When Sony showed off Days Gone for the first time we were quite impressed by the world and the sheer number of zombies - or Freakers as they're called here - that featured in that initial reveal. It looked like a mix of The Last of Us and Rise of the Tomb Raider. This year, we got to see a new section of the game and got to know more details about how certain mechanics would work, how to traverse the various environments, and how to stay alive long enough to see another sunrise. We got to see the brand new demo first hand and really dig deep into what we can expect to see when exploring the midwestern USA landscape.
As of right now, we don't really know a huge amount about what is going on in Days Gone. At a first glance, it looks like the typical post-apocalyptic setting where things have gone bad, and where the people who are still alive will do anything and everything they can to stay alive and get a handle on the situation. As always, those lucky few who are left alive, don't necessarily get along all that well, with people fighting each other as well as Freakers and, sometimes, all of them at the same time.
The demo we got to see was basically the same as the one that was shown during the Sony press conference, albeit with a couple of twists to keep things interesting. They really wanted to show off the dynamics of the world, and we got to see different weather conditions and what it looked like at different times of the day. Instead of clear skies, we got to see heavy snow and it was much later in the day, which changes a lot in the world, from the number of Freakers outside through to how easily you can be spotted by your human enemies. If the weather is bad it also means that you can make more noise without being heard and this can greatly change how a mission turns out.
If you haven't seen the gameplay demo shown during E3, here's a bit of context: A guy called Manny has been kidnapped and shortly after that our protagonist, Deacon St. John, sets off on his motorbike to go find him. Days Gone is a game with a lot of survival mechanics, for example, the bike needs fuel to run and that's a resource that you won't be able to find everywhere. The bike can also break down depending on how you ride it, and if it gets beaten up too much you'll have to repair it to get it back on the road. This means that you will have to be careful when planning your route as the heavy terrain will make it wear it down much more quickly. There's always a balance where you will have to think about risk and reward.
Shortly after the drive, we found ourselves at an enemy camp, full of people and traps. A quick look through our binoculars let us see how many enemies we'd have to deal with, and then we were able to plan our approach carefully. By placing a bear trap in some tall grass, we were then able to lure an enemy over by throwing a rock at a nearby sign. As the trap slammed shut on his leg, everybody around became aware that something was up and their focus was concentrated in that direction, opening up the perfect opportunity for us sneak by and prepare our ambush. You can hide in the tall grass and foliage to stay out of sight and then sneak up on your enemy to take them out with a stealth kill.
There are different ways to fight in Days Gone and there are a couple of things you will have to think about while doing it. First of all, melee weapons have durability, just as they do in The Last of Us, and if you get hold of a particularly powerful weapon, you might not want to waste it on some low threat enemies. Of course, you have guns and a crossbow at your disposal, which lets you take out enemies from range. The crossbow, for instance, is really accurate, but it's also pretty slow and the ammo is scarce. There's a crafting system that you can use to make ammunition and other items needed to increase your chances of survival. Exactly what and how you create items we don't know yet, but you will collect different materials out in the wild and in camps. The motorbike will also have upgrades and it even serves as a portable storage unit where you can stash weapons and change equipment throughout missions.
Days Gone is supposedly a huge game with several large open environments for players to explore. There will be side missions to complete besides the main storyline, and we're guessing that there will be a couple of secrets scattered throughout the landscape too. The weather is dynamic and can both help and hinder you, sometimes making missions harder, something that's further accentuated via the full day and night cycle. All of these are aspects that you will need to take into consideration while planning a mission, as both human and Freaker enemies alike will change their behaviour depending on the state of the world around you. Oh, did we mention that there are even Freaker animals roaming the wild?
Days Gone is a stunning game when you look at it from a technical standpoint. The open world is highly detailed and visually gorgeous, with nice looking water effects and trees that move with the wind. The weather effects are also quite remarkable, no matter if it's rain beating down or snow drifting across the screen. If all of the survival elements and the narrative come together alongside an interesting world to explore, we're likely in for a very special treat when the game is released sometime in 2018. For now, at least, we will just have to look at that presentation all over again and be patient.