Beginning life as a large piece of DLC for the vanilla Dying Light, The Following soon grew out of its initial scope, and developer Techland quickly re-purposed the project as a full-fledged expansion. This is no paltry bit of wasteful DLC you’ll complete in under an hour (Arkham Knight, I’m looking at you!), this is a full campaign that has plenty to offer. The fact that it’s available in the Enchained Edition, bundled with the original game and all DLC makes it even better. Well, if you’ve not got the original already.
The Following takes place directly after events of Dying Light, and you’re once again cast as Kyle Crane. Kyle and his fellow survivors in Harran encounter a dying man who claims to know a way out of the city. Not only that, but he comes from a group of people who apparently have a cure for the zombie virus. Kyle quickly heads off to investigate, which leads him out of Harran and into the surrounding countryside, the setting of the expansion.
As soon as you emerge from the sewers that take you to the new region, you gaze upon the sun-drenched countryside. This wide-open playground is very different to the urban environments of the main game, with large fields, country roads, farms, and all manner of landmarks to explore. There’s also the undead. A lot of undead. They’re everywhere, shambling through fields, gathering around vehicle wreckage, skulking in darkened barns. Everywhere you turn, there are enemies, and even when you feel safe, an exploder will sneak up behind you, as if it think’s it’s in Minecraft, before blowing up and attracting virals. Yep, it may look like a rural paradise, but this is far from a relaxing stint in the country.
Luckily, very early on you’re given a mission that awards you with the expansion’s main new feature, a buggy. This vehicle will quickly become your best friend, and you’ll need it to not only traverse the large map, but to survive the greater challenges you’ll face. You see, The Following is more difficult than the original game, and has been designed to be played by end game players looking for a challenge. You can just jump right into the action with a new character as the expansion is accessed separately from the main story, but if you plan to play the game on a harder difficulty, such as the new Nightmare level (which I reviewed the game on), you’ll be in for a shock. Zombies of all types are everywhere, and with such wide open spaces, there are few places to hide if you’re being pursued by speedy virals, or deadly volatiles at night. Without the buggy, you’d be truly screwed, but even with it, you’re in for a tough challenge.
The Following ups the ante in terms of challenge with a far greater number of special undead. There are far more brutes that take more damage, giant demolishers, and spitting toxic zombies are everywhere, waiting to hit you with seemingly sniper rifle-like accuracy. Exploders are everywhere too, and will quickly become the bane of your existence. Even in a vehicle, the fast, crazed virals are deadly, so you’ll be trying to avoid noise as much as possible, lest you attract their attention. At night, the game’s most terrifying foes, the volatiles, are practically a death sentence, and encountering them in the open often leads to a quick death, vehicle or no.
This spike in difficulty does obviously come from the much harder Nightmare mode, but even on lower difficulties, The Following is a more challenging game in almost every way. What hasn’t changed all that much is the core content.
The game world is larger in terms of physical size, and much more open, but the missions you undergo are pretty much the same fare as the vanilla game. The story revolves around “The Following”, a strange cult you need to investigate. For much of your time you’re trying to become trusted by this group, and you do this by helping locals, which involve a lot of fetch quests. Every so often you’ll get a main story mission-style task, but even these often boil down to “go here, get this, come back.” Throwing in the buggy helps a lot, though, and I was happy to find that it’s inclusion isn’t just a gimmick. The buggy really is an essential tool for survival, so you need to take care of it. This is handled with a new collection mechanic in which you find crafting components and parts you can use to repair and upgrade it. The buggy starts out as a bare bones kart, but eventually you’ll be able to install better armour, an improved engine, and even a nitro.
These upgrades are spread between found items, race rewards, and skill level perks. Alongside the normal game’s skill trees, The Following introduces the driving tree, and as you drive, run over enemies, and perform stunts (such as jumps), you’ll earn driver points, unlocking more skills and upgrades. It all fits in very naturally with the rest of the game’s progression systems.
You’ll need to focus on this too, as your initial buggy is all but useless for anything but getting from A to B, and even then it can come up short. It offers little protection, and can’t take much damage. It’s also quite slow. My tip? Grab the nitro upgrade ASAP. Trust me, it’ll save you many times, especially from viral chases. Also make sure to stock up on screws whenever you get chance, as these are used to repair your vehicle’s components, and you really don’t want to be stuck with a damaged vehicle.
Eventually you’ll find upgraded parts which can increase the buggy’s speed, acceleration and handling. These can also be crafted when you level up, and races offer the chance to win high-level parts.
The buggy adds a lot to the game, and it’s a welcome addition given the game’s much more open world. Mowing down zombies or attempting to flee certain death is exhilarating, but this alone can’t make for a good game.
When on-foot The Following is mixed. Dying Light was a solid game, one of the best zombie titles I’ve ever played actually. The problem with The Following is the lack of parkour and environmental depth, and less verticality. For much of the time you’ll be in large, outdoor spaces, meaning all you can do is run around in the open. This means combat is less enjoyable as you’ll often have few options in terms of tactics. You certainly can’t flee, or easily recover when your stamina is gone, nor can you really hide or outflank zombies, as there are often no structures. Yes, there are built up areas and farms, but even here the game isn’t as solid in terms of traversal, stripping out much of what made the main game’s traversal and combat systems so good.
Combat itself is the same as before, with the melee focus remaining. In fact, with the higher difficulty, combat is even more challenging, requiring more in the way of weapon customisation, and skill. There’s nothing new here, though, save for new weapon types.
Sadly, one area I was hoping Techland would improve has been ignored, and even made worse. This is the gunplay, which still feels gimped, with a lack of smooth aiming and a general sloppy feel. Finding cover from enemy fire is seemingly hit and miss, with some surfaces shielding you, and others not, even if thy should. Fighting enemies with guns, such as bandits occupying a farm, is often done out in the open, and the sloppy, sluggish aiming and shoddy cover makes it more of a clumsy, less than enjoyable mess. The game’ melee focus is a problem here too, as you can’t get close enough to foes with guns without taking damage. On Nightmare, this often results in very quick deaths.
Is it terrible? No, but it’s certainly not a competent FPS either. Techland should have spent time smoothing this out, or tried to limit gunplay more than it did. Luckily, it’s not a huge impact, as for most of the game you’ll be using melee weapons anyway. You do get a crossbow, though trying to be a virtual Daryl Dixon isn’t quite as enjoyable as it should be. Shame.
With the gameplay being solid enough, basically the same thing again with the addition of a vehicle, there’s not a great deal to find at fault with The Following that hasn’t already been commented on within the original game. There are a couple of issues, though, specifically the game’s seemingly random checkpoint system.
For reasons I just can’t work out, the game seems to arbitrarily decide where it’s going to put you the next time you load up. Quit when you were safe in a friendly farm with your vehicle parked up? Well, don’t bet on being there next time. Once, I left the game (after a checkpoint which saved, I should add), at a farm, only to restart later, sans buggy, right the way across the map in hostile territory. Why? Not a clue, but I had to get running.
Dying is also unpredictable, albeit slightly less so. I’ve never been a fan of Techland’s idea of respawning and death, which was the same in the original Dead Island and Dying Light. Basically, when you die, you respawn elsewhere losing some survivor points, but the world and events remain as they were. So, enemies you killed are dead, item durability stays, as does your car’s state. The time of day even moves on. This means you get the best of both worlds, as well as the worst.
Sure, if you’re assaulting a farm and you keep dying, each time you’ll kill more enemies, and thus make progression in way of attrition, as foes stay dead. However, this makes most major challenges pointless, as you can keep banging your head against the wall, and it’ll eventually break, no matter how bad you may be.
This can work against you too. One early mission, for example, tasks you with racing against the clock to an objective. When I first did this, it was night time, so I was attacked by volatiles and other nasties, making progression very difficult (my buggy was also not upgraded at this point). When I respawned, I restarted back at the start with the timer running. The problem? My supplies were gone, my weapons damaged, my buggy was a wreck, and due to the timer, I had no way to fix it, at least properly, in the spirit of the game. It turned what could have been a good challenge into a frustrating, broken mess.
Luckily, time also kept moving, despite several deaths, so I was eventually able to make the run during the day, and could waste several attempts ignoring the timer and looking for supplies to fix my vehicle, waiting for the countdown so I could repeat. I simply exploited the game’s checkpoint and respawn system to progress.
This is not a good system, and not only makes things tedious, but totally breaks immersion, as death has little consequence, except for the loss of supplies and build up of damage. I’d prefer an actual save system, as seen in other FPS titles, where death puts you back to a previous state. It’d make the game far more compelling, and add more weight to failure. Without it, even the very difficult Nightmare mode is robbed of a lot of its impact, as you can just keep on respawning, time and time again like a determined lemming.
The addition of watchtowers does help a little though, and simply spotting one in the distance unlocks it as a respawn point. When you die, you’ll reappear at the closest one, and this eliminates lengthy backtracking to your point of death. Reloading a manual save would also do this, though.
The only other real issue I found was the separation of the two games. Despite taking part in the same story and with the same character, you can’t go to and from Harran, meaning the expansion doesn’t affect the original game in any meaningful way. The Following is selected as a separate game, and although you can use your saved character between the two, it would be nice to be able to travel back and forth between the countryside and city, perhaps even some new quests bridging the two locations. That’s not the case, though.
Overall, I found The Following to be a very good expansion, and one that has a lot to offer fans of the original. The wide open spaces are different, and enjoyable, and although they lack some of the qualities of the original game, sacrificing some features that made it great, this loss is made up for with new additions and a decent story. As with the original, it’s also improved leaps and bounds with a friend in co-op, which is once again a big highlight. Hardcore fans will welcome the addition of Nightmare mode, which addresses the lack of difficulty some found with the vanilla release. I just wish the gunplay and save mechanics were sorted out, but it’s a problem that’s subjective, and some may prefer the current set up, so take of that what you will.
If you’ve yet to play Dying Light, this Enhanced Edition is a superb deal, and a highly recommended purchase. You’ll get the original game and a solid expansion, as well as the DLC. What more could you want?
Pros: Non-gimmicky buggy, challenging new enemies.
Cons: Gunplay is still clunky, frustrating respawn system, outdoor spaces limits tactical options.