When I first loaded up Days Gone, I was instantly excited about the premise of the game, the mode of transportation – despite how much I hate riding motorcycles in games – and the arc the game seemingly promised me early on.
And during my 35ish hours so far – full disclosure, we have not finished Days Gone, but will in the next few days – it’s been an up and down ride that provides more ups than downs. How does this game work when all it’s pieces are moving together in the right way? Let’s dive in!
Days Gone follows the life of a former biker named Deacon, who is attempting to deal with the death of his significant other, while protecting those he still considers friends as a nasty virus begins infecting people and turning them into freakers. Like any good zombie-esque experience, there are two major threats to deal with: those that are infected, and those that are not. The development team does a a great job of making sure each threat is real and equal. Freakers will be a nuisance as you travel by night, and marauders will be problematic during the day. This two cycle approach to threats within the game make for an exciting, tense experience that is consistent throughout.
It is the repetitive game play cycle that will quickly turn off players, and when this can drag for hours upon hours, it can taint the experience quickly. And the repetitive nature isn’t necessarily tied to story missions, but to your various upgrades – weapons, bike, fast travel and vital stats.
Before we dive deeper here, I think it is fair to say that this is a problem that has plagued the industry for decades. Assassin’s Creed is the perfect example, where you climb building after building, find the location to perch, and scan the area below to unlock important map tidbits. It’s a similar idea here, except these missions are tied to upgrades that you will need to be successful.
Infiltrate NERO research stations and you’ll be rewarded with vital stat upgrades, of which you get to choose. Getting to the upgrade often takes a bit of environmental or mechanical puzzling. For example, the first one you attempt will require you to power up the generator so you can open the doors. Simple puzzles like that, but repetitive after the first few times.
Freaker nests will need to be cleared in order to have empty highways and fast travel points around the map. Again, the first few times you do this, things are moving fast and things are actually exciting. But when you hit your 5th or 6th nest, the repetition sets in.
And bike and weapons upgrades are tied to survival camps, a few of which dot the landscape. Enter the camp, gain the trust of the leader by performing similar tasks from camp-to-camp, and get access to better weapons and upgraded bike parts.
And if these were optional experiences, I would say they matter a lot less, but you won’t get far in Days Gone without putting the work into upgrading your bike. Early on, tense situations are forced upon you because of how easy your bike and wreck, and how quickly you use the fuel in your tank. I was left for dead many times as my bike came to a halt in the middle of a highway, freakers to my back, because I ran out of fuel. The forced repetition to upgrade these elements is a bit of a drag, but at the end of the day, I still performed the tasks and did the work.
And that wasn’t because I had to review this game; even during the worst moments, Days Gone provides enough entertainment to me, for the journey to continue. The thought of “what might happen next” kept me moving through the forests of Oregon, looking for bigger and better things. Freaker encounters especially, continued to be highlights of my experience. At first it was a handful of freakers, than a dozen or two, than a hundred, and then yes, even a few hundred. And the development team did an excellent job making those moments feel real, tense, and truly exhilarating.
Like in most open world games, the development team had to engage in a trade off to make all the systems work together. They’ve created a world that is engaging and fun – albeit bland at times – but to make that world work how they wanted it to, and the situations to work how they wanted them to, there had to be some sense of consistency, and that consistency came through repetitive task tied to upgrading your character, weapons, and bikes.
Days Gone isn’t the first title to be ‘forced’ to do this, and it won’t be the last. If you want to create and unpredictable world that throws random encounters at you at all times, there has to be some predictability to something, and that something is usually the upgrades required to properly handle the unpredictability.
So let’s back track and look at Days Gone as an entire package, and ask the ultimate question that really only matters. “Is Days Gone fun?” And the answer is an obvious yes. I can lock hours upon hours into this title without thinking twice about it, and while performance issues – even post patch 1.3 – can be a cause for concern, they never overly impacted my experience. My experience was positive, and I think most of yours will be too.
There are some great characters, and some terrible characters. There is great dialogue and story moments, and forgettable moments. But the overall experience is well above average, and if you’ve been exciting for this title because of the E3 reveal and subsequent info drops over the past number of months, retain that excitement because you are in for a wonderful experience.
If you manage your expectations going in, you will maximize your experience with this game!