Given that I nominated Dying Light as my Game of the Year for 2015 suffice to say I was looking forward to Techland’s long-hyped epic new expansion, The Following. A year after Dying Light’s release it’s finally here, but was it worth the wait? Read (or watch) on!
Chris Capel likes driving in his car.
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Set after the end of Dying Light with player character and all-round goodie-two-shoes Kyle Crane still in Harran, a dying runner comes to him with a story of a passage out of the city to the island’s countryside, where a group of villagers have found a way to avoid turning to zombies even after being bitten. Kyle ventures down this hidden path and finds both the Countryside and the villagers, but they’re not as equitable as he’d hoped - plus the zombie hordes seem even tougher out here.
And they are. Techland advise a minimum of Level 20 , so I hope you’re a Dying Light veteran. My Kyle was level 23 when I started playing The Following and I certainly struggled at some moments, and regularly my Quest book would contain nothing but “Difficult” or “Very Difficult” marks on each mission. The zombie hordes are more numerous, the night and cave-based Volatiles are far more vicious and unbeatable in single-player, and new gigantic zombies called Freaks of Nature offer the biggest challenge yet. The Following is for players who’ve finished Dying Light and want a tougher challenge, although thankfully most of the really difficult stuff is optional, such as clearing out Volatile caves or the aforementioned Giant Freaks.
Praise the Sun! Er, Mother.
The big deal about The Following apart from the difficulty is that Techland have traded in the free-running frenzy of the city for the wide-open Countryside. While at first this seems to make as much sense as turning a strategy game into a first-person shooter, given that the parkour aspect of Dying Light was one of the best things about the game, it’s allowed Techland to introduce a mechanic sorely missing from the original campaign: vehicles. Or, specifically, a slightly customisable version of the buggy from Half-Life 2.
The countryside around Harran is huge, and wide open. Fields, mountains, roads, farms, rivers, small villages and outposts, it’s really quite spectacular to look at compared to the cramped city streets of Harran. Despite “just” being an expansion the new map is bigger than both areas of Dying Light combined, and it’s basically just an open area to drive around, squish zombies, complete missions and discover new areas of note. Just like in the main game air drops, places of interest and events pop up as you’re exploring, and this keeps things interesting. Even without them it’ll still take you hours to explore the entire map.
Other than just generally doing things for money and fun, the main goal of The Following is building up trust with the locals. They’ve got the secrets of an anti-zombification cure and the only way Kyle is going to get it is if he gains their trust and gets deeper into their religion and the worship of a figure called ‘The Mother’. Every nice thing you do for them, from completing main quests to saving survivors from bandits in random occurrences, builds up your Trust Level, which is neat. Missions can be found at the various outposts, and these range from finding missing persons to more imaginative fare. There’s a significant amount of gameplay here.
I want to play with YOU!
While hugely impressive and undoubtedly very different from the main on-foot vehicleless campaign, I admit I didn’t have as much fun driving through farmland as I did parkouring around Harran. This may have something to do with the fact that games with zombies and/or cars are plentiful whereas I can’t think of any other zombie free-running titles. This is also partly due to the driving not actually being much fun. Yes watching zombie bits fly off is hilarious, but then Techland start bringing in Virals who can keep up with you and exploding Bombers and things suddenly stop being funny.
Plus it must be said that the map is just a frustration to traverse. The countryside is filled with trees, tiny walls, lakes, outcroppings, small dips and other hazards that’ll stop your buggy dead and leave you vulnerable to Infected attacks. While it sounds great that the map is so vast it doesn’t help that there is no Fast Travel, so getting anywhere takes ages. Then there’s the mountain cutting the map in two. At some point you’ll be given the mission of restarting the power plant by the dam and if you follow the Waypoint you’ll end up completely lost, as the only way to reach the southern half of the huge map is via a road on the very eastern side of the island. The map is literally divided in half for no other reason than to complicate things for the player, who isn’t told about this.
This is made even more of a problem during night-time, which if you remember was the other big selling point of Dying Light. Now that the Countryside is so vast you’ll need the buggy to get about anywhere, and guess what? Aside from darkness making those trees, walls, lakes, etc hard to spot those pesky Volatiles are roaming the fields and they’re tougher than ever. And not only does the buggy attract them, they’re also faster than it. Consequently in The Following the Night is no fun. At one point I was killed at night (because it’s inevitable) and spawned in a Hunter’s Tower pretty far from my car and miles from a safe zone where I could rest. I had to run for it, and I died multiple times before I quit the game. So that’s two of the unique features of Dying Light out the window.
Just piss off!
I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that I didn’t encounter any bugs on my playthrough, which is something reviewers have to report on with every Techland game after Dead Island. The only technical problem I found was that the Save system is complete trash. Now The Following does save all the time, just not the player’s location. Plenty of times after dying I’ve spawned far from anywhere, and the problem’s even worse if you dare to quit the game. I once loaded my save and found myself deposited halfway across the map from my previous location and miles from my car.
DYING LIGHT: THE FOLLOWING VERDICT
Now there’s a lot to like about Dying Light: The Following. The gameplay’s very different from the main game, there’s loads of varied and imaginative missions, it’s an excellent challenge for anyone finished with the central campaign, and the map will take anyone hours to traverse let alone properly explore. It’s definitely good value for money, and if you’re a Season Pass owner who’s been waiting patiently for the last year you’ll be laughing. Nevertheless in crafting such a different experience from Dying Light Techland have lost a lot of what made the game unique. The wide open countryside means there’s precious little free-running and the buggy veers between boring and frustrating. The Night is now unplayable, and on loading a save the game regularly deposits you miles from your car. If you like the idea of cruising around farmlands in a weaponless Half-Life 2-style buggy by all means pick up The Following, but don’t expect a smooth ride.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The hunt for Tom’s treasures!
Hours of gameplay with plenty of new missions.
A new gameplay experience, it doesn't just rehash _Dying Light_ over again!
Except it seems to have lost the two things that made _Dying Light_ great and unique: parkour and the Night sections.
The buggy is an absolute pain to control, since there's obstacles all over the place that'll stop you dead.
About Chris J Capel
Chris joined us in 2011 and loves Star Wars, comics and bad videogame movies.