Dying Light came at a time when Zombies were going out of fashion, The Walking Dead seemed to have peaked in its entertainment factor and you couldn’t browse a games store without finding title after disappointing title based on the undead. I always felt it was a shame that such an excellent game came just that little bit too late. After the success of the title (what could be considered the swan song of the genre) Techland haven’t been idle. There have been patches to address balance issues in the Be The Zombie mode and various little tweaks to keep the gameplay at optimum (April 1st last year saw a host of April Fools gags patched in). Beyond the upkeep of Dying Light, Techland have blessed us with the first Expansion: The Following.
It has been a full year since Dying Light’s release and The Following adds fantastic mechanics, skills and gameplay to a title that is still going fairly strong.
Let’s start with the map. The Countryside is the new playable area, accessible after a quick swim and a rather daring dive from a cliff. The biggest difference in The Following is the space. There is tonnes of it. While the parkour free running is still a big part of the game, there are only a few areas in which you need to climb buildings or hurdle over barricades. Most of the map is taken up with farm buildings, fields and a few warehouses. It sounds barren and to a certain extent, I suppose it is but even without the claustrophobic streets and Volatiles chasing you down alleyways, The Countryside is still an intimidating place. Tall grass may hide enemies, roads may be blocked by abandoned cars and, more importantly, safe houses can be few and far between, meaning when you do need to run away from a gaggle of Volatiles, you may be in for a long haul.The Following launches with an entirely new skill tree that our beleaguered Kyle Crane, will have the pleasure of unlocking, as well as a new Legend system that allows further advancement after all other skill trees are maxed out. The Following comes with a new story as well as an entirely new and different environment to witness the carnage of the undead. The biggest change, by far, is the addition of your Buggy: a rugged little vehicle that allows us to explore The Countryside outside of Harran. The Following is exactly what you look for in an expansion, it give us more of the game that so many of us enjoy and adds in a few new mechanics without changing too much of the core gameplay. It’s a difficult balancing act to pull off, but Techland have managed it and The Following is worthy of the Dying Light name.
The Buggy is your lifeline and much of my time was spent driving around the Countryside helping people and generally power sliding into Walkers. The Buggy is customizable and upgradable too, making it feel much more like a companion than a mere means of transportation. To accompany this new mechanic, there is now a Driving skill tree that will allow you to upgrade aspects of the Buggy, add weapons and other abilities that will make the apocalypse a little less depressing. There are a number of different paint schemes for the Buggy as well as other attachments (I like my Zombie Bobblehead) that can be applied to really pimp your ride.
Volatiles and other special infected can either jump on the Buggy to rip you apart or simply stop it dead on collision. There is an excitement to driving around at night, racing through small country roads that are only illuminated by your headlights, as a small army chases you. I was driving through a field that was full of tall grass, I couldn’t see the Volatiles in the grass but I knew they were chasing me. It felt like a scene pulled from Jurassic Park. I know the Velociraptors are there, I know they are closing, but I couldn’t see them. It is another aspect of how The Following changes some things within Dying Light, but manages to keep the tension and aura that we have all grown to love.What’s that? You want to play rock music before setting fire to some zombies? Well you can with the right upgrades. The system works the same as the other skills, as you use the abilities you gain skill points which will in turn allow you to level up and unlock abilities. The driving is thoroughly fun; there is enough control that you are never likely to end up driving off a cliff (unless you want to that is) but is just chaotic and scrappy enough to think that you might. The Buggy isn’t overpowered either, even once the various aspects have been upgraded and unlocked, car parts may break and need repaired in the middle of a hoard or you may simply run out of fuel. Searching broken down cars becomes essential for more materials to craft and repair your Buggy, but don’t forget to check the fuel tanks of nearby cars.
The story in The Following is possibly more unsettling than the main game. Without dipping into spoilers; Kyle hears of a group of people that are immune to the infection and seeks them out. Before long he encounters cult behaviour and “The Mother”, the deity that the locals have started praying to. It had a supernatural feel to it that is hard to put into words. It was unsettling in a way that was not deliberately so. It would be easy to make a parody of a cult filled with lunatics all drinking the Kool-Aid but Techland have managed to make a more believable and slightly disturbing experience than that.
The textures used for the scenery still have the slightly gritty quality of Dying Light but The Following handles the load well with no issues of texture pop that I encountered or many bugs for that matter. I did have issues with enemies being knocked to the floor and disappearing under parked cars, but on the whole it is as stable as the main game. There are more instances of water spraying into Kyle’s face from puddles and there is a satisfaction to destroying a wooden fence to mow down a heard of zombies. Destructible environments play a bit of a bigger part while racing around in your Buggy.
Fans of Be The Zombie will be happy to know that it is playable in this new area, meaning Buggies and the wilderness come into play. Techland have also made some balancing tweaks to the gameplay to make sure it is still a competitive and thrilling experience.
I loved Dying Light when it was released last year and Techland have done a sterling job at giving us an entirely new area, new people, quests and story that does the main game justice while still making sure that the gameplay is fresh. If you were a fan of Dying Light, you can’t afford to miss this expansion. If you already have the game you can get this great expansion for just $20. If you have yet to play Dying Light (what is wrong with you?) you can pickup the Enhanced Edition for $60 that includes the base game and the expansion.
(The game was reviewed via Playstation 4 though it is also available for Xbox One and PC.)