Shhhhhhh, don’t fight it.
When it was announced in 2016, Days Gone was considered to be one of Sony’s biggest exclusives with major development talent behind it. Several delays later, it has finally landed in 2019, bringing the open-world zombie apocalypse promised in trailers. The biggest question remains: was it worth the wait? The answer is yes and no.
Days Gone will feel very similar to other third-person open-world games you’ve played before. Standard movement and stealth buttons apply, as do camera controls and combat. Crafting is done via a wheel and quick use of directional buttons, and on foot, Deacon moves with relative ease and you’ll never feel like the controls are an impediment to getting out of a jam.
But when you get on the road, well, it’s a little different. There have been greater sins when it comes to open-world vehicle movement than Days Gone, but it’s still not great. While you’re not necessarily forced to ride your motorcycle everywhere (more on that later), it’s still a key factor in the game.
The issue here is that you’re constantly offroading it, so driving means a lot of collisions. Fortunately, this doesn’t really slow the game down or take Deacon out of it, but it just doesn’t handle precisely enough to eliminate feeling like a chore.
When it was announced, Days Gone was supposed to push the envelope of open world visuals. It got delayed several years, but even in that time, better-looking games have come along – Horizon Zero Dawn, Metal Gear Solid V and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey immediately come to mind.
Part of that may be by design, as Days Gone takes place in the Pacific Northwest among a lot of hills and trees and rain. It’s certainly not as pretty as the competition, but it’s clearly a AAA title with budget spent on the visuals.
Deacon is voiced by (and modeled on) actor Sam Witwer. If you’re a fan of genre entertainment, then you’ve likely encountered Witwer, either as a voice actor (Darth Maul in The Clone Wars/Rebels) or on-screen actor (Supergirl, Being Human, Battlestar Galactica).
Witwer brings depth to what could be a thin role, especially a sense of weariness to the world. This helps given the amount of mundane tasks Deacon is assigned. The rest of the voice cast fares well, though the writing never really becomes too engaging.
If you could take little pieces of every major open world game of the past 10 years, you’d get Days Gone. Because of that, there’s nothing really bad about it. But there’s nothing really great either. It’s all “pretty good.”
Deacon’s personal quest soon slows down as he gets involved with feuds between camps, all the while fixing his bike and constantly crafting. The world of Days Gone is a decent size; it’s not the massive map of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey but it’s not as contained as Horizon Zero Dawn, either.
The crafting system is simple but necessary, especially as weapons break down with usage similar to Borderlands. Crafting requires components, but good thing you can activate a special vision mode similar to techniques found in the Batman Arkham games or Assassin’s Creed. You can traverse everywhere on foot, but riding your bike can take you anywhere, much like horses in Red Dead Redemption (except it needs fuel and fixing).
All of this works well, but is it fun? The answer is relative and comes down how much you want to engage with the zombie apocalypse. Days Gone faces two primary issues. First, the story meanders about and the side quests are somewhat meaningless fetch or assassination quests.
Second, the level design lacks ingenuity, which means that it can eventually feel repetitive. In fact, it reminded us of Mass Effect Andromeda, a technically sound game (after the bugs were fixed) marred by boring level design and lackluster side quests.
Days Gone is the definition of “pretty good.” Which is almost shocking considering how much time, effort, and money was put into it. Your enjoyment will most likely vary depending on how much you enjoy bashing in zombie brains, but many players will feel like they’ve seen this before even though the game hits most of its checkboxes.