A Kutte Above
You would be forgiven if you had never heard of Bend Studio before Days Gone. The team started out strong with the 1999 release of Syphon Filter on the PlayStation 1, but would eventually be tasked with developing smaller games for the PSP and PS Vita. It wouldn’t be until 2015 that the team would be allowed to make a brand new console IP and the very next year, during E3, Days Gone was announced.
It was a gamble to announce such a game during—what I like to call—“The Great Zombie Fatigue” as many players had already played at least a handful of zombie games with light survival mechanics. In the last 10 years alone, we’ve had Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Dead Island, The Last of Us and, most recently, Resident Evil 2 Remake. However, Days Gone would try to set itself above the rest with its emphasis on horde technology that let players tackle groups of “Freakers” anywhere from 50 to 500 bodies strong. You’ll likely not come across a horde for a long time as they can be pretty devastating and you simply don’t have the firepower to handle them until late in the game. When you do fight your first horde, however, it’s an incredible sight to behold and also a little frightening. The game gives you more than enough tools and weapons to kill or avoid the deadly swarms. Chief among these tools is Deacon St John’s motorcycle, that you need to keep safe and repair when damaged because you can’t save your progress without it. The game wants you to fall in love with and spend a lot of time, and money, improving the bike and it makes sense when you run into a horde without it. So keep it topped up with gas and in perfect shape, it just might save your life.
When you’re not killing Feakers the game has a pretty hefty although somewhat average story for players to sink their teeth into. Deacon St John along with his wife, Sarah, and best friend, Boomer, try to escape the unfolding apocalypse around them. Deacon is forced to choose between getting on a helicopter with his dying wife or staying behind with an injured Boomer. The game skips 2 years ahead and we get the impression that Sarah is now dead, but Boomer and Deacon managed to survive and turn into grizzled bounty hunters. The story is broken up into many chapters—some less important than others—which play out at different times throughout the game and even continue beyond the story’s conclusion. Bend Studio claimed that it would take around 30 hours to get through the story content which may be a deal breaker for some gamers.
Bend Studio took the zombie survival idea and tried to inject some originality and—in my opinion—they succeeded, albeit with a few forgivable hiccups. Deacon is a likeable enough protagonist and he interacts with many interesting side characters. The bike is a nice mechanic that’s actually helpful in most situations. The story, although peppered with plot contrivances, is engaging enough that I wanted to know what happened next. In the last few years Sony has been killing it with their exclusives and I would say that Days Gone continues their streak of releasing stellar single player experiences.
This World Comes For You
I’d like to preface this section by saying Days Gone is like a watered down The Last of Us in an open world with some typical open world elements. Both games rely on stealth, scavenging items and crafting. Days Gone lets you craft more things than The Last of Us and you can do it on the fly, the game even slows down time as you open the crafting wheel. However, TLoU made crafting feel dangerous because you had to craft in real time whilst being 100% defenseless. Deacon is also like a discount Joel. They’re both angry, ruthless survivors who have no reservations about doing whatever it takes, but Deacon comes across like he’s just impatient with everyone where Joel feels like he’s about to explode into an anger driven rage in almost every scene. I think Sam Witwer did an amazing job voicing Deacon. It must be hard trying to portray bitterness and anger in a character when the only tool you can use is your voice. There are many moments in the game where Deacon will talk to himself and it starts to feel offbeat because he has no one to say it to; it’s purely for our benefit. Joel also will say things to himself, but it’s always under his breath and in response to something Ellie or another character did or said.
When you compare the two games like this, The Last of Us is the clear winner, but as you play Days Gone you realise there’s more to it. “This World Comes For You” is a tagline lifted from the official trailers and, to the credit of Bend Studio, it really does. Riding on your bike to your next objective you can encounter a number of things designed to send you to an early grave. The most obvious threat is the Freakers who leap at you as you zip by or Runners (infected wolves) who chase you down making a quick getaway almost impossible. Later on you will also encounter Screamers who’s powerful banshee-like wail can knock you from your bike, leaving you exposed and vulnerable. You might also run into a human made trap such as a zip wire tied between two trees that snatches you right off the comfort of your bike saddle and throws you straight into a skirmish with a handful of bandits. Another common trap you will run into is a sniper sat high up in a tree, with impeccable aim, who will shoot the bike right out from underneath you. The scariest and deadliest of all the things you can run into though are the swarms. Hundreds of Freakers all gathered together and ready to chase you down as soon as they catch your scent is terrifying and amazing at the same time and is easily the games best feature.
I understand that saying a game has a massive world is a bit superfluous today, but Days Gone really has a big map for us to play in and it’s well designed. You get the feeling that people lived here in peace and survived in agony until all that was left was the rusty husks of vehicles and abandoned towns. The game takes place in Oregon, which is one of Earth’s most beautiful places and even though in Days Gone the apocalypse has steamrolled over it, the developers have managed to capture its beauty perfectly. The map is split up into 4 areas, each with a main camp, that you’ll be spending most of the game travelling between and running errands for its inhabitants. To the game’s credit, it manages to send you to a different location right at the exact time you begin to feel fatigued with your surroundings and, just when you think you’ve seen everything the map has to offer, you get sent to a completely new region to the south.
Days Gone has a lot in common with The Last of Us, but it also adds fresh ideas to a fast growing stale genre. I’ve seen a lot of people compare the two games and I’m guilty of it too, but as it is Days Gone can stand strong by itself.
It’s The Little Things
I’ve long believed that a great game is only ever improved by the little things and attention to detail that developers put into their work. I remember leading the police on a chase around Los Santos, causing as much chaos as possible, but once I became bored and finally lost them, I pulled over and noticed the telltale ticking of the car’s engine cooling down. This made me smile and say to myself “Wow, that’s cool”. In The Last of Us characters react when you point your flashlight directly at their faces and in Uncharted 4 the speedometer in the jeep actually displays how fast you’re going but it’s almost impossible to see unless you open Photo Mode. Bend Studio has also strapped on their detail oriented caps and filled the game with nice little additions that aren’t necessary to the core game experience but elevate it if you happen to catch one.
In Days Gone you can salvage oil filters from a vehicle’s engine block and use it as a makeshift suppressor for your pistols and rifles. If you open the Photo Mode and take a look at a fresh oil filter suppressor, there’s no hole at the end because the game recognises that you have yet to fire a shot. Take a shot and there’s a fresh hole right where the bullet left. This is a cool little detail that I didn’t notice for a long time.
One time I was in the southern region of the map, clearing out some Freaker nests and all was well, but the sun was setting quickly and in Days Gone Freakers are nocturnal. I decided it was for the best if I finished my task extra quick but the last nest was proving hard to find and that’s when I stumbled upon a horde. I’d found and killed a horde before, but it was a small horde of around 50 and it was during the day so they were all packed into a small cave which was no problem for my pipe bombs. However, this horde was massive and I was running low on supplies and ammo. About 20 minutes of me ducking and weaving in and out of buildings and cover goes by when I finally found the last nest in the region. My plan was to throw my last Molotov at the nest and dash back to my bike so I can ride off before the horde can catch me. I threw the flaming cocktail and the nest started to burn. Freakers starting screaming and ran out of the nest, which caught the attention of the horde, but during my sprint to safety it had started to snow. This snow was like any other snow you see in modern games. It started to slowly blanket the ground and even Deacon was being enveloped in white. What I didn’t know was this snow was more than cosmetic. I jumped on my bike and the engine roared to life, but to my frustration the wheels began to spin and the bike was slipping and sliding all over. The blood thirsty horde was 6ft away before my bike managed to find some traction and I sped off to safety.
It was shortly after this event that I really started to take note of the small details such as the way the trees sway in the wind or the title screen showing what your bike currently looks like in game. It’s stated several times in the game that Freakers smell really bad, because they soil themselves, and when Deacon comes across a nest he will mention how awful the smell is. Many games will treat this as a throwaway line and have the character continue on like the smell suddenly doesn’t affect them anymore, but Deacon will hold up a rag to his mouth pretty much the whole time you’re around the bad smell. Another cool little feature I like is that the days since the outbreak are counted in the pause menu, however, if you pause during a flashback the “days gone” counter is set to 0.
A lot of gamers won’t find this sort of stuff interesting and, if I’m being honest, it’s not big, ground shattering stuff. The game doesn’t suffer if you remove the small details. I think the reason this stuff resonates with me so much is because each small, hidden detail is like a love letter from the developers. It says they care about the game enough to add extra sweat and tears into adding something as simple as making a character breathe when idle or making sure the ground slowly becomes wet and slippery when it rains.
Small details can elevate an already great game and that’s the case with Days Gone. There’s already a lot to love about the core experience, but if you’re like me then seeing Deacon hold a rag to his face to avoid inhaling smoke will only make you enjoy the game more.
The Road to The Platinum
As with the previous Sony exclusive games, Days Gone has a rather straightforward trophy list. There are around 14 unmissable trophies related to the Story but you’ll likely get some Misc trophies along the way, such as D.I.Y Oregonian or The Art of Bike Repair.
Complete the story of Days Gone
Craft 50 items
The Art of Bike Repair
Apply 100 scrap to your bike
Along with the standard story trophies there are many collectibles for you to find, but the game only asks you to find 75% of them which might be a relief for some gamers. Personally, I would have liked a 100% completion trophy instead.
Every other trophy is practically unmissable apart from two which can turn into a crazy grind post game. I would encourage people to actively work on from the very start of the game. These trophies are:
You've Got Red on You
Collect 541 items from corpses
When you kill a non-infected NPC you can go over to their dead body and search them for items. If you already have a full inventory, then you will not receive anything from that body and the game won’t count it. My advice is to not be afraid to use your crafted items because if you hoard your gear then you’ll likely end up finishing the game without popping the trophy.
Lend Me Your Ears
Collect 989 Freaker ears
When an infected enemy dies and you walk over their corpses you will automatically acquire their ears as bounties which you can then trade in at camps for money. You’ll likely get this before the story ends but if for some reason you weren’t collecting them then you’ll have to go kill the hordes in the post game.
I personally would say this game is very easy to plat since there’s no difficulty specific trophies so you can select easy right at the start, focus on the two trophies I mentioned and by the time you finish the story the only thing left should be collectibles and one or two misc trophies. This game took me around 40 to 50 hours to platinum.
Tips to Survive
Below are some tips that I’ve put together from my time with the game.
- You’ll probably have an easier time if you stealth most encounters
- It’s generally a good idea to clear out infestations zones ASAP so you can fast travel
- Clear each NERO checkpoint as soon as you can so you can get permanent stat increases and a safe place to sleep and restock
- Quicksave as often as you can. Anything can go wrong
- Fuel cans are infinite, so try to remember their spawn locations. The last thing you need is a dry gas tank in the middle of nowhere
- Double check that you cut down every speaker at NERO checkpoints
- You can fast travel between each NERO checkpoint you’ve unlocked to force resources to respawn
- The Chicago Chopper is probably the best gun in the whole game