Despite Ho Hum Buzz, Days Gone Is A Good Time
Yawwwwwwn. Another 3rd person, over the shoulder, post apocalyptic tale of gritty heroism from a Sony first party studio. Right? Up until the other day I would have agreed. Now, I’m not so sure.
Days Gone is indeed all the things I mentioned above. What I’m waffling on is whether the fact it’s doing those things matters or should be held against it.
Granted, Deacon (the main guy) seems like an unthinking meathead with a very obvious character arc to work through. Also granted, there are more recent attempts at the zombie than one could shake a stick at. Despite those things, Days Gone seems like a fun and creative playground to poke at.
The sections I played through were light on story, but the few cutscenes I saw seemed well acted and written. Huge grain of salt though – 5 minutes out of a 30 hour title can hardly be considered a reasonable sample size.
What was truly interesting was the AI Sony Bend has baked into the hoards of ‘Freakers’ covering the landscape. The best way I can describe their behaviour is that they flow. Each individual creature acts as a particle, and together they form a stream.
Better Than You Think
Take for example a later game mission where clearing out a hoard of freakers would save a town’s something something (I didn’t note it down, so sue me).
The hoard had gathered in a mud pit where a bunch of trucks and other resources had been stored once upon a time. The developer on hand warned me that I’d better make a good plan: “they’ll wreck you if they get close.” Not one to be influenced by solid advice, I laid a few mines and then chucked a grenade into the crowd. How bad could it be?
Sweet baby Jesus, 500+ beasties burst out of the pit like a burst dam. The mines took out a few dozen, while my machine gun cut down another 50. In seconds, I was toast.
I reloaded, determined to come up with an infinitely more brilliant plan. I set an elaborate path designed to funnel the creatures through a series of trenches before bottlenecking them at an old train car. What could go wrong?
The freakers ignored the trench trap, flowing up and over cars, logs, and obstacles traditional enemies would at least consider respecting. I popped a few stamina buffs, and attempted to gain some distance – no good. There were too many, and they were too fast. Subsequent attempts got better, but at no point did I feel in control of the situation. It was a constant SNAFU, and I caught myself a bunch of times doing the Mario Kart controller lean to give myself an extra boost.
I asked my amused looking developer pal how normal this situation was. He chuckled before telling me that hoards like the one I’d struggled with are all over the map, and they could potentially be anywhere at any time. Suffice to say, exploration in Days Gone will be tense and dangerous.
So does it matter that the surface of Days Gone looks familiar? I don’t think so. There’s a huge amount of promise in the systems Sony Bend have built, and my 30 minutes or so with the game were intriguing. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Days Gone, and I think it’d be a mistake to write it off before actually getting your hands on it.