What a journey it has been! Days Gone has been my main game for over two months between starting and completion, unlocking my 58th Platinum trophy along the way. I refer to it as my main game because straight out the gate I have to stress that this game is long, so long in fact that I have had to take three lengthy breaks from playing it lasting weeks at a time. This may sound like a point against the game, and it is, but here we have an example of a flawed game whose positives more than make up for it.
Days Gone is billed as an action adventure experience coupled with a survival horror game, and for the most part the game succeeds in being both. You play as Deacon St. John, an outlaw biker who has been surviving out in rural Oregon for two years following a global pandemic that has brought the human race to the brink of extinction. Deacon isn’t alone, and is joined by thousands of infected humans known as Freakers, whose only motivations are to eat anything that moves, scream at anything that moves (including each other) and scare the hell out of me.
Deacon’s only means of transport around the Oregon wilderness is his Drift bike, which slips and slides around in a realistic, fun and visually pleasing way that ensures riding across the map never becomes tiresome. You must always be conscious of your fuel gauge and general condition of the bike, and sourcing fuel and scrap that from across the hauntingly beautiful open world will always be very high up your to-do list. Little touches such as the game advising you not to accelerate while travelling downhill were appreciated, allowing gravity to do the work and conserving fuel for when I really needed it. This may sound obvious, but when you’re ‘out in the shit’ (how game characters constantly refer to the wilderness), even the smallest suggestions like this can be a big help down the line.
Upon starting the game for the first time, immediately there was a problem. I have never come across an entire ensemble of characters I dislike more than this, who do little over the course of the game to address the feeling. The dialogue was well delivered by the cast but the writing is atrocious, packed with moody mumbles and reams of uninteresting flavour text that double down on the fact that not only do these characters act like twats, they speak like it too. If you need an example of this, the infamous wedding vows scene speaks volumes, and even though I knew it was coming it still made me cringe my face into a fist when I witnessed it while playing.
For the first ten hours or so of gameplay, the game is content in having Deacon bumble between two survivor camps helping out with odd jobs. I often found myself wondering why I was being tasked with these and not someone who lived at and relied on the camps for their safety, and this was to be the beginning of the main issue with Days Gone, but more on that later. One camp is run by conspiracy theorists who maintain the outbreak of the virus that turned most of the world’s population into Freakers was a Government planned scheme, while the other camp is managed by slavers. In short, both camp leaders are bastards, but as they are the last examples of order at the end of the world the only choice is to help them or die.
Even after spending hours protecting, gathering supplies and rescuing abducted campers from bandits, nobody at either of the camps became anything close to likeable or relatable. Fortunately you aren’t expected to assist them without reward, as the conspiracy nutters offer upgrades for your Drift bike the more you help them, while the slavers will arm you with better guns. It takes a while but the ultimate point the game hammers home in its early stages is that when the world has ended and you have nowhere else to turn, you’ll take all the help you can get. Infuriatingly, this would ultimately all be for naught..
After the busywork quota has been filled the story takes Deacon to a third camp, Lost Lake, run by friendly survivors who are mostly decent people and offer better bike and weapon upgrades than the previous camps. It is at this stage where it is revealed Deacon had known about this camp the entire time and was just stubbornly choosing to not go there! I hated this revelation, as it makes the entire first third of the game nothing but tutorials and wasted time, but it is also this point in the story where the game starts to look like it is building towards more than just survival. It is also here that the crux of the issue I touched on earlier truly rears its ugly head: Padding.
Days Gone is without a doubt one of the most artificially padded experiences I’ve ever had in gaming. Whilst the survival and combat manage to alleviate the brunt of it thus preventing the game from becoming boring at any point, the story would have benefited enormously from cutting not only everything prior to Lost Lake, but also at least five hours of the time spent there filled with the same arbitrary tasks I had already been doing for the previous camps! There are several story beats that stem from Lost Lake which give the illusion they will wind up becoming the ultimate goal of the story, but eventually they are all just forgotten about as the game continues to move Deacon between different locations for him to be chased by Freakers and perform tasks for the local camps survivors.
The few moments where the story was shaken awake from its heavy slumber for a set piece were enjoyable and engaging, and all interactions with the games forty Hordes that roam the landscape are as tense, thrilling and terrifying as I had hoped and feared they would be.
Buried beneath the stodge is the foundations of a game I could give 9 / 10, but for the truly awful characters, unwelcome bloat and inordinate time spent to achieve literally anything, my final score of Days Gone is
7 / 10
The moments of gameplay that do work, work very well, and there are plenty of moments that I am unlikely to ever forget from Days Gone. If you are interested in reading about one of the most tense segments of the game I will link the feature where I spoke about it here. Feel free to leave a comment if you have played Days Gone and what you thought of it, or if you plan on playing it in the future. It is available for free to PlayStation Plus members on PS5 so some of you will be able to play it straight away at no additional cost.
Thanks for reading and I will be back next week, so I will speak to you then!