was bloody brilliant
. It borrowed the best bits from a handful of other games and tied them into a unique and cohesive whole, with an interesting narrative, a perfect score and some of the best in-game traversal we’ve ever seen in an open-world. That last point is poignant here, because the first proper expansion for Dying Light, The Following
, gives us a new traversal tool on top of what we already have that fundamentally changes your approach to said open-world, while maintaining the pillars of the vanilla game. It’s a feat that should not be overlooked and speaks to the love of the IP Techland
has. Dying Light was bloody brilliant, but The Following is near bloody perfect.
Interestingly, Techland saw fit to take us out of the city of Harran for The Following, and into rural areas, complete with farms, warehouses, dams, a seaside village and more. Obviously, in such open environments there’s a question about how one gets from A to B. If Spider-Man were ever dropped into the countryside, he probably wouldn’t be web-slinging everywhere, and so Techland has given the player some wheels by way of a buggy that is far more important than any of the throwaway vehicles in games like GTA
or Far Cry
. In fact, your ride becomes an RPG extension of yourself: it’s tied directly to your skill and XP UI, and is completely upgradeable and customisable, but more importantly it becomes your premium mode of transport in an unforgiving expanse of a place, and right out of the gate it’s amazing.
The driving mechanic in the game is near flawless. In first-person, the buggy feels realistic when driving (aside from some of the jumps and crashes you can get yourself into), and just handles with aplomb. It’s the zombie apocalypse, of course, so broken down vehicles litter the roads, as well as other obstacles -- happenstance jumps and ramps, too. Most of this is debris you can just crash through, but an element of skill is still required to get around the world without being brought to a complete hault. The design balance here is simply spot-on, but it’s in the importance of all this post-humanity litter that the game really begins to shine.
In Dying Light, looting car boots or the rear of vans revealed components for crafting or the odd base weapon or two. In The Following, you loot engines and fuel tanks for your buggy -- and they’re all-important. Moreover, certain vehicles give up more of the good stuff than others. You start the game with your buggy at level one, no matter your Dying Light level. So, you can only craft level one engine parts, for example. But as in the base game, you earn XP just for using your vehicle, and at night, this is doubled. Good and dangerous driving will net you higher rewards in the XP department, but each component your buggy relies on can only be repaired a handful of times. You also find Blueprints for buggy components, making your new ride one of the key elements in The Following. You’re even going to need to refuel, which means getting out of the vehicle and physically doing so.
It’s not just about driving though, and like The Witcher 3’s first round of DLC, I’d argue Techland has one-upped themselves with their narrative for The Following (though it’s a tad short). Crane is still as player-reverent as ever; questioning why and what he does, commentating on some of the very fucked up things you see and experience as if he just channeled the player directly, but in the end being the good errand-boy every videogame character invariably is. There’s a nefariousness to The Following Dying Light itself could never quite offer. So much so, I want to avoid spoilers, so know that at its core, The Following is as dark and mysterious as it is horrific and action-packed. The complete gaming package, really.
The open expanse of the game-world also takes some of the verticality away from vanilla Dying Light, but it works. You still have climbing challenges on water towers and electricity towers, as well as a few other buildings and locations, but places like farms and warehouses now litter the landscape and come filled with delicious loot opportunities. Some, however, are guarded by mini-bosses that can prove more challenging than you might first realise (David and Goliath took me forever). In fact, you’ll be upgrading your weapons like a boss, just to take on these mini-bosses, and the game scales some if you pull your character from the base game across, although you do have the option to start anew in The Following, though I brought across my heavily managed Crane purely because of all the work I’d put into him already.
One of the gripes I had with Dying Light was in its lack of completely exploring opportunities such as more swimming/underwater challenges and exploration, or basic subterrain expansion. It’s addressed here, held back only by the shorter gameplay length of the whole affair. There’s a massive area and game-world to throw yourself in, as well as myriad collectibles and game-world narrative components (the well side-quest, in particular, is jarring) -- the whole thing just reeks of design maturity post-vanilla Dying Light. Of course, it also comes with co-op for those wanting to race buggies through farms, which creates just the right amount of fun and mayhem.
It’s also fucking challenging. I played on Nightmare on Xbox One and found areas of the game very hard to get through without my buggy. But, knowing this Techland has also made it difficult even in your buggy with Bombers everywhere who, when exploded, obviously attract the attention of Chargers who now jump on your buggy. They’re also tenacious in that having a handful of them following you because a handful of Bombers exploded on your journey doesn’t mean you’ll shake them because you drove really fast. More often than not, when you get out of your vehicle you’ll hear that annoying shriek and realise they’re still charging. I hate them.
Beyond all of the gameplay goods mentioned above, my experience was a very solid one and the game loaded very quickly for me (from a full install). It’s also still gorgeous, which has been a nice sideline to Fallout 4 which is still very dated-looking (oh man, Fallout with Dying Light-level visuals… *drool*). It’s also hopefully not the last we see of Kyle Crane, and given the incredible support Techland offers both their game and the wider Dying Light community, it’s difficult to imagine The Following is our good night to Dying Light. This is the level of ‘DLC’ other publishers and developers should be offering post-release. I’m a firm believer in The Mother and would follow her, and The Following anywhere. More than worth a look-in.