Slowly, I step out of the cave. The bright, harsh sun stings my eyes for a moment, rooting me to the spot. It’s just as well; as the colours of the world seep back into my vision, I realise that I’m on a narrow ledge jutting out from a canyon wall. Taking a shortcut would mean a gruesome death on the rocks below. I’ve no other choice but to pull myself around the edge, leaping and grappling from ledge to outcrop to ledge, in the hope I can find another way down.
This, is Dying Light, but not the urban landscape I’m familiar with. In The Following, rooftops and gantries have been traded for more natural environments, even though they’re just as challenging. I’m told that this expansion is as big as the entire original game, and from my vantage point it certainly looks possible. It’s almost enough for me to forget the zombie apocalypse that’s ravaged the land. Almost.
My current mission is to reclaim my buggy from some mercenaries but, to do that, I’m going to need to get to low ground. There’s a deep pool below me, the water an inviting hue. I decide to jump. For a moment, I wonder if I’ve misjudged my leap, but the surface breaks as the cool liquid envelops me. But, as I pull myself ashore, I realise that it’s not just me and the mercs on this patch of land. A stone obelisk has been daubed with cultish symbols, almost as some ward against the zombies nearby. I don’t know who they are but, once I’ve got my sweet ride, I’m going to find out.
A Cult Above
Such is the premise for Dying Light: The Following. There’s a mysterious cult out there, and it seems as though they have some dark secrets on protecting themselves from the Infected. I’m told that the expansion’s storyline will involve infiltrating the cult, earning their trust, and uncovering the mystery of what’s happened to the idyllic Harran outback.
While my hands-on time didn’t introduce me to the cult directly, I did get to try out some of the nifty new toys that the expansion brings. Chief among these is a heavy-duty crossbow, fully upgradable and with a variety of ammo types. If you’re a fan of sneaky, stealthy play, you’re going to want to keep this topped up with bolts and start practicing those headshots.
However, when you absolutely need to spray zombie guts everywhere, you need to go big. The buggies are a new addition in The Following, and they’re a huge amount of fun. Imagine the sand buggy from Half Life 2, spliced in an Umbrella Corporation laboratory with the carnage of Carmageddon, and you’re getting close to how much fun these things are. The open countryside provides plenty of room to get up to speed and rack up a serious kill count.
The buggy is also upgradable and customizable with unlocks opening up as you complete buggy challenges, kill zombies, and so on. It’s all part of what developer Techland described as ‘Driver Rank’, with fuel tanks, bull bars and mines just a part of what’s on offer.
Walk in the Parkour
Driving aside, Dying Light set itself apart from other zombie-fests by offering a unique parkour-inspired way of getting around the sprawling city of Harran. It encouraged us to explore in an open-world way, and was one of the key reasons behind Techland selling over 5 million copies of the game. I’m told that the “mindblowing” success took the studio by surprise, which is why they decided to produce a full expansion as part of the Season Pass content.
That said, the countryside setting doesn’t mean that parkour’s been abandoned. During my hands-on time, I encountered a small agricultural complex – a few barns, a garage, and some raised pipework for crop irrigation. The trick was to find a way to the heart of the complex without having to wade through fields of zombies, testing my rudimentary parkour skills. I’m told that the studio used videos and other reference material from parkour athletes working in countryside settings – natural landscape, buildings, and infrastructure – when designing the expansion.
Overall, I’m told that Dying Light: The Following introduces 10 additional hours of gameplay if just the core story missions are followed, or double that with all the additional content that’s available. Difficulty is pegged as slightly above the base game, and it’s recommended that you play through the original story before leaping into the expansion. No release date has been set yet, but it will be free to Season Pass holders. As a standalone, The Following will be priced at $14.99.