Days Gone Review — Stuck in the Apocalypse Without You
It's been a long time coming, but is Days Gone by Bend Studio really worth the wait after all this time? After sixty plus hours of gameplay, I definitely think so.
Bend Studio has been teasing us with Days Gone for quite a long time – four years, in fact. So it’s no surprise that many wondered how this title would eventually turn out and if it would even be worth their time once released. I too asked those questions, but amidst the doubts, something always drew me to this hellish, apocalyptic world where death and fear hold hands like long-time lovers.
Don’t expect Days Gone to follow the mold of other PS4 exclusives – that is probably the first mistake you can make if you go into this title with that mindset. Instead, Bend Studio has crafted something unique to them, something personal, and something that asks players to enter with an open mind and a little patience.
You start out your adventures in Days Gone as Deacon St. John, once part of a biker gang and now turned bounty hunter fighting for survival following an outbreak. Deacon or “Deek” still proudly wears his club’s logo on his jacket as a reminder of who he once was as he clutches a world that no longer exists. His main goal now is finding out what happened to his wife, Sarah, after she sustained an injury when the outbreak transpired. This led to her boarding a helicopter to travel to the nearest outpost for medical care, but since leaving, there’s been no trace of her.
The only thing that Deacon has left is his trusty drifter bike and his best friend, Boozer, who accompanies him on the long open roads in search of supplies, completing missions, and clearing out enemy hideouts. At first, it took me quite some time to learn how to ride Deacon’s drifter bike without crashing into a tree or a parked car – it felt really awkward and clunky. But after some practice, I was riding the highways and byways with ease.
Your drifter bike can be modded at campsites harboring small communities of survivors that are dotted around the outstanding Oregon landscape. Of course, to get anything fancy added to your motorbike you need credits from that particular site. To get these, you’ll need to get your hands dirty and head out on missions to earn your keep. You can get your bike fixed here too if you haven’t collected enough scrap-parts on your journeys to do it yourself. You can also stock up on weapons, ammo, and a host of much-needed health supplies as well, provided you have acquired the trust of the camp.
One of the most annoying aspects of owning this motorcycle is that you will need to fill it up with gas a lot. Even a short five-minute ride on this thirsty beast will see your fuel gauge drop by nearly a quarter, so you will need to be constantly mindful of stopping at gas stations to fill it up. You can also find small gas cans on the back of abandoned vehicles, in buildings, and at Nero Checkpoints.
One of the worst situations you can face is running out of fuel anywhere in Days Gone due to the relentless and untiring Freakers who are waiting at every turn — not to mention colossal angry bears and wolves. As soon as Freakers get wind of your tasty flesh, they’ll chase you and since you only have a certain amount of stamina, running will tire you out pretty easily. Bottom line: fill ‘er up at all times.
Bend Studio has previously said that the world of Days Gone will come for you and I can honestly say that this was by no means a clever marketing ploy – it really does so, and with gusto. If for a moment you thought that Freakers and animals were your only threat, then you have quite the surprise waiting for you.
Deacon and other campsites are under constant danger from Marauders, who are human enemies, and like Deacon, are survivors of the Freak Outbreak. They are also extremely hostile to anyone outside their group. Rippers, on the other hand, are a crazy bald-headed cult of uninfected humans that worship both the Freakers and the outbreak itself, believing that to become infected is a gift that all should strive towards becoming. They also believe that civilization and any vestiges of it are blasphemous, and thus typically torture and kill other humans they come across unless the victim agrees to join their cult. So basically, not the type of folks you could sit around chatting politics with over a nice cup of tea.
Combat is thoroughly enjoyable and fluid as you have a lengthy arsenal at your disposable from melee weapons to high-powered sniper rifles and machine guns. Ammo, of course, is scarce–this is the apocalypse after all–so you’ll need to preserve as much as you can. You can, however, scavenge for bullets in houses, the back of police cars, and various buildings you come across. As well as ammo, you can collect different materials to craft Molotovs, arrows for your bow, bandages, and healing cocktails.
The crafting and weapon wheel is laid out clearly and thankfully doesn’t take a lot of fiddling around to utilize. When you have found yourself in a bit of a pickle and need to craft something on the fly or get your hands on a certain weapon, it’s not difficult. Days Gone’s skill tree branches off into three areas–melee, ranged, survival–and as you progress, you’ll gain some points that allow you to unlock one or more of these. Depending on how you want to play the game, the choice is entirely up to you. Some skills are more useful than others as some I ended up not using at all. Pay close attention and level up what you really think will help you out in the long-run.
Some of the more practical upgrades can be discovered at NERO checkpoints, which is the main grounds for the game’s unsavory government folks who study the outbreak. There you will find syringes that’ll give you a health boost, stamina, or focus.
Your best and safest bet for staying alive as much as possible in Days Gone is by using stealth, which, thankfully, I adore in games. You will always have places to hide in if you take the time to look. This will give you the perfect opportunity to kill Freakers, Rippers, and Marauders with enormous satisfaction while saving on important ammo. You can also use distractions to lure an enemy over to you for that perfect take-down. This particular mechanic reminded me a lot of playing Metal Gear Solid — all I needed was a box to hide in.
Whether you want to or not, you’ll get introduced to the Freaker family relatively early into the game. At first, their presence scared the bejesus out of me, but after a while, I became accustomed to their mannerisms and chilling vocals. Visually, Freaker hordes are incredibly impressive as they move mindlessly from one place to another. At night, hordes roam the lands looking to feed – you’ll sometimes even find a Freaker chasing down a deer. Under the cover of the night’s sky is when they are at their most dangerous so if you are wanting to take them out, make sure you have upgraded your weapons and you have enough ammo to light them all up because it won’t be an easy task.
One type of Freaker that I found quite disturbing was the newts. Once children and now infected, these screeching kids can be found running along the rooftops of buildings looking for an opportunity to steal your stuff or jump on you if you’re health is quite low. Mostly they are relatively harmless and spend a lot of their time observing you, but they are very vocal and their cry can attract other more dangerous Freakers to your area.
As mindless as we like to think these infected are, they are far from it. Just like everyone else in this hellish environment, Freakers seek safety. They build nests all over the map so they can rest and escape from the world for a while. They also use caves so they can hibernate without the threat of any outside forces. Of course, that’s until Deacon comes in and burns their little humble abode with a molly causing the poor sods to run out to their deaths – call me a psychopath but I find this particular act unbelievably satisfying. Between you and me, I may or may not have yelled out a few times, “Burn, Freakers, burn!”
Destroying these nests not only benefit you in being able to explore the area more freely, but also it will open up fast travel so if you’re not a fan of long bike rides, this is probably something you should undertake as soon as you can, plus it’s a lot of fun and strangely therapeutic – at least for me.
A topic that has been touched on quite a lot it seems is how buggy Days Gone is due to its framerate and lag issues. I can obviously only speak from my own experience here but this was not something I overly discovered throughout my gameplay. When riding my drifter bike, there was one occurrence of lag that lasted about five seconds and another part where conversations got overlapped with each other, but other than those two annoying yet playable sequences, I didn’t find any other bugs. I also played the game after its worldwide release, so subsequent patches could have helped with this.
Behind all of the Freakers, Rippers, and endless motorbike journeys lies a meaty story. Deacon St. John is a complex character – one side of him is drowning in revenge and destruction and the other is overflowing with love and compassion, especially when it comes to the devotion he has for his wife and his best friend, Boozer.
Sam Witwer’s performance as Deacon St. John is outstanding, even though some of his quips can be super cheesy at times. The storyline held my interest from the start, even when it branched off into some other plot points that weren’t as captivating as the main one. One of the larger flaws Days Gone has is the unusually long loading times between scenes. This can break the flow of the gameplay, and at times, lose the dramatic feeling Bend Studio have obviously tried so hard to implement. I would have also liked to have had the opportunity to customize Deacon’s clothes, but unfortunately, this wasn’t on the agenda for the devs of Days Gone.
Other than the brilliantly scripted narrative, the landscape that Days Gone is set in is an absolute pleasure to explore. The attention to detail and care that was taken here is second to none and it has made me want to visit Oregon almost immediately. During the day the lakes, mountains, and forests come alive and cry out to be photographed. Thankfully with the game’s photo mode at your service, this is never an issue – just be prepared to clear out your storage beforehand to make way for all the pictures you will definitely want to save.
Days Gone is far from perfect and that is fine. A game doesn’t need to be perfect to be enjoyable, but it does need to have substance and Days Gone has this in handfuls. Days Gone is a game that deserves a player’s patience and perseverance as only then will you get to experience the game as it is intended. The story opens up and becomes more in-depth the longer you play and leads to you uncovering more important information.
If you’re looking for a quick game to pass the time, you may want to pass on Days Gone as the story itself is around sixty plus hours long, not including side-missions and all 240 collectibles. But if you have the time and allow yourself to enter this world without expectations, Days Gone will blow you away and leave you enthralled for hours on end.