Sony has some large shoes to fill with their PS4 exclusives going forward. After the massive success of God of War and Spider-Man, fans have some high expectations which no doubt puts pressure on developers to deliver experiences like no other. I had a love and hate relationship with Days Gone during my time with the game. There were moments when I sat back with my eyes and mouth wide open shocked at just what I was seeing and other moments where I just wanted it to end.
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Days Gone is a long game clocking in at over 50 hours of game time on my first playthrough and while the game has some intense moments, these are few and far between making the padding of the experience, rather dull. Sure, sneaking through a Ripper camp and trying to take them all down one by one is fun, but it loses its joy after doing it a dozen times and after you discover you can just headshot everyone and complete it in half the time, that becomes your preferred method.
But the game makes up for all of its downfalls when it unwraps its fantastic story and characters in front of you. It takes a long time to discover it all as every embracing story moment is divided by mindless and boring missions but when you do get to see the great cast interacting and the story developing, Days Gone is a rather enjoyable adventure. You just need to have the patience to see it all.
Days Gone takes place two years after the fall of humanity. A crazy zombie virus ended the world and a few people, gangs and creatures remain in the now-desolate state of Oregon. The game follows the story of Deacon St Jones, a Drifter that gets caught up in the world and people around him. In Days Gone, Drifters are people with no homes. They move from location to location completing bounties for people in exchange for currency. Drifters rely on motorbikes to get around and Deacon’s wheels are an important part of the Days Gone experience.
Deacon and his best friend Boozer, are stranded from passing through Oregon due to an encounter with the Rippers that leaves Boozer unable to ride his bike. Deacon, who is from Oregon, must now embrace his tragic past, meet the people and juggle the emotional ties he has to the land while surviving the harsh world around him. Instead of your typical “zombie”, Days Gone refers to the undead as “Freakers”. They come in all shapes and forms with you encountering different Freaker types as you progress the game.
These Freakers are more than just targets you have to avoid and kill. Throughout Days Gone, you learn about the virus and how these Freakers are more than meets the eye. It is an interesting take on the world and one I found intriguing as I started to make up my own theories as to how they came to be and how they are surviving their days. Some missions had me sneaking into a research area set up by a strange organization called NERO as they chatted about their findings and I learnt more about the dangers of the creatures. This is another great example of how Days Gone develops when it wants to.
Days Gone’s strongest asset is its world and characters and how it is all fleshed out throughout the game. The characters you meet grow on you as you help them, listen to their stories and go through the tough times together. While you meet them for the first time, Deacon has known them prior to the events in the game and discovering these past events and relationships makes for excellent storytelling. Again, these plotlines take their good old time to develop but are worth it if you pay attention.
Throughout the game, you will take on various storylines for the people and encampments across Oregon. These storylines complete as you go about the game reaching 100% when you have tied up the story and progress behind them. Some storylines add a percentage to another as the plot crosses paths with one another. Helping Boozer may trigger a memory of Deacon’s late wife Sarah which then adds progression to that storyline. It is an interwinding collection of events that does a great job expanding the excellent story in Days Gone.
It was the moments when I spent a good thirty minutes on a mission with Boozer or Rikki exploring an abandoned lumber mill and repairing a turbine that immersed me in the wonderful world and story Days Gone has to offer. These missions are dragged out with dialogue but I was dedicated to listening to it all and developing a personal connection to the characters. There’s a lot to discover with everyone and the game does a great job on delivery, even if it is the most drawn-out process I have ever experienced.
The cinematics is where the gold is found in Days Gone. These cutscenes are done beautifully with great voice work, animation and facial expressions. They deliver the most passionate and intense story arcs in the game. Sitting back and watching Big Mike make a speech about something good Deacon did was heartwarming and watching Boozer’s emotional side peak through every so often was charming.
Days Gone’s gameplay is a true open world masterpiece and you spend a lot of time out in the wilderness so it had to work. The game relies heavily on survival-like gameplay mechanics that sees Deacon explore abandoned houses, factories and even search car boots for materials to use in crafting throwable weapons like Molotovs and attractors and even melee weapons like a giant bat with a sawblade stapped onto it.
Getting around the game is all about your motorbike and Deacon can upgrade it using credits you earn by turning in bounties, selling meat you find from hunting and completing objectives for people in the camps. Fast travelling is possible but it uses gas which is limited and runs out as you drive around. Luckily, you can find gas stations around the map and use gas canisters to refill your tank but it still runs out at the most inconvenient times. I became a master of plotting out my journey by fast travelling to a nearby gas station, driving there, refilling and then fast travelling to the destination at the bottom of the map. You can also refill at camp but it costs you and it adds up after a while.
Deacon is no killing machine and the world truly does come for you. Freakers are weak when you fight them in a small group but the game’s horde system is a deadly threat I had to keep my eyes open for throughout the whole game. Freakers walk about in massive hordes of over a hundred. They are all fast and agile so alerting them would mean trouble. The game needs you to kill them as often they are in the way of a character upgrade or just get in the way of a current objective. You can, however, avoid them if you are lucky. Crouching in bushes to avoid their sight, making little to no sound and using distraction items to lure them in the opposite direction is key to survival.
There was nothing more stressful than bumping into two hundred Freakers while low on gas only for it to run out and force me to climb up a water tower for safety. I then realized I had an advantage and tossed a load of Molotovs at them destroying most of the horde. I climbed down and finished them off with a spiked bat. It was moments like this that turned the game’s intensity to the max and had me grinning from ear to ear.
Days Gone also makes for a great shooter and gunplay is satisfying while also challenging. Deacon often gets asked to clear camps of Rippers, crazy fanatics with scarred bodies and jelly for brains. Most missions give you the freedom to sneak in or go in with guns blazing. Of course, your loadout makes a big difference here and prepping the right items is key to achieving your goal. Silencers on your pistol, throwing stones to lure enemies to you, and timing your rolls from bush to bush help you go the silent route.
If you opt for the guns blazing then you need a lot of ammo, Molotovs, medkits to apply on the fly, and a keen eye to take down the enemies as fast as possible. Deacon is no machine and he will die in a few shots. Taking cover and making use of Deacon’s Focus Shot ability is vital to winning a gunfight against loads of enemies.
The game has a range of skills you can unlock across three categories as you earn XP and gain skill points. Melee Combat enhances damage done with objects and helps you improve their durability. Range Combat enhances your Focus cooldown and ammo capacity and Survival contains a load of perks that help to scavenge for items and even increases the amount you can carry. Deacon can also then upgrade his health, stamina and focus using injectors found in NERO camps but these items are locked behind simple puzzles such as turning a generator on and destroying alarms before the whole Freaker population arrives at your doorstep.
Then we have the beautiful world of Days Gone and boy is it something to marvel at. Dynamic weather affects your bike, the day and night cycle changes Freaker behaviour and the amount you find and the world adapts around you as if the seasons are changing. One day I woke up in Lost Lake with the camp snowed over. I spent a few minutes admiring the snow and how it landed perfectly on every object around me. Rain is also magical to watch as it fills up the ground with small puddles and the sand turns to mud as you drive through it and it makes a squishing sound. The world is exceptional and such a magnificent example of great open world design.
I did expect more when it came to the world’s activities. Random things do happen like saving the odd captive from Rippers and Freakers killing them and bears and wolves, which are both infected and healthy, chasing me down to kill me but other than that, these random world events just left me disappointed. The most you will do is burn a load of Freaker nests and run away as you wait for them to come running out and you mow them down with a machine gun.
Then we have the game’s pacing issues. As mentioned before, Days Gone has some highs, followed by a lot of lows that take up a bulk of your time. The great story missions you take on and the fantastic interactions between characters in the cinematics are bogged down by mindless side activities that have to be completed before you can progress in the story. Open world games should give you the option to do these but Days Gone forces you to complete them and they become tedious and boring.
These padding missions try hard to develop a story into the game but they are nothing more than Deacon heading to a point, killing someone or emptying a camp of Marauders and heading back to turn it in. The person you are killing might have a name and Deacon may pretend he knows him from his past but you don’t and the game does not try at all to make the kill seem like it is of any importance to the narrative.
It takes too long to get to the meat of the game and when you have taken a bite, it is then pulled away from you until it comes around again an hour later. The in-between moments are enjoyable for a couple of hours but dry out after twenty-five hours of experiencing the same highs and lows.
Even with its snail-pace plot, Days Gone manages to deliver a truly chilling open world experience. The locations are fantastic to explore, the enemies are deadly and frightening, the hordes get your heart racing and the lands are teeming with secrets. While the story takes a while to get going and longer to get to the point, the journey is fun and if you persevere, rewarding. The unforgettable characters and Days Gone’s brilliant world is enough to make up for the lack of excitement that arrives too often.