You can run, but you can’t hide.
Dying Light: The Following on PlayStation 4
Dying Light was easily one of the most surprisingly great games of 2015. It was one of the first triple-A titles to hit the shelves, and its parkour-heavy zombie action made for some of the most frantic fun on the newest generation of consoles. Its subsequent DLCs weren’t as impressive as the bigger picture, but Techland wasn’t done just yet.
Last year, they showed off some gameplay with vehicles and a wide open expanse, that was the first teaser for what would be The Following, a true expansion to the open world horror that was Dying Light. After a few delays, The Following is finally available and it’s so much more than vehicles and a new area. It’s a reinvention of the core game that forces players to take the lessons they’ve learned in the base game and alter how they use them.
Before we get into the changes, let’s get what remains largely the same out of the way. The story here, like in Dying Light, isn’t trying to win any awards, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Kyle Crane is still the protagonist, but the people of Harran are in dire straits as Antizen supplies run low. Keeping people from turning is becoming more difficult each day, but Kyle hears of a group of people that are immune to the virus that reside outside of the city’s walls. The player must venture to this area to see if maybe there is a clue for how to save the city.
The core gameplay keeps its feel as well. Using height and speed to your advantage, chopping off limbs, modding weapons for different effects, and combining different earned skills to clear out hordes is still a big deal. You aren’t free from the horrors of the night either. The Following is still dangerous when the sun goes down, in fact it manages to be an even bigger challenge than it was previously, and that’s thanks to one of its biggest new additions.
In The Following, you will be let loose in the Countryside. As the name suggests, this is a vastly different location from the city of Harran. There are no tall buildings, no alleyways, no factories or train stations to hide in. Instead, the environment shifts to large fields, dirt roads, and quaint farms. When night falls, losing powered up Virals and deadly Volatiles is now a true chase as you race for you life towards a safe zone.
You do have some help getting across this new area, though. The Buggy is an excellent addition that serves as transportation, a safe haven, and a weapon. Keeping with the spirit of survival, though, you’ll have to take good care of it just as if it were one of your handy weapons. You can upgrade your Buggy by earning and crafting new parts, level up an entire skill tree that will add armor and weapons to the vehicle, and even repair it on the road. It adds new scavenging needs as well. Screws, tubing, wires, steel parts, and fuel are necessary to keep your new toy in working order, and heaven forbid if you allow it to break down in the middle of the night.
Another major addition that came with The Following is the Legend System. Dying Light is a year old, something that the developers were undoubtedly keenly aware of. That means many fans had already maxed out their characters and were running around with some of the best weapons the game had to offer. Adding just a new skill tree for the vehicle wasn’t enough, so how about 250 new levels that unlock perks and new outfits?
As you run, sneak, jump, slash, bash, and drive through the world (be it in Harran or the Countryside), you will continue to earn experience towards your Legend, further empowering your surviving ways. It’s a nice touch for those returning, and something to keep newcomers invested long after they solve the mysteries of the world.
Of course, Dying Light: The Following is a lot more than just the game and all DLC. A lot more work went into re-releasing Dying Light, and it all makes for an interesting package.
The enhancements come in the form of graphical improvements as well as new NPC diversity and animations for the game. The graphical improvements aren’t as big of a deal on the PS4 as they are on PC, but they are still noticeable. The new parkour animations definitely add more of a rhythmic flow to movement. Kyle Crane behaves a bit more naturally depending on the situation, and it’s nice to see a bit more nuance in the way he behaves as a whole.
One of the more interesting parts though, is the inclusion of fan made maps. The four currently available are very unique and insanely fun. Jumping through space to reach an escape pod is cool, but surviving a haunted house is a stroke of genius.
The only issue I came across throughout my time with The Following was when I encountered Freaks. Freaks are new bosses that are super mutated forms of infected. They are insanely powerful and require teamwork and strategy, which is definitely a good thing. But sometimes they didn’t work. Not in the sense that it didn’t fit, but in a sense that you couldn’t do anything to them because the game glitched up. This happened several times and became a source of frustration.
Dying Light: The Following is a treat for anyone into surviving a zombie apocalypse. It takes all of the best parts of Dying Light and manages to use them as a launchpad into something new and fresh. The wide open Countryside manages to keep the thrill of parkour while also forcing players to not rely solely upon it, and it does enough new to bring old players back. It’s a great example of how solid mechanics can create an insanely engaging experience, even if the story still won’t win any rewards.