Back in 2014 I talked with Techland developers about all things Dying Light, from influences and core mechanics to their favorite zombie flicks. I could feel the passion pumping through their veins - they wanted to Dying Light to be something special. And while taste in video games is subjective, to many - including me - it was just that. Just a year on from the game’s original release, The Following - Dying Light’s massive story expansion - is here, culminating in one hell of a ride.
Harran’s a mess. The virus that destroyed most of its population is now taking hold of the few that remain alive. In a desperate attempt to salvage the few of his friends still left to save, Dying Light’s protagonist Kyle Crane is sent into the countryside to find a potential cure - or anything to help Harran’s remaining survivors. A mysterious religious group known as The Faceless are his first port of call.
As you make your way into The Following’s new location, you’re greeted by a land that contrasts starkly with Harran. This world is not built up with massive skyscrapers, but instead teems with farmhouses, crops, and an unnerving volume of undead. Navigation is handled differently than in Dying Light’s original locale, too. When it comes to getting around, the focus here is the buggy.
The buggy is a nifty little ride. It’s a durable, upgradeable, and inherently enjoyable way to navigate the new landscape. In saying that, many elements require constant attention to keep it in tip-top shape. Much like weapons and their ever-decreasing durability, the buggy must be maintained and serviced as it goes. That can mean simply keeping it fueled, or it can mean repairing the transmission or engine when they become damaged. The requisite items are usually purchased at one of the handful of shops scattered around The Following’s world, and an important lesson learned early on is that keeping a good quantity of serviceable parts at hand is vital.
In my playthrough, my buggy became damaged rather frequently. By the end of almost every quest, at least one of the buggy parts would need repairing. Repairs aren’t cheap, and screws - which repair all vehicle parts - are sparse unless you visit a shop regularly. Turns out upgrading and modifying parts plays a major role in surviving the apocalypse - who’d have thought? In fairness, I never really dabbled in modifying weaponry in my main Dying Light playthrough, but The Following forced me to prioritise that for my buggy. It paid off: after modifying it and upgrading my driver level (which functions similarly to the game’s original skill trees), my buggy had become a zombie-killing machine.
While RPGs typically utilize story missions and side quests in vastly differing ways, The Following doesn’t follow this practics. Instead, the story’s eight-hour story progresses through earning the trust of The Faceless, accomplished by helping the seemingly virus-immune cult the Children of the Sun throughout the world. Securing safe houses, completing side quests, and helping those in need via random events all build the relationship between you and The Faceless. Your ultimate goal is to gain their trust and find a potential cure, and to that end, side quests are as important as the main ones.
The Following’s narrative is interesting, too. Because side and main quests almost blend together, there is purpose behind each of the actions you take, and the way the game pulls it all together with a religious group is incredibly fascinating. Even more so is the game’s ending, which is unexpected to say the least.
Of course, you’ll also be killing a lot of zombies. The fundamentals of Dying Light remain true in The Following, albeit with new weapons to scavenge, new modifications to use, and new, bigger foes to take on. They’re all strong additions to an already feature-rich zombie-killing experience, but I wish there were some new varieties of base infected to take on, as identical-looking zombies turn up all too often.
The most striking element of The Following lies in the game’s level design. It does away with one of Dying Light’s signature mechanics - its parkour. Shaving this off makes The Following more closely resemble Far Cry, but without the ability to fast travel, which isn’t such a bad thing. It’s just disappointing that one of the most enjoyable components of Dying Light takes a back seat for the majority of the expansion.
For players new to Dying Light, it’s important to note that Survivor Rank 12 is required for the best experience with The Following. You can jump in as soon as you complete the prologue, but I would not recommend it - the difficulty is too steep. I’m a bit confused as to why Techland has not included a level booster for new players, but in saying that, Dying Light’s 15-hour campaign is still a blast to play through - and at least you’ll know there’s more to do afterwards.
Underneath all the new additions remains an fundamentally sound and enjoyable game. The Enhanced Edition does sport some graphical updates, but as it’s been a year since I last played Dying Light, I didn’t really notice them. Regardless, the game is breathtakingly beautiful - the night sections, while not as scary as those in Harran, are still incredibly tense, contrasting with sun-soaked, undead-occupied countryside beauty that will never cease to amaze me. This is an expansion entirely worthy of your time, and then some.