Before playing Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition this past week, I hadn’t played Dying Light since getting my (very frustrating) Platinum trophy back on April 10th, 2015, which means I missed the parkour DLC, the Bozak DLC, and the numerous changes, fixes, and updates that they made along the way. While my review is primarily going to focus on The Following expansion that Techland added, I was provided with the full Enhanced Edition of the game for review, so some of things I mention may have been implemented prior to the DLC releasing.
One of the downsides of diving so deep into an experience is that the flaws can begin to show. When you put additional time into a game in pursuit of something like a Platinum trophy, you brush away the surface, see behind the curtain, and start to pick up on details that might frustrate or color your opinion. It’s happened for me numerous times before, most notably on last year’s review of Until Dawn. The first playthrough was awesome, but repeated looks revealed problems I may not have otherwise seen, noticed, or even cared about.
I loved Dying Light when it first released. In fact, it won an Editor’s Choice award from us and I agree with the praise our review gives it. It wasn’t until I was in pursuit of my Platinum that I ran into multiple frustrating issues, and that final trophy ping was a welcome sound. I put the game down and never wanted to touch it again. I wasn’t planning on playing any of the DLC, and my nightmare in Harran slowly faded from memory. That wouldn’t last long however.
Nearly a year after I last stepped into the shoes of Kyle Crane — and more than a year after Dying Light first released — we’re finally met with The Following, a full expansion that includes a new zone, new central game mechanics, and a whole re-release of the Enhanced Edition of Dying Light that is essentially a remastered/Game of the Year style package. Enhanced is the proper word for it because this is Dying Light as I remembered loving it. Most of the flaws have been fixed (save for periodic frame rate dips in heavy swarms of zombies), and enough new content added to make Dying Light stand out as a 2016 release even though it came out last year.
The Following sees Kyle Crane following up on a lead for a cure after the events of the main game. This lead takes him to a cult called the Children of the Sun in a brand new region in the countryside, which is effectively the rural farmland outside of Harran. It’s a massive environment devoid of many structures to climb, which makes it feel a whole lot like you’re playing a Far Cry game. Traveling around would be daunting, especially given the scarcity of architecture to parkour on, which the main game focused on heavily. Fortunately, Kyle secures a buggy soon after arriving in the country, and it is here that The Following’s prime mechanic is found.
Getting around the countryside almost exclusively takes place in the buggy. You could try to run from place to place — and sometimes breaking down or running out of fuel may necessitate such a move — but the swaths of zombies hiding in the tall grass will overrun you, and getting anywhere in this vast environment that is bigger than either of the main game’s zones would take forever. Maintenance of your vehicle is crucial, as losing your suspension will be cause for a bumpy ride, and destroyed traction means you’ll be spinning out instead of getting away from the bloodthirsty zombies. There are five total parts you’ll need to care for, and eventually upgrade, if you want to survive in rural zombie land.
Driving has its own entire skill tree now, with experience earned while… what else? Driving. Leveling up this skill will get you various upgrades for your buggy, and it makes a very noticeable difference in how it drives and handles while mowing down fields of zombies like stalks of autumn corn. What could have very easily been a lazily added and tacked on mechanic feels properly baked in to the experience. I normally hate first person driving, but the perspective of being in a small rickety buggy while running from Volatiles at night effectively gets the heart pumping in that special Dying Light way… until you’re stopped dead by a waist high stone wall that you couldn’t see through the forest or tall grass.
Night of the Living Dead
Seeing the undead on the rolling fields of grain evokes a strong feeling of classic zombie horror. Scenes from Night of the Living Dead come to mind as swarms of rotting beings congregate on a farmhouse. It’s a feeling that’s arguably hard to capture properly in a game, and in an age where I think zombies are completely overdone, it’s great to see someone actually getting it right.
What they continue to fail to get right is gunplay. The Following has a few missions that are reliant on eliminating a camp of bandits armed with assault rifles. Assault rifles are deadly, and most often I’d be dead before I got close enough to give them a whack with my flame spewing electric sword. Picking up a rifle of my own didn’t help the situation, as aiming and cover don’t feel quite right. Enemies seemingly shoot right through things that I think are adequate cover, and by the time I’ve got my sights on them, they’ve got a full clip into me. Dying Light is a game built on melee combat, and while turning the game into Call of Duty would eliminate a lot of the terrifying nature of the zombie horde, it’s very telling that I was more scared to combat the gun mechanics when forced into conflict with living, breathing, human enemies.
Most of The Following is spent building up your trust level with the local cult by doing side missions so that you can gain an audience with The Mother, a mysterious entity who seems to have the answer for the zombie outbreak. There’s a lot to do, with story and side missions easily offering over 10 hours of content, but don’t expect much of it to be unique outside of the racing missions to earn top-of-the-line buggy parts. Building trust amounts to fetch quests, and meaty story missions are few and far between. At its core — even with driving overshadowing parkour — The Following is still Dying Light, and the familiar mission structure is evidence. for better or for worse.
Perhaps the biggest downside to The Following is its distinct separation from the main game. Despite being a new region, and having the ability to load your main game profile into the countryside, The Following must be selected as a separate option on the main menu, and there’s no way to jump back to Harran without quitting out of the game completely. I suppose it’s forgivable seeing as The Following could have been released as an entire game on its own, but it still feels a little disappointing to have to select one or the other when it requires you to own the main game to play it anyway.
Dying Light: The Following is an impressive expansion. One might worry that the addition of an entirely new mechanic like driving would either ruin the game or feel like a gimmick, but Techland sufficiently built an experience that feels like it belongs, with a scope that could have easily been released as full game itself. Though skeptical at first, I quickly embraced the fields of zombies and found it a joy to return, even if there was a distinct lack of meaningful parkour. If you somehow missed Dying Light last year, the Enhanced Edition is an incredible offering, featuring a robust game and plenty of included DLC to keep players busy fighting the undead horde while both behind the wheel and hanging from the side of a building, as long as you can get past the occasionally inconsistent frame rate.
Either way? It’s good to be back.
Review code for Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.