Reviewed: Dying Light: The Following
Released: February 2016
Played: November 2017
Completion Time: 5 hours
I Liked: Large open environment, Great story, Driveable buggy adds great new gameplay options
I Disliked: Frustrating climbing controls, gun reloading is annoying during combat, no access to original game’s location
Like many others I found the original Dying Light an maddening game. It had so much going for it, a mashup of many gaming genres in which first person combat, platforming, parkour and zombies were combined in a GTA-style open world. It had so much promise but ultimately didn’t quite deliver on the sum of it’s parts. It was a pretty good game though. The first (and likely last) major expansion pack was released at the start of 2016 with a much-anticipated larger playing area, and a driveable buggy. Once I’d worked out that you can’t access the new area from the city of Harran but instead from the main menu, I was ready to step back into the world of Dying Light once more.
There’s an awful lot to do in this expansion pack
The same protagonist from the first game, Kyle Crane, is informed of a miracle cure to the virus that plagues Harran, a cure that apparently exists outside of the Zombie-infested city. He finds a way out to the new area known as ‘the countryside’, in which you must quickly become reacquainted with the climbing mechanics as you descend the side of a rather high cliff face.
You meet a group of survivors facing their own set of challenges, and are tasked with winning their trust before they will help you with your mission. The quest style helps reduce the linear quest approach that permeates most other games like this, as it allows you to tackle the ‘trust’ missions in your own preferred order. Once you gain the backing of the group the story progresses quite rapidly towards a completely unexpected conclusion. I won’t spoil it for readers, but it is certainly one of the more surprising endings to any game I’ve played. It certainly makes up for the lack of a satisfying conclusion to the original game.
A really cheerful bunch!
Game mechanics and control remain faithful to the original game. Having recently played Uncharted 4, another game in which climbing is a key gaming mechanic, I found ascending various structures much harder work. That said I do appreciate the liberating feeling of being able to climb almost any building. Despite this there were many moments when Kyle decided to jump of an incredibly high ledge to his death, seemingly for no apparent reason. I was sure it was something I was doing, but was frustrating nonetheless. These occasional suicides often restarted Kyle in a nearby hunting tower, sometimes a very long way from the scene of my death, which only added to my annoyance.
You can climb pretty much everything in this world
Driving the buggy is great fun, once you get used the fact it needs a great deal of care to maintain or you will find yourself being chased by a large group of zombies who are actually faster than your vehicle – this provided some tense moments that added to the overall horror-themed experience.
The variety of weapons is great, but I found using the games’ selection of guns an annoyance at times. I accept that in a world such as this, that ammo will be scarce. Despite this, guns are everywhere. It really makes you conserve ammo at all times, but I must admit to swearing a great deal of times as I needed to reload whilst in a close-range gunfight, and you can guess the rest. An option to upgrade your guns (like you can do with all melee weapons) would have been a positive addition to the game. Faster reload speeds and increased capacity would have been greatly appreciated as I took on some of the more challenging foes towards the end of the game.
My favourite NPC, a local handyman called Ali
I was please to see the graphics engine translate well to the large open fields of the countryside, providing some dramatic views over great distances. Like the original game, in is obvious that the developers put a huge amount of attention to the finer details of the environment. Settlements do not seem repetitive in their layout and buildings, the only slight criticism is the similar looking zombies that you see on frequent occasions, but this is to be expected with the sheer number of them that you encounter as you play. I’m happy to report that the visuals hold up well for an engine that is over 3 years old.
The world is beautiful, but deadly
I’ll admit to having a long-standing fascination with zombies as a genre, largely due to the Walking Dead TV series that’s been on our screens for many years. Like many others I was tremendously excited about what the original game could deliver in putting zombies into a first person, open world game. By and large it delivered, and this expansion does help add some variation to the gameplay – which previously consisted of constricted spaces and vertigo-inducing climbing missions. You now have a great deal of space in which to explore, but also a hell of lot more zombies to deal with. Thankfully the buggy is a brilliant addition that prevents the large environment from being too large to traverse.
The buggy can be used as an effective battering ram
This is a significant Dying Light expansion that does a great job in providing a new environment to explore, and introducing a new playing style with the ability to drive around the map. The story is cleverly executed and provides a great ending to the story of our protagonist. Some minor gameplay niggles aside, Dying Light: The Following is an excellent effort in expanding a richly detailed world. I’d recommend this to all fans of the original game.