It seems, these days, like zombies are a staple in the average gamer’s diet. Most titles, if they don’t focus entirely on zombies, have at least a mode of some type where zombies rule the Earth, and players have the opportunity to facemaul them endlessly through endless horde modes, or varied story modes such as Black Ops 3 Nightmare story mode.
Recently, I had the opportunity to play The Following, the latest expansion piece for Dying Light, Techland’s zombie-parkour-slasher from 2015. The recommendation from the game was to start the expansion at survival level twelve, something that seemed a bit off-putting to reviews I’d seen on Steam, as it meant that most people, if they hadn’t kept their save, would have to play through at least part of the original story again just to be able to access this new content.
Finishing the campaign again, I was left to my own devices in a Rais-free world, and dove into the new content head-first with a friend of mine in a few late-night gaming sessions.
What I discovered pleasantly surprised me.
Dying Light was originally conceptualized around the idea of parkour zombie-murder in a vast urban sprawl. Much of the player’s time was spent high on rooftops, surveying the landscape, then moving seamlessly through the world, hammer-to-facing, knife-through-eyeballing their way to their next objective.
With The Following, Crane ventures to a new area near Harran, a valley of farms, plantation-style housing, and the rare city that still gives the grand scale of vast landscapes with the occasional civilized backdrop for players to parkour their way through.
However, with this change to the landscape comes a distinct lack of free-running opportunities, essentially gimping the player’s methods of transportation, right?
Nah, enter your newest skill tree, along with the associated mode of movement: the dune buggy.
Early on in the expansion, you are told to find a way to get around the landscape instead of just walking, which was your primary method in the original game. This dune buggy comes equipped with multiple parts that function like weapons, each having durability, eventually breaking down if you drive like a maniac or take too many blows from the local reside…er…wildlife.
Overall, I found the opening missions and mystery of this new location very compelling. I had my feelings about the cultist persuasions in character personalities and how the setting felt, but it soon faded more into a dangerous curiosity, as I felt after the first few missions that my character was just an “outsider” and a bit misunderstood.
In time, I would discover that my feelings were horrifyingly misplaced.
My friend and I burned through several of the first story missions, then backtracked and hunted down almost all of the side-missions. I was not a fan of the twins from the original game, so when they managed to rear their ugly faces in the expansion, I promptly ignored them. Apparently I missed out on some sweet blueprints, but there was no love lost for their overabundance of intellectual arrogance, so I let them sit in their hunter’s tower and marinate above the countless zombies with aims on their man-salad.
The shift from parkour to buggy-kour was a welcome change, and gave the game a new feeling. Almost a Grand-Theft-Auto-Zombie-Farm-Country feel, with the open world and endless supply of mindless loot bags running around giving plenty of opportunity for grandiose slaughter.
A few inconsistencies existed in the game, minor as they might be. I found that Rais, despite being gone, still somehow maintains a following of thugs who continue to steal for him. Even after his betrayal, they still are somehow loyal to him, which seems odd. I suppose I’ll chalk it up to rampant zombie-ish stupidity, since they were pretty mindless in the original story too.
Most of the characters in The Following were actually pretty memorable. My personal favorite was Bilal, a quartermaster you meet at one of the safe zones. He felt less “cultist” and more “life is what you make of it, so let’s have fun once in a while.” More often than not, I found myself returning to his particular safe zone than the original location from the start of the game with all the crabby Kool-Aid drinkers.
Spoiler-free, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the story, with its cultist bent and “welcome to the fold” talespinning. However, I can say that the end left me disappointed. Dying Light’s first “choose your fate” moment turned out to, on one side, be a pretty terrifying final boss battle, and on the other, a simple “thanks for playing” dismissal of the entire production. I felt like Techland forgot the original premise of sending Crane to this place, and ended it with a simple “yep, we’re done with this.” There is also, apparently, a third ending depending on your choices throughout the DLC story, but I haven’t read much on how that is accomplished. Once I was finished with the expansion story as it lay before me, I could suddenly feel the drop in enthusiasm for zombie murder. Perhaps it’s time to go invade some players games with Be The Zombie mode…
With Techland now promising more DLC in 2016, I can’t see how it’s going to integrate into the established story with the end of The Following, as story avenues from here forward are pretty much dead.