In this Review I’ll be taking a look at the recently released Days Gone by SIE Bend Studio, a game that has left a lot of people wondering, “Is it as bad as they say it is?”. I’ll answer that question and more as I take you on a journey through rural Oregon, where the populace has been overrun by Freakers and Swarmers. If you’re a fan of zombie games, or just curious about this title, read on for more.
Days Gone Review
Developed by: SIE Bend Studio
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: April 26th, 2019
Price at the time of the review: $59.99
Days Gone Story and Setting
The Setting of Days Gone is a bit near and dear to me, as it is based in rural eastern Oregon. And, even though it is a somewhat fictional rendition of this area, it is a place I have spent many winters and springs, hiking and skiing. And who would know this area better than Bend Studio, which is located exactly in that neck of the woods. They have done an outstanding job of capturing and recreating the local, and I don’t think anyone who has been there more than once would disagree.
The Story follows a pair of young-ish bikers, as one of them is separated from his wife during the zombie invasion. Many years later, not knowing what became of his wife, Deacon searches for answers. Not just answers about her fate, but also about the zombies that seem to endlessly plague the hills and forests around the few settlements that remain. He takes work as a mercenary to make money and survive in the zombie-eat-zombie-world. The decisions he makes through out the game weigh heavily upon him, and do have some in-game consequences, albeit not overly large.
Players will spend a lot of time exploring the rather large map, about a third of the size of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, on their motorbike. The weather dynamically changes, and their are day and night cycles, with zombies becoming more abundant as the sun goes down. This reminded me a bit of I Am Legend, and the game does a great job of giving off that “zombie moving” feeling, and it’s probably the closest any zombie game I have played has come to feeling like an actual playable zombie movie.
Days Gone Gameplay
Days Gone plays like any third person action game, taking an over the shoulder view of Deacon as he fights his way through zombies and humans alike. Melee combat and gun play both feel quite good, and they are not difficult to get the hang of. Players have a primary weapon, side arm, special weapon and melee weapon to switch between. These can be changed out as more guns are acquired from enemies, or purchased from shops. They can even be modified with silencers, to prevent hordes of zombies from hearing you take out that one straggler, which can otherwise ruin your day (or night).
Deacon starts out pretty weak, and it’s easy to feel like the combat of Days Gone is lacking early on. It reminds me a bit of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, where players were complaining they couldn’t beat every enemy with pure skill from the very beginning of the game. The developers had intended for you to become stronger as the game progresses, and so it is the case with Days Gone as well. As you gain XP, and pick up even just a few Skills, you notice the difference in efficiency almost immediately, and combat starts to become more fun and interesting. For this reason, I can’t help but feel many of the negative reviews were simply from outlets who did not play the game longer than about 3 or 4 hours.
When not fighting swathes of zombies, or gangs of dick head humans, you’ll be gathering materials to craft explosives, bandages and repair your bike and melee weapon. While I don’t usually enjoy this aspect of games, particularly survival games, in Days Gone it isn’t as much of a chore. I found myself, even on the hardest difficulty, having enough of the things I needed if I took a few minutes to really explore areas I came across. This actually made me want to explore things as I came upon them, because I knew I didn’t have to, but maybe there was some good stuff there. In addition, ammo while scarce, wasn’t so much so that I felt like it was always an uphill battle.
The game itself plays a bit like a combination of Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption 2, only with zombies. Players will take on quests from settlements, where they will interact with other characters from the game’s story, and then head out into the semi-wasteland to complete their task. Players can stop to do activities like clear our Freaker Nests, or wipe out Ripper Camps along the way, but it isn’t required. Once you arrived at your quest destination, things play out a bit more cinematic, and if you fail objectives then you will immediately reload the game. It’s really well done, and although not innovative in any particular manner, Days Gone successfully pulls off a mix of these two games, if only to a lesser degree.
Days Gone Audio and Visual
Visually, Days Gone is one of the best looking games on PS4. The world, weather, day and night cycles all look really really good. The more I played, the more I enjoyed this aspect, and I often found myself just admiring how good things looked. In addition, the character models are top notch, and mouths actually move in a non-awkward manner when characters speak. You should have absolutely no complaints about this. There were a few frame drops here and there, but they were few and far between, and I had exactly 0 crashes.
Bend Studio did a fine job on the audio front as well, and the game’s voice acting is on par with some of the better games out there, if just a notch below the best. The characters take some time to grow on you and Deacon is a bit of a drama queen, but the more you play with him, the more you like that about him. While I can’t say too many of the other characters were overly memorable, I will say that I did empathize with many of them and found myself hoping they were not killed by zombies.
Gun shots, zombie noises and music were not mind blowingly good, but nothing felt out of place. It’s about what you’d expect from a zombie game, and some of the game’s music did remind me a bit of Red Dead Redemption in that they were definitely trying to set a certain mood as you rode a long an empty road on your motorcycle. That’s not a criticism or complement, it’s just how I felt about that aspect of the game.
I do not know what is happening with gaming “journalism”, but somewhere along the way it’s gotten lost in a complex maze of money and politics. Looking at Metacritic, you’ll notice that the gaming industry is growing further and further out of touch with its audience where it matters most. Games like The Division 2, Anthem, and even Fallout 76 have markedly higher industry scores than user scores. While games like Warframe, Immortal Unchained, and Days Gone suffer from just the opposite, with user scores much higher than those in the industry. Big studios with big marketing budgets seem to come out way ahead when games are in the “middle of the road” category, while those by smaller studios suffer. These are the games that players really want to know about before purchasing, and they are being let down.
Days Gone is not Last of Us in terms of quality, but let’s take a second and admit, almost no games are. I don’t think anyone went into it expecting Naughty Dog production value, but Bend Studio has done a damn good job nonetheless. They have managed to compel me to keep playing the game by providing consistently fun gameplay, engaging environments to explore, and characters that grow on you…eventually. Bend Studio may not have re-invented the wheel with Days Gone, but they did manage to make a convincing replica of it, and one with zombies to boot!
Be sure to drop by Twitch and check us out live streaming Days Gone!