Dying Light was, to me, one of the bigger surprises of 2015. I mean sure it was a zombie game and it came from a lot of the guys behind Dead Island but the sheer quality of Dying Light was impressive. The loot-driven gameplay, the fantastic first person parkour and the heart-pounding experience of roaming at night all led to a truly fantastic title that ended up on my personal Top 5 list. So naturally it was with great anticipation that I stepped into The Following, a giant expansion to the already great original title.
As an immediate continuation from Dying Light’s conclusion, protagonist Kyle Crane hears rumors of a group of people who are supposedly immune to the zombie virus. Traveling to this new land he runs into the seemingly immune people who are protected by a cult called The Children of the Sun. These people where masks and worship a figure called The Mother. You’ll witness a strange airborne substance that renders zombies completely docile. But, as with every cult, there is much more going on then first appears.
The Following takes place on a huge map – twice the size of the two areas from the original game – that is also vastly different in style. The Following has Kyle venturing through farmlands, beaches and mountains with various settlements dotted throughout the landscape. It’s a far cry from the dense, urban landscape of Dying Light and makes for a considerable change for how you actually play the game.
As with any proper expansion, The Following changes things up pretty significantly from the original game. The main new addition is a driveable, customizable dune buggy to help get you around the vast land mass, and there will be a lot of driving involved. Where Dying Light focused mostly on parkouring your way across rooftops, The Following’s map, aside from some mountains, is almost completely flat. Getting stuck on foot means that you’ll be hiking quite a ways to the next safe zone. You can easily locate and get to your car most of the time as well as being able to respawn it at any safe zone if it gets truly lost or stuck.
There are two unfortunate drawbacks to the focus on driving in The Following. The first effect you will feel is that the starting dune buggy you get kinda sucks. Just like with combat and athleticism, there is an entirely separate skill tree for driving with which you earn experience for driving fast, running over zombies, etc. Without any upgrades or perks, it’s simply not very fun to drive the buggy. It bogs down real quick in hordes of zombies, the newly infected Virals run faster than the car goes if it’s not on a main road and it seems overly easy to wreck some of the parts on the car. However, once you level up your driving and start unlocking both new parts and permanent perks for the car, it starts to get a lot more enjoyable. unfortunately though, it still never truly clicked with me and I was always annoyed by how easily Virals were able to grab on to the car and attack me. In fact I probably died more while driving the car than anything else in the game.
The other, more disappointing problem about the focus on the car is that it nearly nullifies my favorite part about Dying Light: the parkour. With wide open spaces with nothing to climb on, you are almost forced to rely on the car for transportation instead of the tried and true climbing, jumping and grappling hook. There is one area which could pass as a small city center and other parts of missions that focus on parkour, including a fantastic mission where have to make a series of perilous jumps while climbing. But when it comes to actually just getting around in the game, you’re going to want to drive places unless you really just want to spend time running in a straight line and avoiding zombies.
In fact, the first couple of hours with The Following I found to be very unenjoyable. Driving the car wasn’t fun, there was barely any opportunity for parkour and several of the early missions have you facing off against human enemies with guns, which is incredibly uninteresting with how much fun the melee combat is. I also found it to be a daunting task to suddenly be dropped into what is essentially end game content with barely any memory of how to play the game. Other large expansions have done a better job of easing you back into things; The Following certainly does not.
However, once you get a couple of hours into The Following the game really starts to gel back into the Dying Light that I remember. Get a couple car upgrades in you, get past the unnecessary missions against armed bad guys and you will start to see that classic Dying Light gameplay shine through. This is also around the time that the story really starts to kick in with all the mystery and intrigue surrounding The Children of the Sun’s ability to pacify zombies and seemingly stop people from turning. The game continues through the finale with cool story moments and gameplay much more enjoyable than what you experience in the first couple of hours.
The Following is an absolutely huge expansion in more ways than just a larger map. New weapons, new blueprints are handed out pretty regularly throughout the game, with the main new addition being a crossbow. You can craft different types of arrows and switch on the fly, which adds new layers of strategy. Plus it’s nice to simply have a ranged weapon that is silent, making for new types of stealth approaches. The Following is also packed full of side content to experience. In fact progression through the game is based on the side missions. There is a singular path through the main story but you need to earn the trust of The Children of the Sun to continue, which you naturally do by aiding people. There are dozens of side missions, random encounters and bounties to complete. The focus on the side missions also means that they all are thought out and presented well, with unique characters and dialog scattered throughout. It also means that the path you take to earning The Children of the Sun’s trust is completely up to you.
It’s also important to note that The Following both stands alone from Dying Light while also being integrated completely. You can tackle The Following without finishing the original game but items and skills will carry back and forth between the two games. I started The Following with all of my upgraded weapons and items but I can also go right back to Dying Light with the new stuff I picked up in The Following. It’s a great way for the two to remain separate but still easily exist in the same world.
The Following is an interesting experience for a huge Dying Light fan like myself. It starts off in a very poor way but does eventually find its footing by the end with a compelling story and an eventual return to better aspects of the original game. The addition of the crossbow also makes fighting armed enemies more fun because you can approach them in unique ways. The real determining factor of The Following sits with the choice to focus so much on a wide-open world and driving a car around. I can understand the desire for change but I’m not sure it was a good decision. The handled and pure fun factor of driving the buggy definitely improves after a couple upgrades but I still have nowhere near as much fun driving that around as I have even doing the simplest of parkour moves. While ultimately an enjoyable experience, The Following makes several missteps along the way to fun.
SCORE: 7.5 out of 10
A code for Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition was provided to Pixel Related for review.