Days Gone promises an explorative journey of love, loss, friendship, and desperation, set in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest region of the U.S.A, and the theme throughout the game is that “surviving isn’t living”. I was hesitant before embarking on my experience, as most titles that promise an epic story in a post-apocalyptic setting became generic action montages of the hero protagonist saving the world. Well, Days Gone manages to deliver on its promise, and my word, what a journey it was.
We set off into the world of Days Gone as Deacon St. John, a member of the former Mongrels MC outlaw biker gang. Days Gone does a great job at keeping the story as the central point of the title, rather than forcing the story to keep its place with gameplay elements. This was truly refreshing in a game with a post-apocalyptic setting, as zombies (Freakers) and the killing thereof, usually starts to overshadow the overarching story.
Speaking of the story (mostly spoiler-free), Days Gone does something even better than shine the spotlight on the story; it manages to keep the story focused on Deacon and his journey throughout the world, rather than becoming a tale of a stern protagonist who sets out to save the entire world. From the get-go, Deacon has only been interested in furthering himself, and his trusty friend Boomer, and makes no effort to hide it. This adds to the emotional experience because Deacon feels like a real-life, real-world character, who is simply reacting in his own way to the state of the world around him. While things happen throughout the story involving so many various characters, the story still makes Deacon – and the emotional journey he faces – the central focus.
The tempo of Days Gone‘s story is akin to Red Dead Redemption 2, in that it focuses on detailing narrative elements as they unfold, rather than provide a fast-paced action-adventure. There are so many details, intricate story branches, and characters involved in the entirety of Days Gone, and the way Bend Studio has implemented all of these intense elements (and it gets ridiculously intense at times), makes the story, and the world, feel alive. Even though you are experiencing a linear narrative, it feels like your actions still have consequences, and while some reveals may be somewhat predictable, they are still well implemented, providing an emotional gut punch.
The gameplay is fairly standard if you’ve played other open-world games, but there are some phenomenal survival elements that are injected to differentiate the title. You will need to collect scrap, ammo, and crafting materials throughout the world, while also keeping an eye on a particular, and intrinsic, object in your travels – your bike. You will need to ensure that your bike is topped up with petrol (thankfully, an apocalypse means no petrol prices), and ensure that it remains in good condition, as the bike suffers from damage while riding. Some actions will have more severe consequences on your pocket-rocket, so make sure you always have some spare scrap available.
You will need to collect scrap, ammo, and crafting materials throughout the world, while also keeping an eye on a particular, and intrinsic, object in your travels – your bike.
To find scrap and other materials, you’ll need to search the environment in Days Gone. Scrap can be found in the engines of cars, and some cars will give you a giant wad of scrap, while others will give you, well, scraps. Petrol can be found in jerry cans around the world, petrol pumps, and encampments (sadly, you do need to buy here). Ammo can be found by looting corpses as well as the boots of police vehicles, and will typically give you ammo specific to the weapons you’ve equipped.
However, you need to manage your scavenging runs, as looting scrap and ammo is permanent (thankfully fuel doesn’t run out), so when you loot a vehicle for their contents, you’ll not be able to loot the same vehicle again in that playthrough. Personally, I bought as much ammo as I could whenever I was at camp, and only looted vehicles for ammo if I ran out while adventuring. This small detail made the world fell slightly more alive and grounded than other open-world titles. Thankfully, ammo is still abundant throughout the world, as shooting hordes of Freaks is still a big feature in the game.
Exploration plays a key role in Days Gone, and this is where you will find most of your resources, as well as increase your skill pool. NERO Research Areas are your friends – allowing you to upgrade your Health, Stamina, and Focus, but they all provide unique challenges in order to access them. Exploration will also highlight Ambush Camps, Infestation Areas, and other areas of interest, but do so with caution, and always be prepared for a fight.
…the world provides ample weaponry for you to take the wilderness on, with Primary, Special, Sidearm, and Melee categories.
Moving on to combat, the controls were somewhat clunky, especially given that combat becomes an integral part of Days Gone later down the line. The aiming mechanics could be improved, and I would have liked to see some more weapon mods available, as you can only equip a suppressor. However, the world provides ample weaponry for you to take the wilderness on, with Primary, Special, Sidearm, and Melee categories. Melee weapons can be crafted, which I will get to in a moment, but they suffer from weapon degradation – blegh – however, the world provides more than enough replacements. That being said, melee weapons are a great way to save ammo if you invest in the right skills.
Crafting becomes second nature in Days Gone, especially when it comes to medical items, explosives, and melee weapons. Crafting is implemented through the weapon wheel and has been designed to be used while you are exploring or on a mission. The non-intrusive and easy to navigate UI made crafting a critical component in my playthrough, and you are able to create modified melee weapons by combining different resources. For example, you can create a spiked or bladed baseball bat, by adding in nails or a saw blade. Each weapon has their own variant, their own effectiveness, and durability. Blades are better at slicing enemies open, and bats better for smashing heads in. However, blades only last half as long as a bat, so it’s down to personal preference.
There is a selection of skills available to cater to your playstyle. Personally, I invested heavily into melee combat to begin with as ammo resources were thin, and I didn’t have the widest selection of weapons available. As I progressed, though, running in with a bat or a blade was not enough to accomplish tasks, and so I changed focus. Outside of combat, you can also invest in survival elements and ways to improve your ranged skills, such as reduced weapon recoil, larger ammo capacity, as well as making scrap go further when fixing your bike.
The only thing working against an otherwise almost-perfect narrative experience, Days Gone suffers from a number of performance issues. Frame drops and texture popping were prominent throughout my playthrough, but I only suffered a single crash. Loading times were also pretty lengthy, especially right after an otherwise quick cutscene. These problems were not game breaking but they did ruin the immersion at times, so hopefully, Bend Studio can fix these issues ASAP.
Overall, Bend Studio‘s Days Gone is an absolutely brutal, rewarding, and phenomenal narrative experience, mixed with great action, and fun gameplay. Days Gone is the perfect combination of survival mechanics to make the title more intense, with natural characters, a rewarding story line, and addictive gameplay. I was hesitant at the start of Days Gone, but I can honestly say that, while you won’t get bullet-showered zombie action, you will get a beautiful story in a living world.
Days Gone provides an amazing and captivating journey across a post-apocalyptic mid-west, as you explore Deacon St. John’s voyage of survival, both physical and emotional.