2015’s Dying Light was a fun game. Not a perfect game. Perhaps not even a great game. But it was fun, in an ignore-the-problems-and just-dropkick-those-zombies-in-the-face kind of way. Let’s see if Dying Light: The Following makes the right changes.
Much of the success of last year’s Dying Light was your character’s parkour skills and the tightly built city, Harran, which offered plenty of opportunity to use them. But only once you had levelled up that skill – for a parkour instructor you were surprisingly arthritic and immobile at the beginning. It took no small amount of grinding before your parkour skill “turned on” and you could leap about like an angry, armed gazelle.
This time around developers Techland have taken you out of the city into the huge, open countryside. Here, your precious parkour skill seems less relevant – so Techland give you a new skill tree to play with, and new toys to use.
The open countryside is a vast – and vastly different – space to explore. This gives cause to introduce the expansion’s biggest change, a buggy. Not only do you get a buggy, you also get a driving skill tree as well. Levelling up this skill tree turns your buggy from a rickety old racing banger to a formidable zombie slaying machine.
Dying Light is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and The Following continues in this vein; your buggy can be weaponised. Add a flamethrower to roast the horde in front of you, or shock clambering zombies off your buggy with a quick blast of the electric roll cage. You are not short of offensive of defensive options.
Initially, driving will take a little getting used to; the forced first-person viewpoint and the unhelpful handling of the starter buggy will make some wonder if upgrading the vehicle is worthwhile. It is. With a few upgrades and a little practice, the buggy becomes more responsive and the first-person view adds to the immersive feel of the game. With blood spatter obscuring the camera, be prepared to deal with limited visibility when things get gory.
Customisation of your ride isn’t limited to performance-enhancement and weaponry upgrades – you’ll find adornments and paint jobs scattered around the world. (We’re particularly proud of our zombie bobble head). Scavenging for lubricant and screws to keep your buggy repaired (screws in particular are worth their weight in gold) and fuel to keep it running will see you searching abandoned cars and trucks, and looting petrol stations.
Of course, you haven’t left Harra just for a leisurely country break. There’s no vacation time in an apocalypse. You have left the city – running low on medicine – to investigate a mysterious cult who are immune to the zombie virus. As with the main game, working for and alongside your new non-zombie companions will help you gain their trust. Here’s where the expansion follows the original a little too closely – most of the missions are fetch quests, leading to a repetitive structure. As interesting as The Following‘s premise is, it’s difficult to feel the characters are engaging when they will only help you when you have done something – or lots of somethings – for them.
The Following links with the original game through your character, Kyle Crane, who brings with him his skill levels – it’s recommended that your Kyle has at least a level 12 survival ranking before heading out into the countryside. This is for a very good reason. Almost immediately you are greeted by enemies who are faster and tougher than in the original game. If size matters then watch out – this time around you are quite often the smallest guy in the room.
As you traverse the map you’ll encounter huge and angry creatures. The ensuing violence – in events known as Freak Fights – will test you to your very limits. And remember those annoying little fast zombies from the first game? Well, there’s a lot more of those around and they will chase you down and climb on your buggy.
But don’t despair; you have some new tricks up your sleeve and weapons in your armoury. You can find new guns around the map, including sleek SMGs and even some special revolvers if gunplay is your thing. But at its heart Dying light has always been a hack and slash game, and the weapons you find and the upgrades you carry out using hard-earned blueprints can yield spectacular results.
Drop in/out co-op returns, offering the same hilarity with friends as the main game – and this time with buggies. Sharing a buggy is an interesting mechanic, too; here the passenger is free to attack the zombie horde with whatever weapons they have at hand, whilst the driver spins dizzying donuts in a field of ever increasing gore. Great fun, and especially handy when one of your group accidentally loses their buggy in deep water. Buggies respawn back in a safe house – it’s far better to get a lift back than risk making the journey on foot.
Night time is just as terrifying out in the open as it was on the city streets. Don’t stray too far from your buggy – you have been warned. The stalkers are still out there. The same risk/reward balance is at play here – it’s much more dangerous at night, but the double XP reward means levelling up your skills takes half the time.
Developers take note: this is how you do an expansion pack. Dying Light: The Following doesn’t just give you a few more missions to do or a new corner of the map to explore. Instead it gives you what feels like a whole new game. Like the original, it’s not perfect. Levelling up is still a chore until you get to that point when your buggy “switches on” to become a roaring death machine. But The following has that same sense of fun – the sheer joy of playing a game – that leaves you grinning despite flaws and a lack of polish. Techland have recaptured that fun from the first time around, and that’s no mean feat.
You can pick up Dying Light: The Following for £15.99, or the season pass for £23.99, from the Xbox Store now and we highly recommend that you do; this is money well spent and will keep you enthralled and entertained for hours.
You can watch us playing a little bit of Dying Light: The Following right here.
For all its lack of polish The Following is tremendous fun.
Dying Light: The Following expands the world of Dying Light into the countryside and gives you all the pleasure that nature beholds. As in, wide open spaces, a buggy that sprays fire and hordes of zombies to kill. This expansion is great value at £15.99 – it doesn’t just expand on Dying Light, it feels like a whole new game.
Levelling your skills can still feel like a chore, but with so much to see and so many zombies to destroy this is still a game that can surprise and delight.