Last year’s Dying Light was one of the best zombie games around. That’s saying a lot, given the dire over-saturation of the genre thanks to money-hungry indie developers pushing their schlock on Early Access. It was honestly a little shocking when Dying Light’s parkour-infused gameplay turned out to be a solid use of the zombie apocalypse concept. I’m not sure anyone expected this game to be as good as it was.
Apparently zombies are pretty popular (who knew?), and the game sold well enough to merit some DLC. Today we’re going to talk about Dying Light: The Following.
The Following takes place in a more rural Harran accessed through the city’s sewers; you’ll get there by choosing The Following from the game’s main menu, which should really help with immersion. Our hero remains Kyle Crane, the worst secret agent since Inspector Gadget; his espionage skills are lacking as always, but he remains perfectly capable of beating the hell out of zombies and climbing around like a ninny. As far as I can tell, this takes place after the main game’s plot; Crane references the events of that game, though I’m not sure if he’ll still do so should you choose a save that hasn’t yet completed it.
If you’ve never played Dying Light, maybe you’ve played Mirror’s Edge, which is basically Dying Light without the zombies, even down to using the same control scheme. Crane is able to clamber around like an axe-wielding monkey with the greatest of ease, and this turns out to be a solid defense against the legions of undead that have invaded Harran. Turns out that being a zombie doesn’t do much for your parkour skills. Well, usually…
The Following trails Crane as he makes his way to the aforementioned rural area in search of people who are immune to the zombie plague. Turns out that the locals aren’t especially fond of outsiders. This includes the typical huge number of zombies, the local bandit population and a mysterious cult living in a secluded compound. Crane needs to convince the cultists that he’s not such a bad guy after all, then discover their delicious secrets once he’s built up enough trust.
Toward that end, you’ll need to complete odd jobs for the locals. An early example: you’ll need to help get fresh water flowing back to the compound. This would mean gallivanting around the countryside; unfortunately, there aren’t nearly as many rooftops to climb around on out there, so I’d need another transportation solution. The answer rapidly presented itself when I was sent out to steal a dune buggy from some bandits. This wasn’t especially difficult, since I was armed with the gear I had in the main game, so I was easily able to get into their hideout, murder everyone and steal the buggy.
It might be surprising given the base game’s intense focus on parkour, but driving around in the buggy is actually a pretty good time. Zombies, of course, don’t stand a chance against automobiles, so it’s easy to run down hordes of the undead. Larger zombies tend to resist your treads of fury a bit more effectively, so your car just bounces off of them, but your real weakness is a lack of fuel. The buggy runs on gas and you’ll need to look out for abandoned cars so you can search their gas tanks to get more. Car trunks were already a great source of anti-zombie goodies in the base game, so now you’ve got even more reason to stop and loot. Gas doesn’t seem to be especially common, though I might have been unlucky.
You can also upgrade the buggy and Kyle’s driving skills. For the former you’ll need parts scavenged up from – you guessed it – abandoned cars, while the latter will involve spending skill points in the new Driving skill tree. You end up using the buggy quite a bit, since the lack of any buildings means that parkour is significantly less handy than it is in the base game. Upgrading your ride will help ease the pain. It took awhile to get used to having to drive everywhere, and I’d often catch myself leaving my buggy behind because surely I wouldn’t need it – I’m pretty much Batman! Turns out that Batman would definitely need the Batmobile if there wasn’t anything to grapple onto and the same is true here. Love your buggy and it’ll love you back.
There are a few other additions as well, like a stupendously difficult Nightmare mode and the new Legend skill tree that’s unlocked upon completing one of the other trees. This provides incremental upgrades for your character as well as some fancy new outfits representing key characters from the rest of the game.
With buggy in hand, the expansion plays out much like the base game. You’ll had to explore zombie-infested areas and fight off bandits. Sometimes you’ll need to race around and do buggy-related things, but generally it’s faithful to the original. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the original Dying Light was a well-polished and enjoyable experience, especially in co-op. Every aspect of movement and combat is a pleasure, even the highly lethal gunplay. Dodging around zombies using the environment is thrilling, as is hacking your way through when necessary.
All in all, Dying Light: The Following is an example of an expansion done right. You’re getting a solid amount of high-quality content for your money; what’s more, it’s content that plays out differently enough that it feels new and extends the fun of the original game. Vehicles and cultists can add a lot to a game, as it turns out, so I’m looking forward to seeing their inclusion in other genres like The Sims. Listen close, developers! Try adding those instead of zombies!