Days Gone seems like a wasted opportunity. If only the game had come out during the heyday of The Walking Dead. If only, it had come out during the height of the zombie craze. If this, if that…the reality of it is that it’s out now, instead of when it should have come out.
Poor timing aside, it’s certainly one of Sony’s big guns. In an arsenal packed with hits, that’s certainly saying something about the game. After time with the game, it’s definitely looking like the trust is well placed.
What is Days Gone?
Days Gone is a third person open world action game set in a zombie apocalypse. You’re Deacon Saint John (aka Deek), a biker from the Mongrels. You and your buddy Boozer (also a biker from the Mongrels) are just eking out an existence in the world, drifting from place to place to survive.
Days Gone can best be described as a cross between State of Decay and Red Dead Redemption. The world’s wide open, you’re always traveling on a steed (in this case a metal one) and you’re surrounded by the dead and those who’d prey on the surviving.
Like State of Decay, you’re constantly on the hunt for materials. Whether it’s to augment your weapons (or repair them), craft distractions or even to create healing items, you’ll need to scavenge constantly to survive in the harsh world of Days Gone.
Melee weapons break as you use them, though repairs are possible and some can even be upgraded. It’s a shame that there’s only a handful of them as I’d loved to have seen more variety than the 2 x 4, baseball bat and fence posts I’ve been using. Plus, with the focus on scavenging and crafting, wouldn’t it have been awesome too to be able to create combination weapons like those from the Dead Rising series?
Like most of the gameplay systems in-game, Days Gone has the basics down pat. It’s just a shame it doesn’t go beyond that. The crafting, the customization, the open world…everything works as it should. It’s just too basic to entertain for long.
Melee combat is simplistic but its visceral enough that you won’t care too much. You can do stealth takedowns but when it comes to fights, you just hammer the R2 buttons to swing your weapon (or stab them with your combat knife if you have nothing) while hitting R1 when you need to dodge or roll away from an attack.
Of course there are also guns, but ammo is scarce and using them is risky, as the noise can attract zombies to your location.
Fighting is fun, even when you’re under attack by a few zombies. More than that though and you’re asking for trouble. Being up against a swarm of fast-moving zombies is no joke and you’ll die real quick, even if you’ve upgraded Deek with NERO injections (which permanently beef up his health, stamina or Focus).
There are roaming hordes of zombies in certain areas of the map and stumbling upon them is ALWAYS an ‘Oh Shit’ moment. Coming upon a horde unprepared is exhilarating, as it’s almost always a mad scramble to survive, with you improvising on the fly.
Can you make it to your bike? Can you outrun the horde? Can you hide from them? These thoughts will literally fly through your head in the first few seconds of every encounter, and each will play out differently every time.
Dealing with hordes does get easier as you get stronger, but the fun of taking down a huge group of zombies never gets old.
Weirdly, swinging your weapon doesn’t lower your stamina, so you can keep on fighting till you die and you STILL won’t get tired. Roll and sprinting depletes stamina so you’ll need to control your usage.
Hunting also plays a part in the game. While you don’t use the meat for food, you can trade whatever you kill for credits and trust at survivor outposts.
Speaking of which, there are a handful of outposts in the game world. Each is independent from one another and has their own vendors and specialties.
You’ll need to do bounty work and other missions to raise their trust level, which will unlock better items at the vendors. It’s the only way you’ll get better gear, so be prepared to spend some time doing side missions and stuff if you don’t want to be stuck with low tier gear.
However, there’s an issue with scavenging that I hope is improved via patches.
At times, I’ve had to pass up tons of useful items (like Gunpowder or Kerosine) just because I’m at my inventory limit. Other times, I’ve had to run around looking for something like a madman, because I’ve run out.
There’s no way to stash items (whether it’s at your base or on your bike), which means you’re passing up on items (when you’re at capacity) or don’t have enough stuff to craft (when you’ve used them up).
It’s especially annoying when you’ve run out of flammable items like Kerosine, because you NEED them to burn down nests.
Being in a nesting area and not having enough flammable items to burn them is incredibly annoying, especially since they constantly spawn new zombies. Weirdly, with the abundance of gasoline jerry cans, why isn’t Deek able to siphon off some to craft molotovs or the like?
Weirdly, while you can grab enemy weapons, only weapons you’ve bought from the game’s merchants will show up in your stash at base. It defeats the purpose of scavenging for better gear from enemies when you can buy them in the first place. Besides, why can’t you stash stolen weapons alongside your bought stuff? It doesn’t make sense.
Stylistically, Days Gone isn’t like most zombie games out there.
For one, it’s set in the countryside. There’s forest to drive through, plains to be chased on, wide open (abandoned) roads to bike down…even a lake or two. There’s a big open world out there and travelling it on foot is a surefire way to die. The varied environments actually make traversing the game’s regions fun, but I’d have given anything to have more urban areas too to balance things out.
That’s where your bike comes in.
On a steel horse I ride.
It’s your lifeline.
You’ll need it for travel (of course), but it also carries spare ammo (with an upgrade), allowing you to replenish your arsenal while you’re on the road.
Bikes can be customized, making them more durable, fuel efficient or just cooler looking. It’s certainly one of the draws of the game; going from a junkyard bike that can barely travel to an armored two wheeled vehicle of doom.
The scavenging aspect of the game really comes to the forefront when you’re using the bike, as you have to be constantly aware of how much fuel you have left.
It’s certainly possible to be stuck out in the wilderness with no gas, which means you’re on foot until you find some. Weirdly, you can’t tie the game’s jerry cans with you to take along as spare fuel, though you can buy saddlebags for extra ammo.
Riding the bike brings with it a whole new danger too. Zombies are attracted to sound and your bike is hardly quiet. You’ll be able to muffle your bike later on, but in the early going, you’re going to be drawing crowds everywhere you go, which brings me to my next point.
Moving around is best done via day.
Not only do you have better visibility, zombies are usually holed up in their nests somewhere when it’s light out. Conversely, if you’re opting to go burn out nests, it’s better to do it at night since the occupants will be out. It’s something you’ll have to balance but luckily you can trigger either by sleeping in bunks in safe areas.
Travelling can sometimes be a rather boring affair. While there are random happenings in the world (marked by a ‘?’ when they spawn), most of these are boring, with you just encountering dead survivors and you scavenging their stuff.
Sometimes, you can find survivors being attacked by the dead and you can either rescue them or let them die.
The problem with the random missions are that they’re way too repetitive. More variety in the missions would’ve have aided greatly since you’re pretty much doing the same 3 or 4 missions over and over.
Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Apart from the random missions, there’s not a lot you can do out in the world of Days Gone. Apart from the repetitive random missions, you can also do bounty missions, raid Ambush or Marauder Camps (which unlock crafting recipes and skins) or hunt for collectibles.
The world feels desolate and empty (as it should in a zombie apocalypse) but that doesn’t translate really well for a game since there’s really nothing much to be done.
Unless you take the initiative to explore the ruins you come across for materials, you’ll find that you’re most going from waypoint to waypoint in the game, as you do the missions.
It’s certainly the way to progress, but it’s a very boring way to and I wish the game did a better job of keeping you occupied.
Come Rain or Shine.
Weather actually plays an important role in Days Gone. When it rains, enemies have a harder time seeing and reacting to you. This is especially useful when you’re burning down nests or escaping from a horde. There’s also the visual element of course.
Rain makes everything look slick and wet and your bike trails look awesome in the mud. Using the Photo Mode while it’s raining makes for some puuuurty pictures, especially with all the mud effects from the tires.
There’s also fog present but it doesn’t have as much impact on gameplay as rain does. It does look very cool to see it roiling around on the ground though.
No matter what the weather, the game seems to maintain a very steady 30fps. There are hitches here and there as the game streams in data for the area (especially if you’re zooming around on the bike), but most of the time it’s smooth sailing.
Be warned though that using the PS4’s Rest Mode has adverse effects on the game. It’ll mess up the in-game cutscenes, with the audio skipping and playing faster. If that does happen to you (as it did to us), the fix is just to restart the PS4. Just make sure to save the game first.
It’s also great that the loading is nowhere near as bad as some modern games. The initial load’s pretty long but respawning is surprisingly speedy. The only time the game takes a bit to longer to load is when you Fast Travel, which is understandable since you might be travelling from one region to another!
The bottom line.
Days Gone does a lot of things right.
The problem is that it doesn’t flesh out on what it does right, making everything seem half-hearted. You can craft your own weapons, but you can’t customize them. You can keep a stash of weapons, but you can’t keep weapons you nabbed off enemies. You have a wide open world, but there’s barely anything to be done in it.
Perhaps Sony will grace us with a sequel if the game does well since there are a ton of ideas present in the game that deserve to be fleshed out and improved upon.
If it does, and it’s given the time to expand and improve its gameplay systems, I guarantee that it’ll be a phenomenal game.
As it stands, with its current gameplay systems, Days Gone is simply above average but still short of greatness I know the series has the potential to achieve.
Everything’s great but the gameplay systems are too basic. The game sorely needs more depth in everything; from the open world, to the missions, to the crafting systems.