Techland’s undead expansion raises the bar for what players should expect from post-release content
It’s been a year since Techland’s parkour-themed zombie apocalypse simulator Dying Light shambled onto the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Now, players are treated to the game’s first expansion, which takes them out of the familiar, crowded streets of a zombie-ravaged Harran and into the city’s surrounding rural areas for an encore performance. More than a pittance of new areas to explore and a handful of new quests to undertake, Dying Light: The Following offers a wealth of new things to do, a massive new region to uncover, and some clever mechanics to liven up the undead experience. Is this fresh injection of content enough to warrant a return trip? Read on and find out.
Dying Light: The Following once again puts players in the shoes of protagonist Kyle Crane. The expansion’s story picks up after the events of Dying Light, with Crane’s allies at The Tower short on the zombie virus vaccine Antizin, Crane ventures out into a sprawling new area outside of Harran known as The Farmland to investigate rumors that the locals have become immune to the zombie outbreak that has overcome the city’s population. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems, and Crane’s mission to save his friends by finding a cure to the zombie virus throws him into a new adventure that introduces players to mysterious cults, new allies and even greater dangers than ever before. The story of The Following proves to be one of the expansion’s most satisfying facets, as it offers a level of depth and mystery far beyond the scope of what was offered in last year’s release, pulling you into the action as you explore The Farmland’s expansive countryside.
It may seem strange for a game largely built on parkour-based mechanics to shift its focus from cities teeming with buildings and obstacles to stylishly clamber up in favor of wide open fields and small pockets of infrastructure, but this change ultimately pays huge dividends. Sure, you’ll still scale a few electrical towers and a fair share of cliff faces in your adventure, but the free-running elements that worked allowed players to easily escape the pursuing undead are largely reigned in. With these buildings and obstacles few and far between, being pursued by a horde of ghouls or a charging Volatile is now a truly harrowing experience as you rush to the nearest house for shelter, which can oftentimes be several hundred meters away. This means you’ll spend quite a bit more time carefully plotting your course and scouting ahead for pockets of enemies, as it’s easy to become overwhelmed with little recourse if you’re not careful.
As I said before, The Farmland size of The Farmland is simply astounding. That said, Techland has implemented the addition of some bitchin’ buggies to help players get around Harran’s perilous countryside. More than glorified Go Karts, these all-terrain vehicles can be upgraded by crafting new parts, allowing players to build sturdier cages for better armor and outfitted with nitrous for maximum speed. Hell, you can even outfit the buggies with a handy mine launcher, allowing player to turn pursuing ghouls into piles of twitching gristle with the push of a button. Getting behind the wheel of these four-wheeled killing machines is simply a blast, and cruising across the landscape, participating in optional races and other crash challenges is a ton of fun, making them one of The Following’s most standout additions. However, these buggies aren’t unstoppable, and you’ll need to keep a steady supply of screws and other components on-hand to keep them in working order, and scavenge wrecked vehicles of fuel. After all, there’s nothing worse than having your buggy run out of fuel in the middle of the night while stuck in the middle of a sprawling farm, with Volatiles all around the closest safe haven little more than a dim light on the horizon.
In addition to the buggies, Dying Light: The Following‘s rural setting also opens up a slew of new suitably rustic weapons to take on the game’s legions of heavily-armed bandits and zombies with. Lobbing off the head of a ghoul with a scythe or other piece of farming equipment is immensely satisfying. However, the real star of the show comes in the form of the crossbow, which allows you to dispatch zombies and humans alike with unrivaled stealth and can be outfitted with a variety of bolts including standard, high-impact, electric and more. This becomes a necessity when dealing with gangs of roving ghouls in caves and other confined areas where it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed once you’re detected, as the game’s zombies and bandits both seem a fair bit more alert this time around than in the original game, and are incredibly hard to shake once they’re in pursuit.
One thing I really loved about Dying Light: The Following was the variety in missions this time around. As you progress through the expansion’s multi-hour story you’ll undertake a variety of ambitious quests, running the gamut from tense stealth infiltration, high-octane races and all-out battles with towering boss zombies. One quest in particular I enjoyed was a massive scavenger hunt that has players scouring the entire countryside for hidden caves and underwater catacombs to find an arsenal of antique weapons that has been scattered by an eccentric collector. Another memorable mission involved fighting through what seemed like hundreds of zombies to break into a power plant to restore power to the natives. However, after a ghoul the size of a Buick pummels a massive hole in the ground of the plant, I was left to flee through the sewer system, all while avoiding hordes of stalking Volatiles who had taken up patrol of the power plant’s maintenance tunnels. It was a harrowing as hell mission, and I loved every second of it.
Speaking of harrowing encounters, The Following even allows you to sneak into Volatile hives during the night after they’ve left their nest – or during the day, if you have a death wish – and take them out. This works a lot like the Outpost system in the Far Cry games, allowing you to dramatically decrease the number of Volatile’s that wander the wilds of Harran at night. Simply put, there’s an astounding amount of content here, and the vast majority of what Techland has brought to the table with The Following rivals or surpasses what was found in the original game itself.
While Dying Light: The Following does a lot of things right, there are still a few minor issues that crop up from time to time that can pull you out of the experience. The most frustrating of these issues has to do with the way re-spawning is handled. When you’re killed, oftentimes you’ll re-spawn at the hunting tower nearest to where you perished. That’s fine and all, but your buggy will remain wherever you last had it, meaning you’ll have to hoof it to either the nearest safe house to recall it, or to wherever you perished to retrieve it. This can oftentimes be a matter of several hundred meters, and without any real structures to speak of to bust out your parkour abilities, this becomes a bit of a slog at times. Additionally, some of the issues that popped up frequently in the original Dying Light such as weird animations and finicky control issues when climbing certain surfaces – most notably cliffs and other rocky terrain – sour the experience a bit, but it’s never enough to really make a huge impact on your enjoyment of the game.
Simply put, for $20 bucks you’re getting a massive wealth of content with Dying Light: The Following. The new area featured in this expansion is simply massive, and cruising around in a buggy, plowing over zombies and exploring this sprawling new locale is a blast from start to finish. Top it off with some hugely entertaining quests and an array of exciting new weapons to test out on your undead adversaries and you have one hell of a package. While many publishers are content to nickel and dime players for halfhearted post-release content, developer Techland instead raises the bar for what players should expect from an expansion pack, releasing a continuation of Dying Light‘s original story that in many ways overshadows the original package. That said, if you enjoyed playing though Dying Light last year, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Following.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed), PC ; Publisher: Warner Bros. Games ; Developer: Techland ; Players: 1-4 (online); Released: February 9, 2016; Genre: Action, RPG; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, Warner Bros. Games.