A step in the wrong direction.
Reviewed by Chris Bowring
Dying Light was one of my favorite games of 2015 for a very simple reason. Its gameplay loop. Although initially it’s controls felt clunky and unintuitive, once you get past the first hour you’re away. Distract zombies, parkour over buildings, lock pick open the door to a nearby house, find whatever you are looking for, fight off zombies, run to safe zone, craft more materials, fix your weapons and rinse and repeat. The Dying Light base game has a perfect sense of flow. Each gameplay mechanic is crucial for the moment to moment action, integral to your survival and more importantly, adds to the fun.
So when trailers for The Following emphasized more of the Dying Light experience with new enemy types and a fully upgradeable buggy I was completely on board. However once I got hands on with the game I realized this was not what I was looking for.
So what am I looking at here?
The Following is the first real big story DLC for last years Dying Light, from developer Techland. Sure content was released like the Bozak Horde DLC. But The Following with it’s new map, mechanics and story feel like a full on Expansion. It could be argued that it might even be big enough to justify it being released as a standalone game. The year between this expansion’s release and that of the main games has oddly been to it’s benefit. Although it takes a minute readjust to the awkward controls it feels refreshing to jump back into a game I loved after a decent break.
Story – Adding to the world
Dying Light’s The Following expansion continues the tale of Kyle Crane. When an injured man claiming to know the cure for the virus that has infected the city of Haran shows up Crane ventures away from the urban jungle you have grown acclimatized to and takes you into the countryside. There he learns of the Mother and her cult-like followers who, if he can win over their trust, may provide him with answers.
The narrative is probably the greatest highlight. Although it has an admittedly slow start it soon picks up and provides a riveting conclusion which ties things together for the greater story fairly nicely. Since the majority of the game is focused on winning on local villagers trust, you can expect to play more than your fair share of side quests (Fetch quests and clearing out of specific areas) to progress the main story missions.
Gameplay – Frustrating Features
However the gameplay is what turned this expansion from an exciting follow up to a disappointing step in the wrong direction. The newest edition to the gameplay is the buggy. In this massive new map it’s essential for getting from point A to B (especially with the infuriating lack of a fast travel system). However when driving the buggy I found I was constantly crashing into trees that seemed like they should crumble under the weight of my car. Again and again I found myself stuck on rocks and boulders that I expected to easily climb over. And despite driving a racing buggy equipped with nitro, I was constantly outrun by zombies who proceeded to remove all my health while I had no way to defend myself. Initially I considered this to be no more than a learning curve just like the base games initial hour. But after over 20 hours of investment, completing side missions and nests, I was still crashing into trees and getting stuck in the same spots. To be blunt the driving portion of the game (which is integral to getting around) is just not fun. It constantly pulled me back from being fully immersed and instead led to my controller being thrown against a wall. The other major gripe I have with the buggy is its expansive upgrade tree which theoretically, over time, should make your ride the sickest zombie slaying weapon on the block. Yet having exhausted most of the content in the area and having barely unlocked any upgrades for it, I feel like it was a completely unnecessary component. However I must commend them on how deep the management of your buggy’s maintenance is. It would have have been easy enough to throw in a car and say it is what it is. But like the deep crafting system of the main game, you will find yourself crafting and modifying the the suspension, brakes and other facets of the cars inner workings. You’ll also need plenty of screws to repair parts that take too much of a beating and don’t forget to loot gas from other cars to keep your tank nice and full. Techland did a nice job at making this part of the game more immersive for the player.
However my biggest disappointment was the fact that the key gameplay that had made the base game so satisfying had been tampered with. The parkour climbing and running that allowed Dying Light to stand out against its competition is virtually non-existent due to the large amount of empty fields that plague the new map. And when you are given opportunities to climb, it’s in unforgiving mountainous regions where it’s relatively easy to miss a ledge you would expect to grab, and tumble to your imminent death again and again.
One of the main differences in the expansion other than the introduction of the buggy is the difficulty spike. The Following definitely feels like a piece of DLC that should only be attempted after completing the main game. However this added level of difficulty as I proceeded felt less and less like a new challenge and instead, unfair at times. Safe houses which were placed fairly generously around the main game are now a rarity. This coupled with the fact that enemies constantly swarm you again and again in large groups mean that death is far more common. Being attacked so frequently in open fields, in seemingly random waves, isn’t fun. In the base game you aren’t faster than the runners (one of the many enemy types) who chase you, but satisfaction can be found by tactically maneuvering through the environment, finding somewhere to hide, luring the zombies away with fire crackers or car alarms and then finding shelter in a safe house. However all strategy is stripped from you when you are in an open paddock, have no nearby safe houses, have little resources to distract enemies with and nothing but flat ground to attempt (and often fail) to try outrun them. Therefore the game boils down to drive your car into a tree, spend several minutes trying to repair or re position it while you mindlessly and annoyingly fight off the same enemies who overwhelm and outnumber you. Rinse and repeat.
Highlights – Volatile Exterminator.
I have to admit though that the highlight of this game comes from the Volatile nests. The open countryside is infested with the underground nests of the fastest, toughest and down right ugliest zombies in the game. There is immense satisfaction to be gained from either navigating through a Volatile filled night, sneaking into their hellhole (which is empty of Volatiles at night) and putting a dent in their population by destroying their nests. Or if you’re feeling a little more daring, I recommend taking a friend or two in co op and trying to tackle the objective during the day when the nests are full of Volatiles. But be warned, let the concoction of fear, stress and hilarity ensue. Lets just say it’s a right laugh when you use one of your co op partners as a decoy.
Who should buy this game and who shouldn’t?
If you’re a fan of the open world style of Far Cry games, but enjoy the dark zombie themes and crafting component of The Last of Us, then Dying Light is for you. For those who are really looking for a challenge and found the original game too easy you may find what you are looking for in The Following. Plus if you’re eager to experience more of Kyle Crane’s story then I’m sure you’ll be happy with the conclusion.
Far Cry 4 (top) and The Last of Us (bottom) pictured.
However those who are looking for more of the satisfying gameplay they grew hungry for, like myself, or who are looking to start their experience with this expansion, I seriously recommend you walk away.
Approximately 20 hours to beat.
Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC