Making its way into my 2019 Guilty Pleasures was SIE Bend and SEA’s Days Gone. By no way, shape or form was this a masterpiece but I’ll be damned if this open world “zombie” apocalypse wasn’t fun to ride around on an American Chopper. Taking place two years after the start of the infection, Deacon St. John is looking for a reason to keep living and may have finally found it.
Days Gone is really a game in two distinct parts that while it uses the same identical look, feel and mechanics, feels different. Taking things from the very top, Deacon, voiced by and looking like Sam Witwer (Star Killer in Force Unleashed, “Darth” Maul in Solo and the Clone Wars, Being Human and Smallville), you’ll be riding a motorcycle, shooting and stabbing zombies all while swearing like there’s no tomorrow because honestly at this rate? There is none. Finally deciding to head out from where Deacon and his best friend had Boozer had been holding out, you are attacked, Boozer is injured, and it’s up to you to try to keep him alive as you do “requests” for some of the surrounding settlements as you wait for Boozer to heal up.
This opening leads to one of the more interesting styles of storytelling that I had sat down to in a while. There’s no “linear” line per say as you drive across Oregon slaying zombies and tracking down thieves and murderers. Feeling a lot like side quests to start off, you soon come to see that while each storyline feels separate, everything is connected. Keeping Boozer alive, doing requests for the settlement, going up to Deacon’s wife’s grave so that he can vent a bit. Each small part adds on an extra layer making this more than just an open world zombie slaying thrill ride like Dead Island. It makes it into an actual story of a man trying to find the will to keep living when he’s almost got nothing left short of trying to keep his best friend alive.
Like a lot of Open Worlds, there are loads of places you can go to, but many you should probably stay away from until you are either properly equipped, or just crazy enough to try to pull it off. What I appreciated is that Days Gone if it doesn’t want you to go somewhere, it will block you off in a more realistic fashion such as a tunnel being collapsed, a literal horde of zombies that are blocking you until you finally take them out or just have barricades with guards that you can’t kill off because they are technically the “good guys”. Not actually having anything that amounts to good guys though, the various shades of gray that Deacon operate in help keep this adventure grounded even if he’s a Grade-A killing machine.
Now being an open world, with plenty of ground to cover, it’s great that you have your motorcycle because you’re going to need it to cover the vast distances between points. Where things can be a bit trickier at first, is making sure that you have enough gas to actually make it to said destination. This is another element that helps keep the adventure grounded because it keeps a bit of realism to the whole thing. Run out of gas, you need to walk your bike to the closest place that will be able to fill it up. Either that, or you set out on foot to make it somewhere that will recover it for you, or where you can find a gas can in order to fill it back up. Be warned though, if you leave your bike behind and a horde was walking by, the damage could be pretty nasty and unless you’re holding onto scrap, you had better hope that your credit with a nearby faction is high enough to pay for the repairs.
It becomes clear fairly early on what’s a “main” quest, and what’s a side quest. Side Quests though, either Deacon’s or one of the local settlements are all worth doing as they’ll either pad your inventory or your relationships. As you improve your relationships with the settlements, new bike parts and weapons become available making your journey a bit easier as even if you level up and get to learn new skills that make your stealthier or deadlier, you have to actually get there first and until you get better at repairing and finding gas? You’ll need what the settlements provide.
Thankfully though, it’s not just about completing their quests, because if you just do that, you’ll never max out your relations. On top of performing the quests, you can hand in food, herbs and zombie ears that count as bounties. Don’t worry, these are two separate stations that take these in! For food, items such as deer or wolf meat will gain you a lot more reputation and credits than simple herbs that grow along the side of the road. For zombie ears, the more powerful the zombie, the higher the reward, EXCEPT, if you go about taking out a horde. The reason is the sheer number of ears that you’ll be bringing back far outweighs that of a single tougher or special zombie so if you’re brave enough? Go for the horde!
While the approach may be a bit more realistic in its presentation, the gameplay is pretty standard. Using a third person view, you can swing your cobbled weapons at zombies which reduce their durability, you can sneak up for a stealth kill using your invincible knife, or you can open fire with whatever range weapons you have equipped. Pistols, shotguns, sniper and automatic rifles all become available alongside grenades, flash bangs and molotov cocktails that are great for hordes of zombies as they set each other on fire. Fight smarter! Not harder.
For your melee weapons you’ll want to keep a close eye on the durability as if you lose it, you need to make another one and the parts that you need may not exactly be on hand or even nearby. For ranged, you can attack groups of people that would kill you first on the road or you can always head back to the settlement and pay for a restock. In the beginning you’ll want to be a reserved as possible but as time goes on, you’ll gain saddlebags to your bike allowing you a full ammo restock which is much cheaper to fill those bags, than to actually pay to restock each type of ammo that you’ve used while out on the road.
As fun as the gameplay was though, it wasn’t what kept me going. It was the story and wanting to find out what happens next. Does Deacon’s best friend live? Does the settlement that gets hit survive? Questions get asked more and more and like any good tale, it takes some time to get the answers and even then? Some of those answers are behind plot twists that you wonder if they could happen or not and when they do, how you feel is entirely up to you as not everyone is going to feel the same way about both the big and the small events.