Review: Days Gone
Days Gone is Sony's latest Playstation 4 exclusive, developed by Bend Studio. The story-driven open-world game from Bend Studio tries to build a brand new and unforgiving story. About a ruthless world where secrets are unraveled while the whole world is about to fall apart.
Bend Studio has clearly copied many other titles with a similar setting. With all the positive consequences that entails. Clear inspirations from, among others, The Last of Us are abundantly present in this Sony exclusive. All in all, Days Gone knows how to lay a more than excellent foundation for perhaps a new franchise.
The explanation behind the title is not very simple. This can be interpreted in several ways and you start thinking about it while playing. Your various theories will be strengthened or weakened over time, depending on the events in the game. Days Gone tells the story of Deacon St. John. Once a biker gang member, now a drifter. There are several settlements where people help each other, but Deacon does not settle in any of these settlements. Despite this fact, he does perform odd jobs for settlements for which he has his own motives.
Discovering and building the world is a big part that will keep you busy for the first few hours of the game. You discover the region, the behavior of the freakers and people around you. The story starts about two years after the outbreak and you can already see the damage around you. Before the real story begins to take shape, you are already experienced and you have already explored a large part of the area. Now and then it goes a bit too slow, but I think that's mainly because there are only questions. Until later in the game, these are not answered yet.
On the other hand, this is one of the charms that makes it incredibly difficult to leave Days Gone alone. The story and mystery created in the first hours remains the engine that keeps you going until the very end. This applies to all Playstation exclusives to date. At Days Gone, so bad, since this game has more of the storytelling than the gameplay.
Something that Bend Studio has also managed very well are the characters in this game. Although they won't be as memorable as a Nathan Drake, Ellie or Kratos. Do the different characters in Days Gone bring a lot of charms? It is one of the points where the story comes into its own. You slowly build a bond with the many different characters. Some will develop a deeper bond with Deacon than others. Towards the end it becomes clear why this is so.
For a large part of the game you are collecting stuff that is needed for "something". Making a bomb or medicine, for example. There are few moments where the missions really appeal to you and those that do show up very late in the game. Every now and then the repetitive form of missions is interrupted by a plot twist or key moment, but in between it all feels a lot of the same, in which you are also doing a lot of the same.
This is very unfortunate, but on the other hand nothing new within the open-world genre. The world around you just isn't designed for a streamlined experience like The Last of Us offers. You have more freedom in Days Gone and this is when you decide to put a story mission aside to do something else. There is a lot to do in the world around you and everything has some influence on the course of the game.
Everything outside the various settlements is targeting you. Wild animals, freakers and even other people. There are a variety of activities to engage in in Days Gone, and strategic planning is important as you chart your path. You are on the road with your motorcycle, and it uses fuel. You can refill these at various places in the game and scattered around the country are some jerry cans that you can use. It's a mechanic that I thought would just get in my way at first, but over time I've come to appreciate it more. It adds a bit of planning to the game that will be necessary in many cases.
NERO sites are certain checkpoints on the map where you can almost always find a jerry can. These sites contain injectors that will improve your health, stamina or focus. These sites also always contain a jerry can, so handy to refill your engine. You don't want to get stranded somewhere in the middle of the night without liquid in your tank.
Dynamic in every way
While zombies may sound tempting, you don't have to deal with them in Days Gone. The freakers come in many different shapes and sizes and the further you get into the story, the more you will discover. You can compare them to zombies for convenience, but the freakers are a bit smarter than the brainless bums. They react to light from your flashlight, are extremely sensitive to sound and can estimate your position well if you are careless about avoiding these shapes. They are also very sensitive to the weather. During a rain shower at night they will hardly hear you walking, and their vision is very poor. In broad daylight you will have to work a little more quietly in order not to be seen.
The dynamic aspect of the game therefore ensures that every encounter, even if often repetitive, will regularly be different due to the current circumstances. At night there are more freakers on the streets and during the day most freakers go into the caves to shelter from the daylight. This means that it is a lot more dangerous outside at night, but you can also use this to your advantage.
Freaker nests are easier to burn away at night. As soon as you set a nest on fire, all the freakers from the nest will come rushing towards you. Since they mainly roam outside at night, it is easier to burn out a nest at night. This is just one example of the different influences that the weather and time of day carry in this game.
Something that is also very dynamic in Days Gone is the performance. Unfortunately, the game still suffers from quite a few glitches and bugs, even after the 1.03 update. During my playthrough, I had to restart the game three or four times because the speech was out of sync with the image, and I had to reload my previous checkpoint twice in one mission because I couldn't perform an action. In general it certainly didn't spoil my fun, but at the moment they are quite disturbing. It is therefore very unfortunate to see a cutscene in which the sound comes through much later than the image. Especially because the cutscenes in this game are really cool. Some take quite a while, but during that time you are completely absorbed in the story and you have the feeling that you are watching an exciting movie or series. The glitch, bugs,but also the many loading times between, before and after cutscenes interrupt the immersion.
The game looks great, especially for an Open-World game, but here the studio shows that we are at the limit of the current generation. dips in frames is no exception in this game. The appearance of this game, its achievements and the recently published reports about the Playstation 5 show that the line is drawn here.
Where zombie games are often looked at with a crooked face, Bend Studio casts a completely new image on the sub-genre. The Open-World in Days Gone is a brutal, but a very interesting setting that makes room for hopefully a new Playstation franchise. The characters in this game each have an interesting character. I see the possibility that this franchise can tell the story from multiple perspectives. As mentioned, the game takes place two years after the outbreak, but what has preceded these two years that we as a player don't get to see? A sequel, or prequel, would take the franchise to a whole new level if the mission structure is modified with more varied quests.
Days Gone 2 on Playstation 5? Gladly.
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