Get your freak on.
There’s a lot of things going on around here. I’ve just been ambushed twice. My bike’s broken, I’m out of scrap, and I’m trying to sneak around an overrun tourist trap. I make the mistake of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a freaker nest, and now two dozen angry freakers are running right at me. Just before I consign myself to getting torn apart, I spot three drifters around the corner. A few gunshots later and the freakers are nice and busy with their new friends, and I get away nice and clean… Until I run into a horde of freaks roaming around a gas station, and they’re running right at me.
Days Gone is an open-world zombie game set in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States two years since the zombie apocalypse started. You play as Deacon St. John, a Drifter recovering from the memory of his dead wife, doing odd-jobs around the region in order to get enough supplies to head north and start a new life with his closest friend, Boozer.
Open world games aren’t usually my thing, and Days Gone doesn’t do things too differently. However, the things it does do differently help the experience in a positive way. There are no radio towers to climb or viewpoints to synchronize, but there are enemy camps to clear, Freaker nests to burn and NERO outposts to liberate. There’s crafting and gathering, but you don’t have to babysit things like hunger or thirst. Most of the maintenance you’ll be doing is relegated to the Drifter bike, your main source of transportation across the wilds of Oregon – and even then you’ll only need to keep track of its fuel and repair it when it gets damaged. The game keeps track of storylines and helpfully tells you how far you’ve progressed through them, so you don’t wind up losing track of the almost two dozen different story threads spread throughout the game.
While Days Gone has all the trappings of a survival game, I won’t exactly call it that. It’s a very actionized open world game with any survival elements either downplayed or streamlined. Bullet management is a very present issue, even though it might not seem like it at first. Against the various enemy factions, you’ll have no shortage of guns or ammunition you can swap around. Up against Freakers, though, and the game shifts gears towards a more stealth-oriented survival experience where every bullet counts, where firing your gun could take one freaker out but alert an entire horde to where you are. Deek can craft a variety of tools and traps to make clearing hordes easier, but you’re always on the back foot against freakers simply because of the sheer number of them at any given time.
Deacon’s story feels like he’s knee-deep in man pain. Between the memory of his dead wife haunting him, doing ethically questionable jobs from people he hates, and watching over Boozer, the world just keeps piling more and more on his plate. Because of this, Deek’s a bitter, cynical man who has little time for joking and spends a lot of his time getting angry. It’s understandable, after all – who wouldn’t be pissed at the world after it all goes to hell? – but it doesn’t really change the fact that Deacon is not a fun person to be around. He’s dependable and resourceful, but he’s also obnoxiously macho and seems to have a hard time interacting with humans in any way that isn’t vitriolic, aggressive, or annoyed. The first few hours spent before arriving at Lost Lake suffers from a host of unlikeable characters, and I almost gave up on the game entirely because it was mentally exhausting to deal with so much negativity.
Luckily – or unluckily? – Days Gone is a long game. Like many open world games, a lot of your playtime will be spent traveling between locations. Days Gone limits your travel with the need to refuel, and though the first gas tank upgrade is already a substantial boost to how long you can go before you need to fill the tank, it can still feel like a whole load of nothing going on. While gas cans and refueling stations themselves are infinite, you can’t bring them with you, and fast traveling costs fuel – and you can’t fast travel without your bike.
Open world games aren’t exactly my cup of tea, and Days Gone wasn’t an exception. However, to fans of the genre and fans of zombie games in general, Days Gone offers an experience unlike any other currently out on the market. If you’re hungry for flesh or a third person shooter set in the zombie post-apocalypse, Days Gone scratches an itch that no other game on the market currently can satisfy.