Scavenging and survival grind might not be everyone’s taste
Honestly speaking, I strongly believe Days Gone is the closest thing to an open world Walking Dead Game we’ll ever get. In fact, while discussing the game with my editor, I described Days Gone as an amalgamation of The Walking Dead, with the Zombies of the either World War Z or I Am Legend, added in with a strong dose of Sons of Anarchy, along with some the Last of Us set in rural Oregon. However, there’s a slightly more melancholic feel for Days Gone, as ultimately the game is about loss, survival, remembrance and moving on.
You’ll be playing as Deacon St. John, who is a biker trying to survive in the wilds of Oregon with his bike brother, Boozer. Both men live as drifters, doing odd jobs for the various survivor camps that are in the game. Without spoiling too much, Boozer is incapacitated fairly early in the game, leaving Deacon to build relationships with the other survivors in exchange for better bike parts, weapons, and supplies while also trying to uncover various mysteries that are happening in the world.
The story builds up as you do fairly standard open world tasks, such as clearing bases of hostile human enemies, freaker nests, and cultist lairs. Now, saying that the task is fairly standard, might be slightly misleading – the world feels alive and systemic. For example, I’ve once led a group of freakers into a cultist lair to “help” clear up the area, or led hostile drifters to a well armed and guarded survivor’s camp for the guards to pick them off.
There are different ways for accomplishing your extermination goals, some seemingly more troublesome, but when ammo, fuel and supplies are in short supply, every little bit of resourcefulness helps. Salvaging and scavenging is part of the game along gathering resources is all part of the game. Ultimately, in spite of all the hardship in dealing with survivor life, Deacon is driven to keep moving on by the memories he has of his wife, and the early game is filled with cut-scenes that show their history just before the world went to shit. Again, I won’t spoil too much for those who wish to experience the story for themselves.
Days Gone is hauntingly beautiful and set in rural Oregon, where the landscapes look picturesque and the weather sometimes fairly extreme. But don’t stay and admire the scenery for too long, as the world is wrought with danger; from the wildlife to some survivors and the Freakers… it seems that the peril is as constant as the beauty.
The amazing wilderness is interspersed by ghost towns, abandoned military check points, and various survivor and drifter camps and more importantly, freaker nests. Freakers remind me of the infected in Will Smith’s 2017 film, I Am Legend – nocturnal, moving quickly and often operating in swarms, all the while making sufficiently creepy gargling and screeching noises.
While a small group of freakers are not the most intimidating enemy, where you can slowly and stealthily pick off stragglers, the threat comes when you meet your first horde. Days Gone delivers strongly in this aspect, and even if you were the bravest person out there, seeing 300 freakers barreling towards you in a mad frenzy is sure to bring you some terror.
Furthermore, in more urbanised areas where you encounter a horde, they take different routes to approach you, finding ways to flank you, climbing over obstacles to leap onto you, and so forth. Again, you have different ways to handle a horde, from traps and ambushes to using your environment for guerrilla tactics, but nothing short being absolutely prepared for them will you survive. It is recommended that you do some side quests for the camps to get access to better weapons and develop better skills before you face a horde. Nothing really beats the watching a migrating horde at sunrise, moving slowly towards their nest.
Another important aspect of Days Gone is Deacon’s bike. General traversal of the map outright requires the bike, and even fast travelling calculates fuel usage. In the early going, management of fuel is important, as you wouldn’t want to be stuck in the middle of hostile territory and having to savage fuel what would most likely to be a location filled with freakers. It is both an asset and a liability, but being able to slowly upgrade your bike (with survivor camp credits, of course) gives it a personal touch.
Will you get a bigger gas tank so you can travel further and explore without the fear of running dry at a wrong time? Will you get a better engine and nitrous, so you can bug of trouble quickly? How about better tires so your bike doesn’t handle like crap or reinforced frames for better durability? All those are options, but the options are rather rudimentary, especially considering the importance for your bike in the long run.
That being said, hitting the road on the bike is one of the best experiences in the game, especially when you’re able to take in the awesome landscape as ride through the beautiful world Bend Studio has crafted, despite the danger hidden within. I for one, have unwisely spent camp credits to get fuelled up, just to ride around without a goal in mind, and just take in the wilderness. Fixing the damaged bike on the fly is also possible, and all it requires is some of the scrap you salvage.
There are some issues with Days Gone, however, but how big these issues are is probably up to you. Scavenging for resources, which includes fuel for your bike, might get irritating and/or tedious at points in time, but is par for the course for a survival game.
The freaker AI might seem simple, but my reasoning is that when freakers swarm you, intelligence isn’t really needed. Controls are a little loose, but it isn’t clunky so it’s still fairly serviceable. The aforementioned bike, with its pipette of a gas tank, was what probably annoyed me the most in the early goings of the game, but once you start upgrading your gas tanks it starts getting somewhat tolerable.
The frame rate held steady even in times of the hordes being on screen, despite causing my Playstation 4 to labour hard, although transitioning between game and cut-scenes sometimes landed me in a lengthy loading screen.
Lastly, another minor nitpick would be the pop-ups on screen for completing tasks like clearing out ambush camps or infestations sites. The pop ups would be for things like experience and the such, but they were fairly obtrusive and because it kind of pauses the game to show it to you and breaks game immersion. This can be chalked up to this being Bend Studio’s first PS4 title, but hopefully the lack of severe polish doesn’t affect the sequel in the same way, if one were to be made.
However, I feel the biggest hurdle of Days Gone is simply the fact that the zombie genre has been in the decline in the past few years. There is a general apathy towards the genre for those who are engrossed in the media, and that, along with the fact that motorbikes and biker gangs, like those from Sons of Anarchy, are fairly niche subjects, and basing a somewhat major gameplay mechanics in that regard might not be the most interesting for some people.
All that being said though, Days Gone isn’t the most perfect game, nor is it the most original. It doesn’t hit the heights of other Playstation Exclusives like God of War and Horizon: Zero Dawn, but it has enough charm, enough intense horde hunting, and a larger, interesting conspiracy filed story interweaves with the personal story of Deacon mark it as at least a good game, and firmly slotting it into the upper mid card of Sony’s exclusive library.
I enjoyed my time with Days Gone, and even after this review has been written, I’ll probably still be riding around in rural Oregon, taking in the beauty of the wilderness, and killing freakers.