slowly and stupidly, Virals sprint non-stop, climb over barriers, and dodge your attacks. They're peppered throughout Harran like all the other bad guys, but loud noises are what really bring them out in droves. Explosions, gunshots, even the noise you make when landing a jump too hard will usually result in three or four Virals showing up to attack you at once. Keep this in mind whenever bringing out heavy machinery like grenades or firearms: they might help you take out one big scary monster, but using them comes at a cost.

You Can Run Through Zombie Crowds, Just Don't Let Them Catch You

Using Dying Light's parkour effectively is often a matter of maintaining a proper level of momentum. Standard zombies aren't very fast, agile, or spatially aware, so it's not that hard to move around streets and other areas that are crowded with them. You only run into a problem if you pass within reaching distance of one, at which point they'll grab you and start doing this:

If there's a solid crowd of zombies around you when this happens, you can easily be overwhelmed. Plot your moves carefully to find openings in a zombie horde and sprint through them in time.

Use Height To Isolate Virals

Remember those sprinting zombies I was talking about a minute ago? Well, they become a much bigger threat than they already are if they find you in the thick of a zombie mob. Regular zombies can't climb the same way Virals can, though. So if you find yourself getting swamped with both kinds of zombies at the same time, climb on top of the closest bus, minivan, or makeshift hut that you can find. Only the Virals will follow you up there, and it's much easier to deal with them on their own.

Actually, Use Height For Everything

Having parkour and a corresponding agility skill-tree to Dying Light is as clear a sign as they'll ever be that avoiding physical conflict with bad guys is a totally viable option in this game. Often, it's the very best option. If you ever end up in a sticky situation, the first thing you should ask yourself is: "What's the quickest way I could put some distance between myself and this thing that's eating me?" More often than not, the best answer is: "Get over and above them." Scrambling onto a bus or up the side of a building opens up countless avenues to either escape or redouble your attack. Heck, I even survived a recent Viral onslaught by climbing up a random telephone poll and waiting for them to wander off.

Hiding out at the top of a telephone poll might make you feel like a cat who got stuck in a tree. But you know what? It also gets the job done. Plus: who's around to judge you during the zombie apocalypse anyways?

Choose Where You're Going To Fall Carefully

Dying Light doesn't have a "leap of faith" type to help you descend from some tall building safely. Look for dumpsters and piles of trash bags. Landing on them helps avoid fall damage.

Use The Grappling Hook To Avoid Fall Damage

If there isn't any garbage piles lying around, you can use the grappling hook instead. Once you get it, of course.

Try To Figure Things Out On Your Own Before Looking Online

It's important to keep in mind that Dying Light is supposed to be punishing and difficult to understand—especially at first. Its steep difficulty curve is a big part of what makes it so scary. This fear, in turn, is what motivates you to think and act creatively in order to figure out more efficient and effective ways to survive. Discovering increasingly complex techniques to do so has been the defining part of the game for me so far. If you find yourself getting stuck by a specific point in some mission or frustrated with how quickly one type of zombie keeps killing you, I highly recommend giving yourself at least a half-dozen tries to figure out a solution before looking for outside help. Every time you pull something off entirely on your own in this game, it feels pretty damn rewarding.

If You Start To Get Bored, Turn Up The Difficulty

Dying Light has a few issues with balancing its difficulty that gradually reveal themselves as you level up and get bigger and better weapons. If you notice that you're starting to feel trapped in a repetitive grind-heavy experience (in a bad way), try tweaking the game's settings or adding in your own custom handicaps to keep things interesting. Here are some ideas for how to do that.

That's all I've got for the moment. But if you're playing the game too and think I missed anything, don't hesitate to reach out. I plan to keep updating this post as I continue to work on my review of Dying Light.

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UPDATE (2/6/15 6:00 pm): Added a bunch of new tips about finding particular items, fighting zombies, and leveling up. Keep your suggestions coming, too!

To contact the author of this post, write to yannick.lejacq@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq.