This open-world action-survival game is bringing some tantalizing new twists to the open-world genre.
Turns out that 20 minutes is barely enough time to scratch the surface of Days Gone, Bend Studio’s ambitious action-survival epic. This game is deep, and there is a lot to take in. After my nail-biting gameplay session, I wanted nothing more than to curl up with it for a weekend to really see what it can do.
One immediate takeaway: I really, really like the bike. The motorcycle has been the totem of American cool for decades, but I didn’t expect it to be an ideal mode of transport for an open-world game like Days Gone.
That bike is fast and responsive, and can weave through narrow pathways and bridges with ease. Driving requires a certain degree of care and finesse. Though I was constantly tempted to let loose along the game’s twisting highways and dirt trails, the threat of collision damage kept me in a cautious mindset. I didn’t want to find myself implementing a hasty repair job when a Freaker horde is bearing down!
The bike’s vulnerability adds a palpable measure of tension, and I found myself keeping a watchful eye on the fuel gauge while traversing the rural paths of Oregon. You’ll begin with a low-end starter bike. By collecting resources and cash, and working with a local mechanic, you can transform it into a proper chopper.
For example, you can upgrade the exhaust system to reduce noise, install a new engine to boost your maximum speed, or add a heavier frame to absorb more wear and tear. Then there’s the fuel tank, tires, suspension, storage space… gearheads will find much to sink their teeth into.
Protagonist Deacon St. John has a lot of room to grow, too. As you gain XP by completing missions and dropping enemies, you can invest skill points into dozens of abilities across three main skill trees: ranged combat, melee combat, and survival. Expect to face tough decisions about where to invest skill points, and when, depending on your preferred play style.
Speaking of tough decisions! Days Gone is all about emergent events, and the improbable and entertaining ways they can collide. You might be happily zipping down a road and run smack-dab into a rope clotheslined across the road — a trap set by bandits. While you fight them off, you might attract a nearby horde of Freakers, or a flock of Freaker crows (yep!).
How you handle this confluence of events will be completely up to you. Fight it out? Toss some molotovs? Hop back on the bike and hightail it out of there? Once you understand the lay of the land, you can start leveraging these various dynamics to your advantage. Say, by luring a Freaker horde into a nearby enemy encampment to wreak havoc, while you snipe away from a distance.
Days Gone expresses its improvisational nature in other ways, including the ability to craft on the fly. You’ll hold L1 to bring up the weapon wheel and, ala Horizon Zero Dawn, craft weapons, ammo, or healing items using resources found around the environment.
There is still much we don’t know, though, especially about biker-turned-survivalist Deacon St. John — specifically, what’s driving his journey. We don’t know much about the game’s environments outside of the dense evergreen forests shown in trailers to date, though Bend Studios’ spokespeople have hinted at a number of different biomes.
Then there are the Freakers themselves. We know they’re not dead… exactly. They live and hunt in groups, sometimes massive ones, and they use mass grave sites as a readily available food source.
Yet their origins remain cloaked in mystery. A military experiment gone amuck? A result of a bioweapons attack, or a long-dormant viral contagion? We don’t yet know, but Bend creative director John Garvin suggested to me that the game will address some of these questions.
All in all, I left my hands-on experience wanting to play much, much more of Days Gone. Fingers crossed that we won’t have to wait too much longer.