For those that have not touched Dying Light before, suffice to say it’s a great open-world game that finally makes the zombie apocalypse feel realistic. Melee is the popular form of combat, but more important than knowing how to fight is knowing when to run. You’ll mix both to stay alive against the difficult special zombies and even packs of regular ones as every step of the way they overwhelm you and that’s not counting the horrid things that come out at night. As I said in my review, the biggest flaw with the base game was that despite the fantastic world and gameplay Techland created, they didn’t find many interesting things to do with these tools. The Following is a story-based expansion that basically creates a new second campaign for the game that is hefty in content and tries to make good on the original’s setbacks while introducing all new mechanics. While I have some gripes, The Following nails it almost every step of the way and is a welcome return to concept of downloadable content as an extension of a base game rather than a lazy tacked-on afterthought for extra income. This is how you make an expansion.
Kyle Crane returns in this title (as does all your progress, gear, and weapons/items that are shared between the base game and The Following) and has found a way out of Harran only to be dropped in the even more dangerous outback. After a romp through the sewers and some cliff diving, Crane finds himself in the company of a cultist group that seem to have found a way to prevent the virus from turning its people. Throughout The Following you will have to earn their trust, become one of the tribe, and then deal with the results of what you discover. The outback is a massive new area that is comprised mostly of open flat land, which makes getting ambushed by zombies easier than ever and gives you few safe areas to escape. To balance this you will find and utilize your “buggy,” which looks like a caged up Go Cart that allows you traverse the land more efficiently. Your buggy still doesn’t protect you against the many dangers that include a zombie latched on to the hood, though, so don’t think for a second this is anything more than an evening of the odds. Along with the additional challenges and new vehicle, the basic enemies have been upgraded in both health and difficulty, not to mention the interesting new takes on special enemies. All in all The Following feels very much like it could have been packaged up and shipped out as a budget-priced sequel, but I find the expansion a better format and it’s great that the new Enhanced Edition packs all the content in a single retail package.
Techland seems to have been paying attention to the things said about Dying Light because I look more positively on my experience here. The base game had far too much traversing, especially without much of a fast travel system, and a fetch quest mission became an annoying struggle to do a simple task “with a lot of zombies.” The Following much more embraces the fact that a majority of what you will be doing is poking around in the outback so random sudden side missions, survivor discovery, and unexpected encounters have been integrated. This is preferred because it gives you reasons to explore the large map beyond contextual duties in a mission. A good example is random farms in The Following may have a boss protecting it that will always be present, whereas in Dying Light you could drop by an area a million times and have it be desolate until a mission took you there and then spawned danger. It’s more natural this way. The same is true for the main quest, which may have you fighting clusters of enemies but almost never needs you to pick a lock as fast as possible while being surrounded by zombies to progress. I also like that along with the buggy comes the new driving skill set that you level up and get bonuses on just as you did with combat, agility, and survivor in the base game. There’s also a new legendary ranking system you use to level up beyond your other skills once they’re maxed out. With any luck I’ll be able to perk my way into finally conquering the Bozak Horde that I’ve never been able to overcome. Co-op play has also become a large part of the game – I may even argue an essential part of the game – that will be great news for most players despite some lone wolves feeling left behind. Don’t worry solo players, I was able to get through The Following and most of its challenges completely by myself and to this moment have only played about a half an hour of co-op. That being said there’s something great about teaming up with a group and either ambushing a base or taking on the new freaks.
While I really like the zombies in Dying Light, once you leveled up a bit there wasn’t much of a challenge and despite nightfall and a few special enemies your encounters became cakewalks. In addition, the main antagonist of that campaign was a human and the late game devolved into you bringing a knife to a gunfight. While I have to admit there is a bit of that in The Following as well, your main enemy through a majority of it are the zombies and now not only have the specials from the base game been upgraded but new boss enemies (freaks) and stronger nightfall creatures (volatiles) are introduced. For the most part freaks are just upgraded specials, like an armored Demolisher named Holler or a huge spitter called Beelzebufo, but they are a lot of fun to beat and come off as quite the challenge (especially alone). The true danger in The Following, however, are the volatiles. These new horned creatures are faster and stronger than the hunters and basically scare the crap out of me. You have some side missions where you are tasked with sneaking into and taking out a nest of these creatures and I’ve not had my heart beat so fast in a video game in a long time. While the nests remain high risk, there’s also a ton of high reward.
It’s not all candy and gumdrops for The Following, but the gripes I do have are more annoyances than full setbacks. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the buggy is quite effective against batches of zombies, something Crane is not, so they cease to be that big of a deal in groups. I’m guessing Techland couldn’t come up with a good way to balance this because it seems that while you’re driving around, bombers (zombies that explode and trigger the super fast virals to attack you) constantly seem to come out of nowhere and despite me almost never being that close to them the virals always focus on me. This is quite aggravating with the buggy because virals jump on and you have no way of getting them off without exiting the vehicle and killing them off. It just seems like they figured the only good way to make you not feel overpowered in the buggy is to literally design a speed bump that’s not really hazardous, but rather annoying and time consuming. This is also true of the buggy’s degradation. Oh yeah, you didn’t think that the company who made all your weapons break and need repairs wouldn’t create a five-point similar system for your buggy falling apart, did you? Your buggy will not only degrade (and lose fuel you have to find) but it seems to do so at a much faster rate than your weapons, not to mention that the single act of driving drains away at the base components of your vehicle. It’s manageable, but again, it’s just another reason you have to stop and get out. In fact, despite introducing a vehicle to the game, the entire design seems centered around getting you to stop and be forced out of it. Additionally the campaign and mission structure of the story isn’t great, but then neither was the base game. Finally not a lot is explained to you, especially in terms of new zombies and the value of the much stronger weapons and items. I know players don’t seem to happy with tutorials – and I’m not suggesting this as a solution here – but perhaps some intriguing tasks or side missions could have shed some light on how to do certain things. None of these items will break the experience and surprisingly they don’t seem to happen together, so all in all you may get some annoyances but not in too great a volume and not for too long.
The Following is a breath of life into one of my favorite games from last year. Not only is this expansion a hell of a bargain to those that already owned and enjoyed the game, but the Enhanced Edition now packs a massive value for those that missed out. With a whole new map, new mechanics, and heavier focus on co-operative play there’s a lot to appreciate, not to mention the way your Kyle Crane is one main protagonist that can seamlessly jump in and out of both campaigns. That said, you’ll definitely want to have at least completed the base game and ideally brought a bunch of items and a level 18 character into The Following, but I was able to get through it starting with a level 17 and going about it alone (on normal). This also gives you plenty of replay value in case you want to keep bumping up the difficulty and burning through the game in full a few times. All in all this is what I expect not only from an expansion pack, but also from a game that clearly has legs as a platform instead of just cranking out a sequel. If Techland wants to keep making new campaigns that take place in the Dying Light base game, I’m definitely on board to back that plan.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
A review code was provided by the publisher for this review. The Following is available for $19.99 as a solo expansion, as part of the $29.99 season pass, or included with all other DLC in the newly released Dying Light: Enhanced Edition for $59.99. All versions of Dying Light and content are available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC (Windows). The Following main story was completed in approximately 13 hours with a total of 18 hours played by the reviewer. At the time of writing, plenty of additional side quests, tasks, and areas remained to complete.