Kyle Moffat takes a look at 2019’s Days Gone to see if it’s worth revisiting after two years worth of changes
Days Gone was one of the most highly anticipated games of 2019, unfortunately, it was released with its fair share of bugs and frame drops, contributing to disappointment from fans. It did not score terribly mind you, but it was nowhere near the game of the year contender many had hoped for.
Fast forward to 2021 and Days Gone was given away via PS Plus in April. A game being given away for free just two years after its release is disappointing, especially when it was being sold for over £50 previously. When I saw that Days Gone was being given away for free, I was intrigued. I love my zombie games, with Dying Light, Left 4 Dead 2 and Call of Duty Zombies being up there as some of my favourite experiences. I also heard that Days Gone has received several patches and updates to improve the game, so it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go.
Firstly, I want to talk about the open world. Based in Oregon in the USA, Days Gone hosts some beautiful landscapes that take advantage of the engine. The game is genuinely beautiful, being one of the better-looking games for the PlayStation 4- when the frame rate stays steady. Days Gone also has a variety of biomes which offer different conditions to drive and fight in. While not too in depth, the biome changes offer a refreshing range of visuals and challenges.
You can also see the impact of the ‘zombie’ outbreak. Trees block roads, cars are ravaged on highways, and houses have been bordered up or left windowless. You can imagine how vibrant and peaceful the world was before, effectively establishing a bleak atmosphere.
Gameplay is the next point of discussion, and we will begin by talking scavenging. Scavenging for items in Days Gone is integral, especially in the early game as item limitations early on were frustrating. I often found myself reaching the maximum amount of a useful item and could not collect any more despite it being right in front of me and despite not carrying the maximum capacity of other items. Molotov cocktails are a prime example, as I could only carry three and only carry so many of the components required to craft them. It meant I would have to backtrack and leave missions half completed just to collect the materials necessary for items. An easy solution would have been a weight system or an overall item limit. This would have meant that I could carry the items I needed without wasting time backtracking just to restock on one item. It is worth mentioning that after you unlock specific perks, this is no longer a big issue.
Aside from the Molotov situation, crafting is decent in Days Gone. Only as you progress through the game are you given certain recipes, making sure you are not too overpowered early on. These limitations also apply to weapons. As you progress, you can unlock much stronger and more diverse weapons, again giving you different ways to complete missions. However, I felt no reason to change from my setup of a pistol, sniper rifle, and assault rifle. Weapons are purchased in camps along with other items.
What are camps? We all know what the definition of a camp is of course, but in Days Gone the camps fulfil a lot of needs. They can be useful for refilling ammo, repairing your bike, sleeping, and picking up missions. Camps are essentially the hubs of the game, but nothing more. Sometimes they feel bland due to a lack of characters to speak to, especially if the camp leaders have no jobs for you. Owners of the shops – aside from Manny in the first camp you encounter – are very two dimensional. This would be fine if there were other interesting characters in the camps, but there rarely are. So you end up hearing the same two or three lines from them every single time you want to refill your pistol ammo.
So, you have restocked at a camp and now it is time to complete missions. Before we get into the main story we will discuss side missions. These range from capturing outposts to destroying nests, to rescuing hostages, and that is about it. Now, I enjoy repetitive tasks in video games, I am a Pokémon fan after all, but these missions are simply bland at best. Little strategy is required, especially later into the game when you are overpowered, and a single bullet can kill most enemies. It is a shame because a larger variety of missions would have really benefitted the game. Perhaps you could have other A.I. assist you in invading an outpost strategically, for example. Time limits could have also been set on missions to encourage fast and risky play. Ultimately these side missions required more variety to be a worthwhile addition. They can still be fun, albeit mindless, as long as you ignore their pointlessness.
Fortunately, the mission range is much better with the main story. From exploring mines, to dealing with hordes, to long yet purposeful bike rides, there is enough diversity to keep you invested in the story. Through these missions you also interact with the secondary characters, understanding their relationships with Deacon, the main character. Characters such as Boozer, Rikki, and Sarah do their job, providing advice and motivations for Deacon. There is nothing particularly special about them, but they suffice, and the same goes for the entire story. The writing at times is a bit cheesy and predictable, but I did not hate it. In fact, the story flows well for the most part and provides Days Gone with a clear structure. Everything is wrapped up a bit too quickly, but I do not have too many complaints with the story itself. After all I was not expecting a story like The Last of Us or Undertale.
One complaint I do have is with Deacon and how he feels hypocritical and, at times, just unlikeable. Now I completely understand that he is living in a depressing post-apocalyptic world, so morals essentially disappear. However, I could not justify some of the brutal murders he commits, or the general way he acts towards other characters. He also floods and kills a highly populated camp. He states he is strongly against killing vulnerable women but happily floods potentially many women and children. Some of Deacon’s decisions are difficult to watch but are ultimately understandable, but there are others that just seem unnecessary.
Deacon’s decisions are one thing, but his dialogue is a completely different ball game. He will start shouting at the top of his lungs for quite literally no reason. It comes off as ridiculous and comical. Even when he talks at a normal volume or whispers, the dialogue choices are poor at best, and again, make him unlikeable. For a game with such a focus on dialogue and story, it should have been better for the main character. Also, Deacon does a lot of talking; you will not have more than two minutes away from Deacon complaining about something. Ultimately, Deacon is one of Days Gone’s main drawbacks.
I wish there were nothing else negative to report, but the stealth mechanics in Days Gone are baffling. Considering how several missions in the main story are purely stealth, I am disappointed with the mechanics. Essentially, the player throws stones to distract enemies, that is it. Somehow, the enemy falls for this trick every single time if you are hidden. I can understand this being effective against the ‘freaks’, but against other humans it is ridiculous. There should have been better mechanics implemented, such as studying an enemies’ walking pattern, or using other items to distract enemies. What stealth mechanics are there in Days Gone are extremely basic and tedious.
Since the game has been out for over two years, I do not expect an improvement on this mechanic at all. What I do expect however is the game to run smoothly with a lack of bugs. Now, considering the state of Days Gone at launch, significant steps forward have been made. The occasional bugs still exist, however, and they are at times frustrating. Occasional frame rate drops are a minor nuisance but last merely seconds so I can move past them. Sometimes ‘freaks’ will spawn out of thin air in front of your eyes, and it really is as silly as it sounds.
Speaking of ‘freaks’, there were situations where even if they could see me, they could not leave an invisible perimeter. This happened to me with a horde, so I easily swept through it with no difficulty whatsoever. Finally, I had some problems with the bike, in which Deacon would fall off because the bike would fly into the air for some bizarre reason. Collectively, these issues were not frequent, but they were still in the back of my mind throughout.
I want to close on what was the biggest selling point of Days Gone, the hordes. Throughout the game, there are 40 hordes in total, ranging from 50 to 500 ‘freaks’. I like the vulnerability of the player when encountering a horde early into the game because you have no way of overpowering even the smallest horde, so you must be smart and weigh up your options. This makes it even more satisfying if you are to defeat a horde early on. As the player progresses through the game and unlocks perks and items however, many of the smaller hordes are far too easy and unsatisfying to beat. This is especially frustrating when you realise every horde you have not beaten is highlighted on your map only after beating the main game. So basically, only after you have unlocked irreversible perks that make you insanely overpowered can you identify where most hordes are located.
Despite this, the larger hordes are often good fun, especially when you use the traps and explosives set out in the horde’s location. What I also like is the ability to take different approaches. You can use explosives and traps, get up close with a shotgun, pick enemies off with a sniper rifle, and much more. It rewards creativity, which only increases the enjoyment of battling the large hordes. Again, you can become too overpowered thanks to the perks on offer, but for the most part the large hordes are one of the best parts of Days Gone.
So, what do I think of Days Gone? I see Days Gone as a good game, but not a great game. Hordes, crafting, landscapes, and the story are generally positive and encouraged me to continue venturing through the open world. However, the occasional bugs, odd difficulty curves due to perks, and Deacon drag Days Gone down. As a free game, I certainly cannot complain but as a £50 game, I would feel ripped off. If you have not downloaded it for free, I would consider anything less than £20 a good deal. Days Gone was a fun but flawed experience which I think has the potential for a significantly improved sequel. However, there are better games to be made so I am content with leaving Days Gone as a solo adventure.
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