For many of us, the release of Days Gone has been highly anticipated and then lasted even longer when it was announced that the game release had been delayed. I’m a firm believer that developers and publishers should take their time to make sure the game is ready before release so I was fine with the delay. Days Gone has now been released and after a cold reception from many critics due to bugs and other things, I wanted to share my thoughts and experience of the game overall after spending around 50 or so hours playing it.
First off, the story. We follow Deacon St. John and his buddy Boozer two years after the events of the rise of the Freakers. Deek and Boozer are members of the Mongrels Motorcycle Club and still wear their cuts, even now at what seems to be the end of the world. Deek’s wife Sarah was hurt and taken to a refugee camp but after searching for two year, he has yet to find her. Our piece of this story is set in Oregon where Freaks, marauders, wild animals and a cult called The Rippers threaten the camps of survivors that are just trying to make it through. Deek is still trying to find his wife while fighting against those who would threaten the few people left.
Overall, I like the story and think it has been well written. Don’t get me wrong, I guessed a couple of things that would come to light a few hours in so there weren’t many big shocks for me personally. It is a long game with roughly 50-70 hours of gameplay if you manage to do all of the things that need doing. There are many storylines that you’ll follow throughout the game and the menu helps you keep tabs on it. At some points you’ll have several on the go at once as camps get you to do supply runs, bounty hunting among other things that are outside of the main story. These are worth doing as you earn Trust and Credits with the camps that allow you to buy and upgrade gear which you can do by giving in Freaker ears, delivering meat and plants to the kitchen and completing the jobs given by the heads of the camps. The story will take you across a large map and as you explore more areas, you’ll find more things to do! I think there was a lot of underlying commentary about the current state of the World and the people who exist in it which gave it a lot more depth which is why I think I got sucked into the story and wanted to stick with it.
Part of the story arch will see you getting to know our main protagonist a bit better. Deek is a character who I love in some ways and just want to grab and shake in others but I think that’s meant to be the point. He is angry, he likes to shout a lot but he also loves his wife, cares about a lot of people and had a wicked sense of humour at times. He also is capable of being taken by surprise by certain things which I also think it great. Once I got over the shouting, I had a soft spot for Deek and I think Sam Witwer has done a great job at portraying this character. The actors in this game were all great and the motion capture enhanced their performances further as facial expressions and the details in their movements in cut scenes were spot on so they certainly deserve a mention too. Deek can also be ‘upgraded’ as if you find NERO sites, you can also find some injectors that increase your Health, Stamina or Focus so seek out these when you can to make sure you give Deek a fighting chance against the dangers of this world.
Gameplay wise, this is a third person shooter which reminds me a lot of The Last of Us, Uncharted and rebooted Tomb Raider series. It offers a variety of weapons, resources to craft and gather along with the gameplay mechanics. I didn’t have many issues with the weapons or crafting as it’s down to you to collect resources by searching around you whenever you can and earn enough trust/credit in the camps to buy better gear. Once I got the hang of everything, I pretty much found it difficult to play any other game because I had returned to a familiar button layout (which made a random evening of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey very tricky indeed!) which is good. I dislike it when games over complicate the controls when you would like to just be able to play without constantly trying to remember what to press.
As mentioned before there are a few storylines that run throughout the game which include clearing Freaker nests, clearing ambush sites and bounty hunter missions. Doing some of these helps unlock fast travel which comes in really handy when you’re low on supplies so while these may feel repetitive at times, they are useful in the long run. Most games have similar side quests of this nature so I didn’t have a problem with them. Also the Freakers and Marauders can be unpredictable at times so it can mix things up a little.
The main thing that differs to other games is your bike. It’s essentially a character in its own right as you upgrade it, keep it in good repair and make sure you have enough fuel to complete your journey. I have only run out of fuel once and luckily it was when I had chosen to fast travel to a camp and had 1% left. If you run out in the middle of nowhere, you could find yourself in for a long walk so stopping even when you still have 70% or so could save you from this problem. I found the bike tricky at first but found it felt better to use once I had upgraded a few times, so would recommend getting those upgrades as soon as you can. You can update the appearance of your bike too with decals and some colour to really make it your own. It’s also a lovely touch that your bike appears on the main screen when you load up the game. I noticed it as soon as I applied some colour and thought it was an inspired idea. Landing your bike, drifting, bike combat and negotiating the apocalyptic landscape take a few rounds of practice but overall the bike, to me at least, was a good companion and method of travel… even though I have a few questions about how much fuel would realistically be left after 2 years but still, I’m not going to worry about that too much at this stage!
Freakers are your main enemy in this game, closely followed by humans… or what passes for human in this time period so it’s good to get to know your Freakers. There’s also no shame in running away if there’s a lot of them. You may think taking on a horde is a good idea but you need traps, ammo and Stamina to keep ahead so there’s no harm in being prepared. I didn’t actually take on a horde properly until the game forced me to but I had taken on a little one of about 40 or so Freakers before but when it’s 300+ it becomes unpredictable and complete chaos. I may have also had to skip a fight because after three attempts I just wasn’t able to take them down… I was a little disappointed in my lack of skill but I gave it a try and there were around 450/500 Freakers so I don’t feel too bad because it was pretty difficult! The various Freaks have different strengths or the ability to really cause you some pain so sometimes stealth is needed to get around them or take them down one at a time. Freakers are also great for taking down the ambush sites as you can lure them in to kill or reduce the number of humans making your job a little easier so they can be helpful as well as a hindrance however hordes are still daunting and scare me a little even though I still have a lot more to clear at the time of writing this.
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room for a moment. The bugs. The only bugs I have come across have mainly related to audio issues with some conversations starting before the cut scene has actually begun, not being able to skip or cancel some dialogue when two or three different radio instances have suddenly overlapped but that’s about it. I have seen some of the bugs that others have shared but have I felt that these make it a bad game? Not at all. Most games have bugs of some sort at release or whenever something else is updated. Most games have Day One patches and further patches within the same week. It’s the norm now. Maybe Days Gone would have benefited from another month of play testing to iron out the creases but realistically, it’s not until a lot of people start playing that these bugs become apparent. I have deliberately not read any reviews about Days Gone because I am capable of forming my own opinion and I’ll be completely honest, at times I did think the audio was a little disjointed and I did miss a couple of conversations because of it but overall, I had few issues. Occasionally NPCs would float or there would be a severed head or clump of grass in mid-air but again, I’ve played a lot of games where that happens so I don’t have too much of a problem with the odd glitch here and there. My leg was on fire for a considerable amount of time at one point too, but as far as graphics glitches go that was a funny one more than anything.
Moving away from audio bugs, all in all the sound in the game was pretty good. The soundtrack is great with some really lovely pieces of music which fit the overall tone well. There is a particular section in which you’re on your bike and a song is playing throughout your journey and it was incredibly effective… in fact, that was probably my highlight of the game as it was just wonderful. Occasionally I would find that dramatic music would start up and I wouldn’t know why but I had probably been close to an animal or something that triggered it. What I do feel could have been amazing in this game is the use of audio giving direction. So many times I thought a Freaker was right behind me and it would turn out to be quite a way in front. I’m not sure how easy this would have been to do, but if Rainbow Six Siege can give you an idea of direction with footsteps and explosions, I’m sure some Freaker noises could have worked and would have been highly effective. If this is meant to be in place already, then maybe this is a bug that has affected me throughout but it’s not game breaking, it just would really have immersed me further info the game if it was there.
My main gripe with the game was leaving a camp after completing a job for someone only to be called on the radio and asked to come back for another job. It would have been best for jobs to just be available all of the time and for them to radio you if you haven’t completed them after a little while to remind you. There was also an instance where a character was annoyed at me for not completing a job that they had just given me, although I think it was a follow on from the task I had just finished and the game hadn’t quite caught up. It would have been nice for there to be some seamless transitions between cut scenes and gameplay as the loading screens could kill the vibe at times and I there were a few moments when I thought it would transition only to have to wait 30 seconds for the game to load the next instance. It’s not a massive problem but personally wonder if it would have been possible. Other than this, I didn’t have any other issues with how the game has been put together. I appreciate some may not like the random roadside attacks, animals coming out of nowhere and doing similar tasks again and again but as I said previously, many games of this open world type have this structure so I’m not surprised nor do I have a problem with it.
Visually, the game is beautiful. The landscape is breathtaking at times and the changes in weather can make it even more stunning. The photo mode, which is pretty good by the way, has seen some players capturing images which almost look like they have been taken out in the real world because it looks so good. In fact the images throughout this review are ones that I have taken but some folks have taken incredible images that make mine look terrible. The HUD is unobtrusive with your mini map in the corner and weapons and bike information also in sensible places for a quick glance so you can really appreciate the view… even if it is 300 Freakers running towards you! Your Survival Instinct ability allows you to see the outline of enemies once upgraded but also gives you an indication of where resources are for gathering or what vehicles you haven’t broken into for more ammo or scrap for your bike. I think the team nailed the visuals in Days Gone and the character design is so detailed too which just adds to the overall impact of the game.
So all in all, did I enjoy Days Gone? The answer is yes and even though there are a few kinks and little issues here and there I think Bend Studio have created a solid game overall. I would recommend to those of you who have 50-70 hours to dedicate to a game that offers a good story (as long as you don’t mind doing slightly repetitive side missions), is visually pleasing, has a good mix of tension and fear when taking on Freakers but also offers some stealthy alternatives. It’s always hard to know what to make of a game with a mix of poor reviews and positive reviews but I would say that if you’re unsure about whether Days Gone is for you, check out the first couple of hours of gameplay first on your chosen streaming service to see what it’s about. If you think it is for you, then I think you will enjoy it too. For Bend Studios first foray into an open world game, I think it has been executed pretty well albeit with a few issues and it’s definitely a game that has satisfied my need for a survival horror style adventure game… for now!