Dying Light is a bit of game-that-got-away for us here at PC Invasion. We recorded a video session (back when our name was IncGamers), talked about it on our podcast, and some of us even returned to it across the year – but, for reasons of time investment, it never got a full review. That’s a shame, because the general assessment among staff (well, Tim McDonald and myself at least) was that it was pretty good.
We’ve got a second chance to write about the game with the upcoming release of sizeable expansion Dying Light: The Following, and this past weekend I spent a few hours with a limited (partially by time, partially by area) preview build.
The clearest and most-highlighted way The Following is going to distinguish itself from the base Dying Light game is the switch in emphasis from parkour to driving. This has an across-the-land impact on overall area design, which is now far more rural. Gone, are the tightly packed buildings and alleyways of Harran; in their place, rolling fields punctuated by train tracks, pipelines, and smaller farmsteads.
That doesn’t mean parkour has been replaced. The opening sequence, in which returning protagonist Kyle Crane has to pick his way down into the valley, is a vertigo-inducing bit of rock-scrambling. At the fringes of where the game would let me go in this build, there was a coastal village ripe for a bit of roof-hopping. And, of course, you’ll still be wanting to use all of your climbing skills to bamboozle infected pursuers and encamped bandits whenever possible.
For transport between mission objective and points of interest, though, you’ll now be using a set of wheels more than a pair of toned legs. In The Following, you can drive pretty much everywhere (field? no problem; hills? just watch out for trees; railway lines? go nuts). And you should.
If the final release is anything like this preview code, it’ll throw the much-touted buggy at you within about ten minutes of play. The preview buggy already had semi-upgraded components (which I’m sure was a concession to the press), but I’m going to assume that it’ll still be acquired through an early quest.
Interestingly though, this build differed a little from an early Techland stream of the expansion. In that version, Crane saw bandits steal the ride and had to track them down. For this preview, he’s directed to a bandit camp by a different NPC and comes across the buggy there. Not a huge change, but it turns Crane into the one who’s sneaking (or kicking) in and nabbing the wheels.
Keeping your ride in shape and souped up seems as if it’ll dominate The Following. Fuel needs to be scavenged from other abandoned cars (or gas stations, if they have any left), and some of your loot scavenging will now be focused on keeping individual components repaired or upgraded. There’s a new skill tree for driving, in which you can gain the ability to craft parts yourself (say, a level 3 engine or something) and improve other aspects like defenses (with a better roll-cage).
Quality parts can also be found out in the wild, as I came across some level 4 pieces in my travels. Again, these were probably specially added to the truncated preview code to give players a quick feel for an upgraded vehicle.
Being mindful of where your car is parked is always helpful (as in life), but for any players who get unavoidably separated from it there’s a ‘respawn buggy’ function at most safe houses (in return for a small driver points cost).
Naturally, the countryside has whole lot of associated races and challenges specially designed for somebody sat inside an automobile. You kick the races off by chatting with a mechanic, who almost makes setting up frivolous races during a zombie apocalypse sound like a reasonable idea (how many people had to die setting up those checkpoint flares, one wonders?) After that, you can initiate races by looking at posters dotted around the land. Same goes for challenges, which often involve splattering numerous undead across your windshield in a limited time period.
Fun as it is to just cruise around in your buggy (which, by the way, is fitted with special UV headlights for those dangerous night-time encounters), Crane is actually in the countryside for a reason. There are rumours that someone called “The Mother” is mystically keeping people infection-free, and that sounds like a potential, long-term alternative to Antizen.
The story missions in this preview build for The Following certainly didn’t get to the bottom of that mystery, but did leave me with the impression that The Mother’s acolytes are more than a little bit cult-ish. Maybe it was the altars decorated with dead birds, or the slightly creepy (albeit colourful) symbols left around the place.
In order to get more information about what exactly is going on, Crane was going to have to help the locals with various tasks. To earn their trust, there’s a plot mission to clear out some bandits who’ve grabbed a monopoly on the water supply. After sorting them out, the pipes were in danger of bursting, which triggered a buggy-dash to the pump-house and a spot of underwater valve twisting. Beyond that, it seems like the narrative will be nudged along by doing quests (hunting down a bolter, clearing out more bandits, finding missing person, and the like) to boost local trust in Crane’s worthiness.
There’s the odd new weapon too, of course. Early on, I happened across (okay, let’s be honest, the press build came with a map marking some of this stuff) a crossbow. It’s a punchy and largely silent ranged option, with the added bonus of having retrievable ammunition. Another feature seems to concern safe houses, which can be listed as still ‘inactive’ when liberated. It seems another story quest will deal with providing power to these locations.
Though I’ve only had a few hours with it, Dying Light: The Following leaves a strong opening impression. The change of scenery works in harmony with the addition of a functioning buggy, which, though it becomes the defining focus of this add-on, is good enough to drive and tinker with that it doesn’t feel too gimmicky or overbearing. While the mission structure and narrative have yet to really prove themselves either way, there’s a basis here for something intriguing, and for some novel quest design. Pure parkourists might be saddened at the reduced clambering opportunities, but the dramatic increase in mowing-down-zombies-at-high-speeds opportunities should hopefully soothe these concerns.
Dying Light: The Following will be released on 9 February.