A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to attend an event for the upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive, Days Gone, and while we were at the event we also had the opportunity to talk to John Garvin, creative director at Bend Studio, who also happens to be the main writer of the upcoming post-apocalyptic adventure.
Like many people, we had doubts heading into Days Gone, as from the very first trailers it looked to be an illegitimate child of Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead, and although we've not once heard the word "zombies", the so-called Freakers that terrorise this world bring to mind the kind of undead that we've seen many a time before.
At the event we had the opportunity to play the game for just under three hours, which was an adequate chunk of time to explore Bend Studio's work. From the first minute the incredibly realistic and well-written characters are striking. The presented material was divided into two parts, the first of which (without unnecessary spoilers) introduced us to the realities of the game and allowed us to become more familiar with Deacon. We can already say that both the protagonist and all the important figures surrounding him will be the main strength of Days Gone. Even after the first few flashbacks and directed interludes, we were able to get along with them and understand their motivations and the difficult situation in which they find themselves. The first meeting between Deacon and Sarah was so natural and uncomfortable at the same time, and we easily slipped into the reality of the scene.
Despite not being the latest build, which had some technical problems, one could clearly feel the quality we've come to expect from PS4 exclusives over the years. Honestly, we would be more surprised if it was the other way around at this stage. However, it cannot be denied that Days Gone is technically closer to Infamous: Second Son than it is to The Last of Us. It's a game with an extensive and living open world which is closer to a typical sandbox than the much smaller locations you find in Naughty Dog's games.
Has the game been able to avoid problems typical of the genre, then? At the moment, it's hard to say. The section of the game that was presented to us was so cleverly embedded in the story that we didn't experience many repetitive activities. What caught our attention, however, was the fact that we as players can seemingly create events in our own way. You see, all opponents, whether we're talking about bandits or infected, live in the world according to their own routine. They act out many ordinary activities such as eating or going to sleep, which opens up a lot of options for players, especially when you consider that Freakers are more dangerous at night, just like we've seen before in games like Dying Light.
The horde AI and the way they hunt as a pack has been a central focus in our previous coverage of the game, so we'll not dwell on this aspect too much here, but it's worth mentioning that they can be used and manipulated. For example, a horde that is hounding us can also be directed to an enemy camp and used as an impromptu battering ram. The day/night cycle can also come into play. For example, if we patiently follow an opponent, there's a chance that we might be able to attack their base when they're sleeping. It's up to us how we deal with any given situation, and we liked that there are different ways to achieve the same goal. It's also worth adding that the weather also changes in real-time. The developers assured us that, just like the time of day, it has a big impact on the gameplay.
While driving around this slightly ruined but still beautiful game world, one thing we'll need to take care of is finding fuel for our motorcycle. This isn't just a vehicle, it's your greatest ally, and without it you won't get far (and we don't just mean in terms of travelling either). You need to be searching all the nooks and crannies you find in order to find parts, scrap, plus anything else that could be useful to you, and individual improvements did seem to have an impact.
You can also upgrade Deacon, although the skill trees probably won't hold too many surprises (there's nothing wrong with that, of course). This element of the game was designed in a fairly traditional manner, and the studio doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. One interesting element that we observed was the recruitment of survivors who we met on our way - usually those who we managed to help when they were in trouble. We managed to get to one camp, but when we were talking to the devs we were assured that there will be several similar locations in the game, and we will decide which one we will send any given survivor to. Apparently, this will have a big impact on the game, because the camps themselves will be different. For example, one of them will be focused on the construction of better weapons, while others will provide us with modifications to the motorcycle. In sending a person to a given camp, you make it grow stronger, so planning will become crucial here.
At some point during the mission, we experienced a bit of a shock as we hadn't anticipated too much variety in terms of the Freakers. However, in addition to rabid adults, you will also meet infected children on your journey, children who behave naturally until you're confronted by one of them. We'll admit that the setup works, and we felt uncomfortable killing one of them even though it was a necessary part of one of the tasks we were set. We also felt a great sense of unease as we watched small infected people searching for things in the dark. It seems as though Days Gone is going to create situations where it's much easier to deal with human opponents than infected ones.
After the three hours we spent with the game, it became clear that Days Gone is going to be worth the extra wait we've had to endure. It looks like we're dealing with another strong PlayStation exclusive, but we'll find out for sure when the game lands on April 26.
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