Dying Light: The Following is a strange proposition that's available in a whole bunch of ways. It's an expansion pack that also alters the main game in a few areas, which can be purchased standalone if you own the original Dying Light without the season pass, will be delivered free if you DO own the season pass, and which now comes as standard with all digital purchases of Dying Light. In fact, Dying Light has been removed from the Xbox Store and is now only available as Dying Light: The Following (which is the game, expansion, and season pass all bundled together.)
The new bundle is not just your traditional "Game of the Year Edition" setup that throws in all of the DLC in one package and leaves it at that, oh no. Whilst it does bring the Bozak Horde, Cuisine Cargo and Ultimate Survivor Bundle DLC along with it, it also offers a whole lot more. The package starts to diverge from the standard template as developer Techland have gone to a lot of effort to improve the core experience.
There are some noteworthy changes to the mix that deserve discussion. The game now offers the chance to remove the "film grain" effect that ran over the action. Whilst there was no problem with this filter due to its subtle nature, there is something refreshing about removing it and viewing the city completely clean. It certainly shows off the splendor of the game world in all its glory. When considering the speed at which you can traverse the city from every angle, it's impressive that the world stands up to this level of scrutiny. Alongside this, there's also a huge deck of visual effects on offer that vastly alter the way the game looks. Some familiar effects such as sepia make for a stylistically bold way to play the game, while others such as a deep red or blue hue however make the game more difficult as it's harder to distinguish between enemies and the environment.
Whilst there are a raft of new features on offer, they don't change up the core game as such. There is still the same slow, drawn out start to the story missions, it's still ridiculous that that entire city is a parkour enthusiast's dream purely because the leader of the tower is an extreme sports instructor and the game is still harsh in terms of difficulty when you first get into it. Opening encounters are hard work and constant death can certainly make leveling up extremely difficult and lead to players having to wait before they turn the corner and start to truly feel empowered. A new "Nightmare" difficulty level coupled with a "Legend" leveling up system adds an additional challenge for seasoned players.
Whilst these improvements are worth a cursory glance it is The Following that provides the real meat of new content and as such is the main focus for assessment. Billed as post-game content, it's worth considering it that the game highly recommends that The Following is strictly for experienced players who should be ranked survivor level 12 or higher. This can be achieved in one playthrough of the standard game or if you're not rushing the story, it can be done in around 10 hours of standard gameplay.
The Following continues the story of Kyle Crane as he leaves behind the first game's setting of Harran's slums. Kyle has been sent to some neighbouring countryside area to follow up on rumours that a cure for the virus has been found. Kyle quickly meets locals whose trust he has to earn through completing side quests before they will introduce him to a religious faction known as The Children of the Sun. Only by leveling up your trust rank can you further the story and be introduced to the higher echelon of the order. The plot is extremely interesting and a nice diversion from the rather generic narrative that was drawn out during the original game. Things become even more intriguing when a cure seems to be a genuine possibility and that Kyle could find something to help the medication get to the sparse slums of Harran
Whilst the regular game's ebb and flow entails taking advantage of the world's verticality and your parkour traversal skills, the largely open farmland nature of The Following environment makes this a much trickier proposition and as such offers a markedly different feel. Running through the fields with their hay bales and the odd farm house can feel dull by comparison and whilst there is some variety - such as coastal village that was formerly occupied by the military - it's largely a flat rural setting. There is one new major addition available to the player that helps to liven things up: the buggy.
The buggy doesn't just offer a chance to race across open fields but also offers up new combat options, with levelling that works exactly the same as your other skills throughout the game. As the game goes on, interesting choices are to be made as to where to spend your points, be it on a faster car to hit zombies at greater velocity, add a ram to rip them to shreds, or throw on a landmine device to leave in your wake. The player's customisation options with the buggy extend beyond upgrading how well it works too, also allowing for changes to paint jobs and the addition of bobbleheads and charms. Whilst it would have been easy to open the floodgates and allow players to drive every car in the area, only giving you the one buggy is an inspired choice. Much like regular combat items in the game, parts for the car require repairing and in another interesting turn, it needs to be refuelled. As such, other vehicles - be they vans, trucks or cars - can be looted for spare parts and petrol. Another nice touch is that each major safe house has a radio station whereby you can recall the buggy to the area. This is particularly useful should you be forced to abandon it or leave yourself short of fuel. The buggy handles really well and is satisfying to run and whilst not everyone will be a fan of how it needs to be managed, it's certainly consistent with the weapon degradation that plays such a big part of the game.
Harran's environments allowed for fast paced parkour traversal and worked at their best when tackled at speed, encouraging clutch moments and split-second decisions. While there as many opportunities for the same fast-paced traversal, The Following does have a number of mountain areas that accommodate the kind of slower paced explorative climbing by giving larger landing spots and longer clearly defined ledges. These make for a refreshing change of pace compared to ragging around in the buggy.
Night times could be extremely tense affairs in Dying Light's Harran if you got caught away from a safe house with no back up flares to protect yourself, but The Following offers a different challenge. Whilst the natural starlit sky devoid of hulking skyscrapers does seem something of a blessing, the sheer scale of the space you can sometimes find yourself having to cover can be daunting. It's here that the new Volatile AI can really come into play, as on the harder difficulty settings there is a real sense of them stalking you. The added tension of there being little cover in the wide open fields means travelling without a torch out is the most viable option and whilst this can be easily done due to there being less obstacles to traverse, there are other hazards. Stumbling into a wandering zombie can easily happen and the time taken to remove yourself from their cluthces can mean that the chase is on to avoid Volatiles. Using your buggy at night can be just as hazardous, with both the headlights and purr of the engines drawing the attention of anything near by.
Dying Light: The Following does run flawlessly most of the time, with only the odd frame rate hitch coming as a result of the sheer amount of zombies that can can sometimes swarm to an open space. Unfortunately, we ran into a bug towards the end of the game that entirely halted our progress, at least until we started a different mission in order to try to kick the game out of the spot it was stuck in, which worked.
Shortly after this slight misstep came the warning prompting that we were at the point of no return and that the very interesting and unexpected ending wasn't far off. Compared to the original game's events, The Following may ultimately feel less epic in that the scale of its set pieces aren't quite up to par. However, the story beats are far more interesting than your previous run in with Rais. Whilst it potentially leaves more questions lingering as to where the franchise will go next, the way things are rounded off certainly justifies The Following as a means of advancing the plot.
Dying Light: The Following's nightmare difficulty setting and additional legend level system along with improved visuals and advanced AI make for a new experience for players of the original Dying Light. The Following content itself - whether bought separately or as part of the new Enhanced Edition - offers a very different but yet worthy test, with the open fields and buggy opening up a completely different set of rules to exploit and best the legions of undead.
I didn't like this game, but kudos to Techland for being as passionate about a game like this. More developers should follow suit
This is how DLC should be.
The original game was fantastic with it's detail, mechanics and graphics, game of the year for me so am looking forward to more.
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