So you’ve played Dying Light and you’ve thought to yourself, “you know what this game is missing? Buggies!” Well, you’re in luck – Dying Light: The Following adds exactly that and more in the series’ first story-based DLC. But that’s not all. Techland also decided to improve their game even more with some major improvements that they’ve dubbed the “Enhanced Edition” and they’ve given this away for free. Among some of the new features is the introduction of Legend Levels, which allows players to progress a Legend skill tree after maxing out one of the base skill trees, and provides improved AI, bounties, and a whole lot more. If you own the base game, the “Enhanced Edition” is just a patch and is available now, while “The Following” is standalone DLC and either needs to be purchased separately, or can be downloaded from the relevant digital store if you own the season pass.
With that out of the way, let’s get into it. First off, it took me a while to discover how to actually start “The Following”. I was wandering around the two areas in Dying Light, looking for a new quest marker or something different. Turns out it’s launched separately (by going to New Game), but you can import your character from the main game, thankfully, as Techland recommends a character that’s at least level 12.
“The Following” drops you straight into a cut scene that sets the tone for the story. There’s apparently a way out of Harran that leads to a place where there may be a cure and no one gets infected. With your supplies of antizen running dangerously low, you set off to this promised land to see if these rumours are true. Once you make the short trip to the new area and you’re set free amongst the countryside, it’s abundantly clear that “The Following” is going to be a very different experience.
From the moment you step out of the cave and reach the countryside, you’ll notice that the map in “The Following” is an enormous open space. A vast departure from the claustrophobic city that Dying Light takes place in, “The Following” takes place in what seems like a large farming community the size of both Dying Light maps combined. There’s very few towns to speak of, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on. “The Following” fills the beautiful open fields with more zombies than you’ve seen so far. And not just regular shambling zombies, but quite aggressive zombies that seem to have a high chance to turn into virals at a moment’s notice. It’s a feature that’s almost a necessity given the much more open nature of “The Following”, but it can get pretty annoying as waves of virals start pouring out and swarming you, giving you very little breathing room.
Luckily, you’re not left with just your own two feet to get around anymore! Arguably the biggest new feature of “The Following” is your very own buggy. You unlock the buggy very early on, which is great, as running a few kilometres between quests gets old real quick. With the buggy comes a brand new skill tree and a new scavenging economy, which has you frantically searching every abandoned vehicle for parts and fuel. You collect fuel for obvious reasons, but you collect parts for a different reason. As you drive off road, hit the sparsely placed ramps, and mow down leagues of zombies, your buddy takes damage in 5 different areas, all of which eventually need to be repaired or replaced. Using a similar crafting system to the core game, each buggy component has a limited number of repairs, but you’ll more than likely be able to craft an upgrade before your parts break beyond repair. Each upgraded part makes your buggy even better – for example, an upgraded turbo makes your buggy accelerate quicker, and upgraded tires increases your handling.
The driving skill tree adds some of the more fun features to your buggy. You can go the boring route, like I did, and just get extra armour and the ability to craft upgraded parts, or you can kit out your buggy with UV lights to help fend off the volatiles, or fit flame throwers to the sides of your buggy to get rid of those pesky virals that latch onto your buggy. There’s a large enough combination of attachments that will keep you driving the buggy at every opportunity to try and gain that next driver skill point in order to upgrade your buggy again. It’s a vicious cycle.
Techland has also introduced another interesting feature in “The Following” – trust. To progress the main story, you have to get people to trust you. You can do this by helping people out in random encounters in the countryside and the various small safe houses, finding missing persons, and clearing out volatile nests. While it’s an interesting mechanic, I found myself at the top trust level fairly quickly, which kind of defeats the intended purpose of staggering the main story quest. This isn’t a major issue, as it means if you just wanted to burn through the main story there’s not too much grinding, but I felt the pacing was slightly off and could do with some scaling back. There’s so much to do in the open world that the main story becomes lost among all the other survivors who want your help. One of the new types of side missions, which simply appears as “clear area”, has you clearing the area of one of the freaks – overgrown zombies based off existing enemy types (demolishers, goons, and toads), each with specific tactics you need to employ to kill them. While on paper this seems like a good challenge, some of the freaks are just plain cheap, seemingly randomly one-hit killing you, or in some cases, throwing undodgeable slabs of concrete at you. Freaks could have been a good addition to “The Following”, but more often than not I felt like there could have been more variety in the types of freaks and the ways you have to kill them.
The overarching story walks the fine line between mysticism and reality. It does a great job of making you constantly question whether or not this strange cult does have some mystical power that lets them control zombies and stave off the turning process. Each story mission adds merits to both sides of the coin, and it’s not until the last few missions that some light is finally shed on what’s actually going on. There’s also a difficult decision to make at the final stage of the game… if you’ve found a certain item throughout your journey. It feels like it’s nearly a given now to give players a choice to make them feel like they’re in control, and Techland did a good job at making the two endings different enough, but ultimately it feels a little weird to throw a single final decision into the mix, particularly in a game where you’re just doing what everyone asks you to do.
Dying Light: The Following is a great addition to the base game – with an engaging story and a vastly different area to explore, it’s well worth diving back into the world of Dying Light. The buggy is a joy to drive and the way the zombies are more aggressive in the often open spaces makes “The Following” different enough that it feels like its own experience, but familiar enough that players of the original will still feel at home.