Dying Light: The Following & Enhanced Edition – Review

Ah yes, the scenic drive through the countryside full of flesh eating infected zombies...quiet kids we're almost there!!!
Ah yes, the relaxing getaway! A drive through the countryside full of infected flesh eating zombies…”SHH! Quiet kids we’re almost to Nana’s!”

I’m running. I know I am. It’s so dark. Running blind, am I any closer to safety? Rain drops pelt my face. The sawing sounds of my labored breathing cutting through the splashes from each step. I trip, but catch myself against a tree. That’s when I see it. It’s the distinct soft violet hue of a safe zone, the one I’ve been running towards for what felt like hours. As my breathing subsides, other sounds drown out the cacophony of rain. Uneven shuffling steps: the infected. Then above the mindless crowds of undead, the unmistakable bellowed gasps of something bigger: Volatiles.

Adrenaline and blood surge, along with hundreds of thoughts of my childhood, old girlfriends, and the fiendish traitorous lunacy I had forgotten existed within me, until tonight.

“Where are you?” I whisper into my headset receiver.

His response injured far more than fatigue. “I’m far, two hundred meters…I’m being chased…runners…I…couldn’t lose ’em.”

Our plan to separate and draw them away clearly failed. It really didn’t matter, the blood and guts camouflage I had smeared on myself was now washed away. The pattern of shuffling steps and guttural moaning had changed, and I knew what that change meant. I turned my flashlights on, my UV lantern cutting a path ahead. There were hundreds of them…inches away, outstretched decaying arms reaching for me. The swooping circular swing of my sledgehammer sending bodies reeling back into the darkness. I caught sight of it, a windmill with a standing platform. I screamed into the radio, “DO YOU SEE THE WINDMILL?”, adrenaline had taken over, I felt it in my throat as the words spilled forth.

“We’ll fight them up top! Back to back!”

“I see it, I’m running, I have UV flares!”

I dashed ahead through a thicket of flesh and bones. I caught sight of a clear path to the windmill. But there was something else, directly in the way, glowing orange under my ultra-violet light. The immense volatile roared, mountains of hot vapors erupting from his gaping jaws. I ran towards it, my only chance! UV rays searing through it’s skin. I gambled. It would need to jump out of the way. It did!

Almost to safety, its tattered wooden beams within grasp, I leaped. But something else leaped first. Another volatile. Pinned to the ground so suddenly I choked, unable to breath in. Was that my last breath of air in this life? Broken glistening mandibles opening wide as it prepared to lunge. The acrid smell and sores around it’s sinewy arms hardening, unable to move I knew… this is my end. Heads of the infected pulling in around the volatile like a curtain. Darkness… 

I came to realize, just how much I really missed this kind of madness. So many fond memories of playing Dying Light online cooperatively with this intense gameplay is why it was chosen as one of 2015’s best PC gaming experiences. This game personifies “zombie survival,” with many facets of it requiring concerted management. As if reading my mind, Techland announced Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition days later, a new definitive edition with an entirely new chapter added. I really was not prepared for how extensive this new content would be when Techland sent us our own review copy. A neatly compiled list of changes doesn’t tell the whole story. So let me share my experiences with you…

A Little Harranese History

A viral outbreak, is turning people into undead flesh eaters. The Turkish city of Harran is devastated in moments. A military blockade shuts down all access to the city, containing the outbreak within. A group similar to the World Health Organization, known as the Global Relief Effort (GRE) has hired the zombie killing version of Zorro, in Kyle Crane (whom you play). A local crime lord Rais, has stolen vital computer files from the GRE and are heavily armed, and thoroughly entrenched within the confines of the quarantined city. A city now teeming with millions of hungry infected. While hiding your true identity as a GRE agent, you are tasked with infiltrating Rais’s militant group and retrieving that information. Unfortunately, shortly after arrival Crane is bitten, meaning he will turn into one of the undead eventually; his plight linked with the other survivors within. The vital vaccine Antizin is where Harran’s survivors hang their hopes. It can slow down and hinder the process of turning, but those GRE vaccine drops are contested heavily by Rais’s thugs and wandering bandits.

It’s a scenic Hallmark moment, Robert Kirkman style.

After being bitten, Crane is taken in by a group of survivors who’ve made a community for themselves within one of the cities largest towers. The men, women, and children are requesting all kinds of items from books, glasses, Antizen, food, weapons and more. Crane is always compelled to “do the right thing”, and rewarded for your good deeds, as well as finding himself closer to his main objective. Although at times cliché and predictable, the Dying Light storyline is well done, and gratifying to progress through even when I knew what was coming next.

The list of missions, side missions, and random global events available is monumental. Stripped down, these mission objectives are derivative chores of fetching items, delivering them, or killing bandits; it’s the numerous complementary elements at play that keep Dying Light fluid and exciting. You will never stop scavenging. Constantly prowling for items to survive. Every run is an opportunity to scour the environment for gauze, alcohol, nails, chemicals, and other seemingly humdrum items. These items are then crafted or traded for vital medpacks, molotovs, UV flares, and weapons. Weapons do not last forever, they wear out, and can only be repaired so many times before eventually failing entirely. Acquiring the best weapons means combing through unexplored (read: more zombie infested) locations.

In order to do battle with the game’s more complex enemies, you will have to improve your skillsets. Everything you do increases experience in one of the survival categories. As is true with everything in the game, mingling through the night with the most dangerous enemies appear, earns double the experience. It’s an overt risk vs reward system that ensures you always have something to do, improve, and plan for.

Danny Glover, enhanced edition version, is quite eager to help find a cure.
Danny Glover, enhanced edition version, is quite eager to help find a cure.

Dying Light’s infected come in varieties, which offer different combat approaches as well as refreshing changes of pace. The overall biggest group are the dull witted walkers that fill the streets; unable to climb you are free to parkour over them through building spaces. These enemies will overpower you in greater numbers should you decide to stop and tie your shoelaces on the streets. Bigger sledgehammer-swinging walkers, acid spitters, fast moving virals are just some of the additional types of infected you will see during the day. Humans armed with guns, and armor, will also stand in your way, hiding behind cover hoping you will recklessly charge in. The more powerful enemies, the Volatiles, only come out at night, these monsters feels like punching steamrollers — and their overcharged healing is only hindered with UV light sources. These behemoths can alert every infected within a large area. In most cases you will not be able tackle these odds without end; forcing you to run through dense inner-city edifices (and pray you don’t make a fatal wrong turn in the dark).

Harran The Enhanced Director’s Cut Special Collector’s Golden Case Edition 2.0

With the Enhanced Edition, there are a number of areas of the original game that have been improved. These updates are available as a free update for current owners of Dying Light. Graphically, the city of Harran was always a macabre but gorgeous sight to behold. Visual performance is smoother. It does not take a hefty rig to run this game with all options on, and no platform shows this off better than the PC (Source: Eurogamer).  NPC model variety has been greatly increased, because how many bald zombie women wearing a white tank top with one shoulder strap off can there be in a city? More firearms have been added, to augment the already extensive variety of melee weapons. Audio positioning envelopes and tracks sources better than before. In-game voice software while not perfect, accurately maps and applies material reverberation with the other player’s voices. It’s a simple but nice immersive adornment to have your friends sound like they are in an expansive cave or echo filled metal bunker with  you.

In the Enhanced Edition, smoke maybe smokier, cars rustier, enemies bloodier and droolier... but the real treat is that you are badassier than ever.
In the Enhanced Edition, smoke may be smokier, cars rustier, enemies bloodier and droolier… but the real treat is that you are badassier than ever.

These little tidbits, while nice, do not offer sufficient incentives to replay this massive game all over again (or for the first time for undecided potential gamers). Therefore, the best new additions enhance two of the better aspects of Dying Light: gameplay and leveling skills. Previously skill levels capped off at a certain point, once you earned all the available skills there was little else in that regard to push for. Now, 250 additional level upgrades are possible through the Legendary tree, which unlocks when any one branch is completed. These new upgrades incrementally improve the statistics of existing combat, parkour, and survival abilities. They may not be unique new skills, but these added bonuses to current aptitudes make a difference and are important to develop considering AI has been altered and improved.

 

New bounty system offers creative challenges for legendary players
New bounty system offers creative challenges for legendary players
The game world was always such that as you progressed through story missions and effected change throughout the city, more difficult enemies would begin to appear. Now enemies will now converge towards you with more aggression, often attacking your flanks and rear. Viral runners materialize more often, attracted by loud noises, and converge with more precision. Previously, it felt as if you could wait on top of any rooftop for hours, quietly riding out the night jumping across rooftops, cheesing up ability experience points without ever alerting enemies. This safety net has been reduced considerably, by a far more predatory global AI.

These two aspects alone make the enhanced edition of Dying Light a compelling universe to play, or replay. Yet the list of noteworthy changes continues; a new “Bounty System” has been added to both base Dying Light and The Following, accessible once you reach Legendary levels. These added challenges are found on dartboards within safe zones. Offering unique and creative challenges than your standard story based errands. For example, one such bulletin board mission tasks you with getting to a certain point using only 10 grapples, with no other movements are allowed. Another, challenges players to leap over co-op partners then fall at least 15 meters.

Finally, Nightmare mode adds a brutality to Dying Light that will appeal to hardcore fans. Common infected can take you down in about two hits without added defensive skills, let alone the more lethal enemies. Every move, including kicks and sliding attacks takes away stamina so you cannot spam kicks or slide attacks to keep enemies from overwhelming you. There are no easter egg weapons allowed, night time duration is greatly extended, and scouting senses and mini-maps are turned off. While it may seem as if this is the equivalent of fighting with one hand tied behind your back, with a blindfold, no weapons, while afflicted with a bad case of scoliosis. However, the challenges are offset by booming experience rewards and more precious gold weapon drops.

A New Way To Make You Go “Oh Shi…”

The squishy thud and warm gel filling my sight was not the end. Something happened.

“Get up! Come on climb climb!”

Another chance to live… the volatiles headless corpse slumped over, my partner in crime dropping flares and climbing to safety … I’m alive!

The Following expansion pack adds more than just a new storyline, but also new game map devoid of big city navigation. Hundreds of buildings, balconies, apartments, tunnels, and hiding spots are now absent, replaced with giant open fields of wheat and grain, fenced in farmland, cut up by passing rivers, lakes, and streams. Of course this serene visage is interrupted by ten thousand infected waiting to gnaw on your soft spots. This story commences with a dying young survivor giving Crane information regarding a cult operating outside the quarantined city. This cult has apparently gained the power over the infected, and as a result are immune to the effects of the virus. Following his clues through the city sewers eventually leads you to the outer fringes of Harran, out into the vast countryside.

I often ponder whilst in the sewers of Harran. Let me ask you this, do zombies poop?
I often ponder whilst in the sewers of Harran. Let me ask you this, do zombies poop?
Wide open agricultural areas of the Following, in contrast to the concrete jungle seen in the distance.
Wide open agricultural areas of the Following, in contrast to the concrete jungle seen in the distance.
In some ways getting back into a small town can be relief, it's scary as hell out there!
In some ways getting back into a small town and can be relief, them country bumpkin zombies are scary as hell!

Once on the other side, I jumped down into a lake, then through a mottle of trees and up to the first hunting tower. These towers carry helpful items, blueprints, and good weapons as well as serving as respawn points. Surveying the land ahead was quite a sight. Soft gusts of wind blowing caressing the leaves all around, while millions of wheat stalks hula silently below the afternoon sun. A pair of quaint farmhouses dot the horizon. Pinwheel shadows of a rickety windmill spill across the field. A zombie’s arm falls off and spurts dark maroon goo over the nearby stuffed scarecrow. It’s a scenic Hallmark moment, Robert Kirkman style.

This is what most of the new chapter looks like. Nowhere to climb up out of the reach of biters. No doors to shut behind you. No spike covered barricades to slide under. Infected are spread evenly and in large numbers, viral runners have the clear advantage here. Open terrain forcibly changes the approach required to survive. Instead of metal awnings or closed off balconies to jump to, I was feverishly looking for patches of uninhabited wheat, rocky cliffs to grapple down, or abandoned trucks to vault over. I couldn’t help but wonder if movement in daylight is this much harder, what happens when night falls? Even a wall to cover your back while fighting is a rarity out here. This new expansion would requires reconnaissance.  Scanning the map and observing the terrain with more care. Plotting a proper path to high ground and safe zones and so on. An intriguing change for players.

There's never really a bad time to practice your golf swing.
There’s never really a bad time to practice your golf swing.

Once you make it to the first farm, the investigation of the mysterious cult known as the Children of the Sun begins (Rage Against the Machine’s “People of the Sun” while playing … seemed like an appropriate theme song). Trust is a big thing, especially when people have grown accustomed to living in a world where everything is out to eat them. This apprehension is apparent with The Following’s new group of NPCs. Before the farm folk will open up and give you any information regarding the cult’s viral immunities, you have to accomplish tasks to earn their appreciation and admiration. This is similar to the base Dying Light storyline, but this time trust is scored and tracked with each act you perform. As an example deliver a lost letter to a survivor and you’ll earn 5% more trust with their community, but restore running water to the whole farm and the reward is 40% towards the next allied level.

One of your first tasks involves stealing the one commodity that will aid in your survival on open land: the dune buggy. Replacing a good portion of concrete acrobatics with slamming down a gas pedals and putting tires to zombie faces will become your primary survival tool. Your hard acquired parkour skills are not replaced, in fact there will be plenty of areas they will still come in handy. Instead its speed and mobility will help keep you from being exposed and vulnerable. It also expands the reasons for scavenging and exploring, and even a handy zombie distraction tool if outfitted with a car alarm.

Second infected to the right... and straight on 'til morning...
Second infected to the right… and straight on ’til morning… It’s a Grateful Dead concert… these are jokes, okay people?!!
Scavenging cars for parts and fuel for your buggy becomes as important as crafting medpacks.
Scavenging cars for parts and fuel for your buggy becomes as important as crafting medpacks.
Dune Buggy Mechanic Simulator 2016: Enhanced Viral Edition
Dune Buggy Mechanic Simulator 2016: Enhanced Viral Edition

Your trusty dune buggy is as useful as a sledgehammer, but it isn’t an armored tank. There are several caveats in place to ensure you still keep your “Spidey” senses at full tilt. While designed for handling off roads well, keep in mind that zombies will have no problem with sticking their arms, legs, and teeth into your face through the multiple exposed openings of the vehicle. Slamming into zombies is squishy fun, but you will lose speed and traction allowing herds of runners to ride shotgun with your liver. Remember how your melee weapons wear and tear until they are useless? Yeah… that happens to cars too. It can be quite terrifying to have your suspension and engine fail in the middle of a dense forest surrounded by Volatiles, so there are limits to your bloody joyrides.

The Following offers plenty of options for upgrading your ride, which is good because the stock buggy is as painful to drive as hairy ass on fly-paper. Finding new suspension, tire, and engine parts to put in your vehicle will keep you moving. These upgrades make a significant difference with vehicle handling and evasion. Fly off a cliff and an indicator on your HUD reports your suspension took damage, run over sharp rocky ground and your tires will take a hit, and so forth. Like weapons, car parts can be repaired with scavenged screws and tubing from abandoned cars, crafting new ones after attaining the proper blueprints, or trading with car part dealers.

Vehicles also need something to keep rolling, something that’s in quite short supply after the outbreak: gasoline. Running out of gas can, and will, happen on a regular basis. Finding yourself without fuel, in the middle of nowhere at night, will have you equipping toilet paper as your secondary item. No matter how well kept your buggy is, there are places that are too difficult or impossible to drive through, especially in the dark; you may have to abandon your vehicle if you navigate poorly.

Having a co-op buddy watching your back is a lifesaver.
Having a co-op buddy watching your back is a lifesaver.
This poor soul didn't have a co-op buddy :(
This poor soul didn’t have a co-op buddy 🙁
Surviving is Always Better with a Friend

Forces below pulled at my legs, but I slipped through and onto the metal grating of the windmill. The blessed hissing sounds of UV flares forming a bubble of safety. I slammed my back against his, kicking viral monsters as they tried to climb up. The satisfying thud of one less of their numbers crashing into the ground below. Volatiles danced around us, but never entering our protected domain.

“How many flares do you have left?”

“Just two.”

“Can we make it?”

I felt my backside give way, I crashed into the metal grate behind me. A volatile had grabbed him, pulled him off the ledge. I leapt down without a thought, crashing my hammer before the masses., the shockwave pushing many off momentarily. I jabbed him with a needle filled with epinephrine, helped him up, holding a special UV flare in my mouth. We have to climb! Climb!

Rays of light cut over the horizon. The sun, the true hero. The howls of anger as the monsters retreated to their hidden caves. We began to laugh. Only survivors earn the right to laugh.

When everything within 20 square kilometers is trying to actively eat your nipples and elbows, it can’t hurt to have another living person watching your back. My co-op buddy in most open world games is a game programmer in the Mid-West who goes by the alias Obsurveyor. I particularly enjoy game sessions with him because he has a knack for finding broken geometry/falling through the world/unexplainable exploits in any game we’ve played co-op. My specialty seems to be random spontaneous comical falling deaths and over-rigging any game level with explosives thus killing everything including allies. Together we make a great team, but the main point is, a good co-op partner makes this game substantially more entertaining. The Following continues the cooperative minded designs established in the original release. While each player will have their own dune buggy available, you can also ride shotgun helping to peel off enemies that grab hold of the vehicle.

It’s hard to imagine any zombie, horror, survival, or open world fan without this title in their gaming portfolio.

Mission design in The Following seems to favor at least one other co-op partner (although it is never a requirement). In one early mission we were tasked with speeding down a water pipeline and locate a main valve. First, this valve had to be located, just so happens it was located between Antartica and Chile. We also were on a timer, and yes, it was night time. Racing down the pipeline would have been impossible without Obs’ pulling as many of the pursuing volatiles off my tail and luring them into one final stand outside the city utility room entrance; while I dove down into the murky waters below. Even with his valiant efforts, I barely made it to the valve on time (two seconds left). Then he died. As I returned to the surface I lit all remaining Volatiles with molotovs and DIY grenades. I blew everything up. What can I say, it’s my calling card.

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The Bottom Line

Dying Light: The Following Enhance Edition really offers an overabundance of good zombie themed gaming, entertainment, and compelling cat-and-mouse filled gameplay in one package. This new version also includes the season pass and all the previously released DLC, including The Bozak Horde and additional outfits. As mentioned, those who already purchased Dying Light will receive all of the Enhanced Edition updates and performance enhancements free of charge.

There is little to complain about with this newly minted edition, rare geometry hangups and a two glitches with scripted missions (that was fixed by restarting) were some of the issues. Another problem was driving during co-op can be a tad cumbersome for the client players as lag appears to hinder full control of the vehicle at times. Not to mention there is a high degree of driving required as most ending missions will have you driving from one side of the map to the other. This is offset by the sheer number of thrilling escapes and random encounters throughout.

The main story can be burned through in 4-5 hours, while this may seem short, it was not. I could not help engaging in side quests, random air drops, rescues and more. In total The Following has 20-25 original gameplay hours to offer, and stepping between side mission and main quests will happen often. The Following’s story was even better than the base game, as more of the viral origins and abilities come to light and the choices offered at the end were both awesome and heart wrenching. I was left wanting even more. Considering I’ve been playing this nonstop for hours on end for a whole week, “wanting more” is a pretty hefty compliment.

Dying Light shines a beacon above most zombie survival games with it’s open world design, high degree of freedom, RPG elements, brutal combat, clever day/night cycle, and now a new open field dynamic. The enhanced edition upgrade have made this great game, a fantastic one. With The Following flipping some of the original concepts on the head for an equally tense and distinctly immersive chapter within the Dying Light universe. While gamers have groaned with numerous performance issues with other top open world releases such as Batman: Arkham Knight, Just Cause 3, and Fallout 4Dying Light was always a visual treat, and more so with it’s added enhanced audio and graphics performance tweaks. It’s hard to imagine any zombie, horror, survival, or open world fan without this title in their gaming portfolio.

 

The Following Is Worth It

An Expansion Pack that ACTUALLY expands gameplay, enhances performance, and rekindles interest? Refreshing. - 9

9

Rabid

The Following expands the Dying Light by introducing gamers to a wide sprawling farm based countryside to the congest city of Harran. The introduction of a buggy and wide open spaces may seem small, but it absolutely changes the approach to the game and adds more reasons to be afraid of the dark.