Before it came out, Dying Light was one of my most anticipated titles. It seemed to offer an almost perfect mix of mechanics for my tastes, including zombies, RPG-like questing and character building featuring perks, upgrades and a general inventory. Games like it — including the maligned Dead Island series of which Dying Light happens to be a spiritual successor — are personal favourites of mine, as I love getting immersed in their worlds and really getting into my character. That, and completing tons of quests, which always results in lots of sweet swag and awesome level-based abilities.
At the end of the day, though — and by that I mean the end of my play through — I called Dying Light “a good game that was far from great.” I enjoyed the combat, but wished there was less of a need to avoid zombies. Generally speaking, my opinion was — and still is — that this is an IP that has the potential to be fan-effing-tastic, but hit the ground running with a debut that was shy of being great.
The honest truth is that I cannot wait to get my hands on Dying Light 2, as it’s surely in development and if it fixes the (hardly major) issues that many of us had with its predecessor it’s sure to be great. For now, though, I’m satisfied with the game’s first major expansion, Dying Light: The Following. Although it doesn’t really address any of its core game’s shortcomings, it’s a blast to play and truly is a lot of bang for one’s buck, coming in at a sweet $20 price point.
Dying Light: The Following continues the plight of Kyle Crane, the personality challenged man whose shoes we inherited back in Harran’s slums. He’s ventured out of the plague-filled city, you see, and is searching the neighbouring countryside for a potential cure. There’s rumour of there being one amongst the cornfields, scarecrows, rivers and farms that adorn that landscape, but it’s mythical to say the least.
This new adventure — which took me well over ten hours, but I left some side quests on the table — begins with Kyle straddling a perilous cliffside en route to his new home, for lack of a better term. He’s risking life and limb to get there, and as the player it’s our responsibility to make sure that he makes it safely. Where things end up taking us once all is said and done, happens to be a farm/hideout, where so-called Children of the Sun (seemingly immune cultists, you see) reside. It’s there that we meet some of the main players in this new expansion, and take on our first real quests.
At its core, though, The Following is all about getting noticed by the powers that be within the cult. Referred to as the Faceless, these mask-wearing denizens are unwilling to talk to those who haven’t impressed them, and are also super protective of their god, whom they call the Mother. It’s through her — and her blue, mist-like magic — that they seem to be able to fend off the zombies and their mile a minute chompers.
As you can imagine, becoming noticed requires you to do odd jobs, which we normally refer to as side quests around these parts. There are a lot of them, too, ranging from easy to very hard, with the latter being recommended for those who are playing with friends. I went at things alone, for the most part, but had no problem whenever randoms joined my game. The netcode seemed smooth, and I didn’t notice any hitches whenever a buddy made an appearance.
Those quests, themselves, are much like what you’ll find in the base game. Some are fetch-related, while others task you with clearing out nests and regions. Then, there are those that ask you to locate something (or someone) within a given area. My descriptions may not make them seem very interesting, but they really are quite fun, not to mention easy to get immersed within. This is, most definitely, one of those games — or expansions, I guess I should say — where it’s easy to adopt the “just one more thing” mentality and then lose another hour or two.
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The Countryside is its own beast, too, although it shares some things in common with Dying Light‘s previous locations, including a town and its included shops. What truly separates it, though, is its wide open design, which is replete with cornfields, farms and dirt roads. It’s so big, in fact, that you won’t want to run throughout it. For that reason, Kyle Crane is able to jump into and barrel through the land in a dirt buggy, which just so happens to be the only working vehicle in the area.
It goes without saying, but you’ll quickly become best friends with your welded chariot, because it’s the easiest (and safest, by far) way to get from point A to point B, not to mention the fastest which is a given. It’s possible to run everywhere, but improving your vehicle is the key to success as you progress throughout this new campaign, and objectives can be a kilometre or two away. That’s quite the distance in a game such as this.
To keep your vehicle running, it’s important to perform maintenance, but not in an overly in-depth way. For starters, it runs on gas and that’s a commodity, so you’ll need to search abandoned vehicles and the occasional gas station for leftover fuel, which can be siphoned then saved within one’s inventory. The thing also gets damaged, and has parts (engine, turbo, handling, etc.) that can be upgraded either through crafting or buying them outright. Repairing them isn’t hard — so long as you have enough screws, which are easily found by examining the front hoods of wrecked cars — but these vehicle parts have the same annoying repair limit as the game’s weapons. This means that you can usually only repair a part three times before it goes kaputs and it’s time for a new one.
During your journey, you’ll find races to enter, challenges (maintain a high speed, smash X amount of things with your vehicle, roast as many enemies as possible with the buggy’s flamethrower upgrade) to complete and both bobbleheads and paint jobs to equip. A lot of the gameplay in Dying Light: The Following revolves around this machine, and though the driving can become tedious after a while, it does provide a nice change of pace. There’s a heck of a lot of it, though, so don’t buy this add-on if you don’t like the idea of spending tons of time off-roading from place to place.
Zombies sure are fun to run over, though. Then again, they’re pretty annoying when their advanced forms jump up and grab onto your rollcage, then smack you repeatedly until you either brake hard or ram into something to knock them off.
In addition to the buggy — which comes with its own upgrades via a new driver’s level skill tree — The Following also introduces bounties, which are challenges that feature a mix of daily and standard options, as well as legendary levels. While I was able to find some bounties and see the relatively basic challenges that most of them offered, I was unable to check out the legendary levels at all. Reason being is that, in order to actually unlock any of the 250 extra upgrades that they add, one must have at least one maxed out skill tree, which is something that I still do not have. All you really need to know about these things, however, is that they’re ways to earn even more experience and increase things like your stamina, health and damage output.
All of the above works, and combines to create a very good expansion. However, Dying Light: The Following is not perfect, especially since it suffers from some of the same problems that its predecessor did. That makes sense given that it runs on the same engine as the base game; however, if you’ve been following this release you’ll know that Techland recently updated the core Dying Light experience to allow for better visuals and performance. They call it Dying Light: Enhanced Edition now, and though I can’t say I’ve noticed any night and day changes, it is better looking overall.
My main problem with Dying Light was that Kyle could not climb downwards, and that’s something that still inhibits players in the Following. Why, I do not know. It’s so easy to climb upwards, and the grappling hook — which only likes to work when it feels like it — is also there as an occasionally helpful option. Yet, for some reason, Kyle Crane is unable to move downward on a ledge, wall or whatever the hell he’s climbing. It makes no sense and is awfully frustrating, as it leads to unnecessary deaths.
Despite being updated and running on an advanced version of the base game, Dying Light: The Following also suffers from noticeable screen tearing, especially during its cutscenes. This isn’t a new problem, either, so it’s a shame that it still exists. Thankfully, though, the frame rate is pretty solid, which surprised me as I’d heard of problems with the Xbox One version.
The audio doesn’t fare as well, however, because dialogue sometimes sounds like it was recorded with a tin can. I honestly had a hard time hearing some really important, story-based lines, as the speakers’ voices were unclear and hollow. It was frustrating, because it made the decent but unspectacular narrative tougher to follow.
In conclusion, while Dying Light: The Following is an expansion that is well worth its price tag, it still carries forward some of the main issues that folks had with the core game. There’s still a lot of fun to be had with it, though, and if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll probably want to dive into it.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Although it still possesses some of the faults that made the game it expands upon frustrating at times, Dying Light: The Following is a very enjoyable, robust and immersive add-on to an already solid title.