Days Gone or An Idyllic Apocalypse Sandbox Adventure

For many among us, the initial reactions to Days Gone probably were “another zombie game?” or perhaps “yet another open world game?” And true, at first glance, Days Gone is a bland mix of The Last of Us, Far Cry and maybe some hint of a Sons of Anarchy feeling. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

But once you dive into the as beautiful as disturbing open world of Days Gone, once you start exploring Oregon, you’ll quickly notice it’s a bit different. For starters, there is no point in killing each zombie, pardon freaker, you’ll see. Just going from A to B would be a challenge if you tried, especially as you need some rather limited resources when stumbling upon too many of those post-humans. Oh, and you definitely want to be close to your trusted bike – not only can it outrun all threats easily, which you can’t on foot (not often at least) – but it’s also your means to save the game (almost) any time.

Unfortunately, combat is rather Days Gone’s weak point – melee feels weighty and powerful with the right tool, but also a bit cumbersome. Guns feel powerless and weightless at first (get the Focus skill ASAP so you can slow down time while aiming – a lifesaver), and stealth is as average as stealth can get. So try to avoid fights – not just because more than 3 freakers can mean death, but also because it’s more fun evading and exploring than actually fighting. That being said, the fighting isn’t unbearably bad at least, so you’ll make do when you have to fight.

But here’s the thing where Days Gone is different – imagine you’re close to an enemy camp, and your task is to take the camp out. You fire at the guys with a silenced rifle, the enemy fires back loudly, only to attract freakers that overrun the camp with a bit of luck … it’s these situations that stand out in Days Gone – and the game is barely scripted (except for some main missions, of course) so anything can happen anytime! It’s pretty much Far Cry on speed!

The gameplay and missions are fairly repetitive, sure, but the game gives you plenty of freedom to tackle many missions your way – stealth or loud, melee or guns, the choice is often yours in Days Gone. Main missions are better paced and often feel unique enough, and they also come with some flashbacks and one nice revelation or two. Side missions however mostly consist of “get a door open”, “kill baddies” or “find nests and destroy them”. Some of the latter are surprisingly hard to find though, and doing them by night or by day is a bit different, too. The presentation of the main story and side stories as different, often inter-connected stories is a bit odd at first, but once you get used to it, it starts to make sense.

Sadly, Days Gone’s lost world means a bit of problems on the technical side, too. While the game runs far more stable than at launch, sometimes there is a noticeable lag when riding too fast for the game’s liking, which can result in a crash into a tree (now that brings back memories of trees and horses in Red Dead Redemption 2, although the physics aren’t as great). There are also extremely long loading times to the start menu and then again from the start menu into the game. And if you die. Last but not least, once you progress to the second map, you can expect some pretty annoying slowdowns and frame rate drops riding around – come on guys!

One point many reviews touched – and failed to explain – is the presentation of the story and the main character in Days Gone: civilisation is gone, and your role is being an outlaw biker. That means fuck being the nice guy. Being the nice guy would most likely get you killed in a hostile post-apocalyptic world anyway. And honestly, the protagonist being a loathsome piece of shit was fine in Sons of Anarchy, it was fine in Breaking Bad, fuck, we all enjoyed Trevor Philips, so what? Deacon is a cliché, his best buddy is one, enemies and allies alike are clichés, and so are women. Well, except that the second important woman you meet the game is a hard-ass leader of a group of survivor who won’t take shit from anyone. Which makes you wonder if some reviewers ever progressed to that point of the story …

You may not like a game presenting many characters as clichés, which is fine, but there’s nothing wrong with the portrayal of it – it’s not that Days Gone presents Deacon as a role model after all. After all, have you been shouting at Walter White he’s an unlikeable bastard all the time? Probably not. So why is it criticised here then?

Anyway, Days Gone is a game that really shines when it comes to atmosphere – driving around in a thunderstorm, nervously looking out for gas because you’re low, and then you drive into a trap by some assholes, which results in a firefight, which again results in a horde of dozens of freakers closing in on you. Fingers crossed the humans are between you and the horde …

It’s those moments of sandbox gameplay, freedom to ride around as you want and the need to always make sure you’re never low on resources (be it med-kits, tools to repair your bike or fuel) that elevate Days Gone out of the murky waters of open world mediocrity. It’s the virtual wind in your hair while you ride along some open road, it’s the balance between exploring a bit more and risking an empty tank or returning to a safe place, it’s the need to always look for exit routes, and it’s the open-ended nature of Days Gone that keeps the game fresh despite being repetitive.

In fact, the mix of depending on the bike for survival, the necessity of always having a way out and the grim depiction of Days Gone’s world make the game a worthwhile addition to any PS4 games collection – unless you abhor open worlds or need to identify with a protagonist, of course. Days Gone is surely not a blockbuster game that is easy to digest both conceptually as well as gameplay-wise like Uncharted 4 or God of War, it is rather one of those games where you need to take some time for a bit of slow story exposition (The Last of Us comes to mind, yes, it is finally mentioned again), open a nice cold beer and then you ride into the sunset, knowing the night won’t be peaceful but interesting.

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY the game if you don’t like sandboxes, a slow story or clichéd characters. WAIT for another patch if you’re concerned about technical issues.

GO BUY the game if you want to travel a lot on a bike through an often beautiful wasteland where anything can happen around the next corner. And it will.

 

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