Dying Light: The Following is an expansion that doesn’t settle for merely being more Dying Light. It wants to expand the game further, try out a couple new ideas like the best expansions often do. Only, unlike the best expansions, Dying Light: The Following doesn’t quite deliver on its potential.
The Following takes place after the end of the base game. It begins with a man who comes by the Tower rambling about some group of people out in the countryside who are immune to the virus. Given that their supply of medicine is running low, the folks inside the Tower see it as something worth investigating. Only, the locals aren’t too keen to share the details with outsiders. The gist of the story is that a cult has formed around someone they call “The Mother,” who apparently grants immunity to all who follow her. You resume the role of Kyle Crane, the protagonist of the main game, this time earning the trust of local cult by performing odd jobs for the survivors out there.
This leads to the brief introduction of a reputation system that quickly gets thrown aside. Every side-quest you do early on in The Following earns you Trust Points, which determines how the locals perceive you. Earn enough and your rank improves, getting you closer to speaking with the leader of the cult and gaining acceptance from the locals. It’s basically a narrative excuse to get you to do a ton of side-quests. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the quests it sends you on are good – like those from the main game, they tell self-contained stories about the remaining survivors and the difficulties of eking out a living amid the zombie outbreak, and are often just as complex as the main story missions are – but it’s odd to have built an entire system around it that’s discarded not long after its introduction.
The main addition in The Following is the buggy. Because the countryside is large, getting around on foot doesn’t cut it. The land is rife with zombies and few places of refuge, making an on-foot trek not only a slog but a dangerous proposition. A vast space to explore sounds good on paper, but in reality, it’s very empty. Missions only take you to several key areas on the map and leave the rest to act as filler to drive through. For being one of the central parts of The Following, the buggy doesn’t really do a whole lot. Other than act as transportation, you can use it to partake in races or challenges to see how many zombies you can kill or objects you can destroy before time expires, but they end up being more frustrating than engaging. The only incentive you have to compete in these challenges is to easily earn experience points for the driver skills tree, but even then, the buggy’s upgrades don’t drastically change its minimal applications.
It also comes at the cost of having almost any parkour. Because The Following is set out in the countryside, buildings are far and few between. Lone houses and abandoned stores along the road make up the majority of what you encounter, each always containing little to see or scavenge. To make matters worse, the one area rife for climbing about is so small and devoid of any activities that it’s pointless to hang around.
The Following places emphasis on combat instead, which feels more like a slog here than in the main game due to the increased presence of hardy foes. The large armored brutes return in greater numbers and somehow end up being even more annoying to fight, while the standard crop of zombies feel a little too resilient given the strength of the weapons you find. Every foe, be they human or monster, takes several strikes to kill. Given The Following is balanced for high level characters, that makes sense, but combined with how quickly that eats through weapon durability and the seemingly endless spawning hordes it quickly becomes an exercise in frustration. And since you’re often fighting in flat open spaces, you have next to no options for escape.
Much of what made Dying Light work was its emphasis on movement. Whether you were in combat or simply traipsing about Haran, you were always engaged in parkour in some way. The tight streets of Haran made fights interesting because you could use that space to your advantage. It made traversal fun because the city was built with it in mind, such that it never mattered if you had to travel half-way across the map or not since it was so enjoyable to simply move about. That The Following doesn’t deliver those same thrills and instead gives you a vehicle as a replacement is the crux of its failings. It trades its strengths for undeveloped ideas, scaling back on the very things that made it work to begin with. The result is an expansion that, while it certainly delivers more Dying Light, doesn’t quite excel or satisfy.