Developer Techland’s clunky and satisfying zombie slayer is back with a sizable expansion — but is it worth your time?
Dying Light’s major expansion, The Following, is a paradoxical experience. In some ways, The Following makes strides over the base game’s sometimes clunky mechanics. In other ways, The Following makes painful mistakes that ultimately cripple the experience.
Dying Light’s core mechanic has always been survival in a violent, hostile environment. Part of that means resource management. In the base game, the player is tasked with completing objectives while also looting scraps to make weapons and tools. In The Following, this mechanic is taken to the next level. In addition to supply and weapon management, the player now has access to a dune buggy to traverse the vast (and overly cluttered) map. The buggy also has 5 core components that need to be maintained and upgraded throughout the game. Additionally, the buggy demands gas that needs to stay filled if you want to get to your objective and back to a safe zone before dark.
The buggy is Dying Light’s greatest ambition and unfortunately it feels like a giant misstep. While driving and mowing down undead hordes is admittedly gleeful fun, clunky driving controls and physics make world traversal exhausting — especially in The Following’s later hours. Just like the core game, there are more aggressive zombies that will charge the player. At times, the aggressive zombies are able to keep up with, and occasionally pass, the player as you drive through the rural countryside. If one of the aggressive zombies jumps on your vehicle or even hits it from behind, the buggy will turn 90 degrees and you’ll likely crash into whatever filler object blocks off the roadway.
The physics that support the dune buggy are so broken, in fact, that the game has a dedicated button that you can press that will reset the vehicle if it gets clipped into a wall, tree, fence or ramp. This button is necessary periodically throughout The Following’s roughly 8 hour run-time.
The story that supports The Following is interesting enough. A cult has seemingly found a way to stave off zombie attacks and prevent those who are bitten from turning into a brain-hungry monsters. In order to play the games core missions, however, the player is tasked with what essentially feel like side-quests to gain trust with countryside locals so they accept you into the cult. By the time the credits roll, it feels like you’ve played a dozen filler missions with about five memorable quests. More often than not, you’ll find yourself crossing the countryside to retrieve a note or package only to drive back to where you came from. If you’re not a fan of fetch-style RPGs, you’d be wise to avoid The Following.
The game’s last mission was where I had particular trouble. Once entering the game’s “finale” mission state, there’s no going back to upgrading your character or dune buggy. For whatever reason, Techland forgot to mention that you might need to level your character a bit to complete a final race sequence, so for far too long I was stuck repeating the same area because my car would break down or I would run out of gas only to be mauled by hordes of undead. When you restart at a checkpoint after failing or dying, the resources you used in the previous attempt don’t replenish. So if you repaired your car halfway through and then died, you won’t have the same replacement parts for the next attempt. This is particularly troublesome because completing the final race is timed.
One of the areas where Techland has actually improved over the base game is combat and traversal. Melee combat in particular feels far more satisfying in The Following. Unlike the base game, however, there isn’t nearly enough human-on-human combat to break up all the zombie slaying. Every time I fought human NPCs, I rejoiced only to feel glum after the combat only lasted mere minutes.
Unfortunately, traversal improvements also feel null because of the rural setting. There are small areas that cater to the games fun and clunky climbing and parkour, but The Following mostly had me using free running to get atop vehicles and rain death upon the undead. Fun at first, but ultimately exhausting.
Like the core game, The Following also excels at co-op experiences. The game is decidedly more fun and engaging when you have a friend at your side. Still, it’s hard to note if co-op is more fun because Techland have crafted a good co-op experience or if things are just more enjoyable because I’m laughing and yelling with friends. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of some of the co-op in The Following, the game is much harder and more frustrating.
By far, my favorite thing about The Following was the way Techland continues to capture the human spirit. At times, the cast of characters are funny and touching. At other points, the game is cripplingly depressing and morbid. Nearly all interactions in the game feel meaningful — something especially important considering The Following’s plot is decidedly less engaging than the base game.
Going off the story, Rais, like Far Cry 3’s Vaas, was crucial to holding together whatever story there was. Even if a plot is thin, a strong villain keeps players engaged through the credits. Without an overarching, single villain, The Following seemed to meander at times leaving me less engaged in the experience.
The Following’s story is dull, ground traversal is largely under-utilized and driving feels unpolished. The cast of characters feel grounded and real, but without an antagonist, there isn’t much left to carry the overall experience. Co-op lovers will find a countryside worth exploring with a buddy, but cruising solo in The Following will be a struggle.
Unless you were a huge fan of the base game, a zombie lover or someone who loves doing chores while playing video games, Dying Light: The Following might not be the survival horror experience you’re looking for.
Dying Light: The Following was reviewed on an Xbox One using a press copy courtesy of Techland.
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