Days Gone: SIE Bend Studio’s upcoming zombie horror title Days Gone is slated for release sometime later this year. The developer’s first attempt at making a brand new IP since 1999’s Syphon Filter (the extremely well received original that went on to give rise to a number of sequels), the new game aims to make full use of a dynamic open world setting.
But a zombie horror game where the player has to constantly outwit and outfight the undead clamoring for the flesh of the living is certainly not a concept that we haven’t seen a lot of this year, and neither is it the only one slated to come out in the near future. So why take the trouble to write about a game that will probably end up being the same as all the others? Let’s find out.
The Studio’s Evolution
Over the years, Bend Studio has acquired something of a veteran status among fans of old school video games. The developers, who were founded way back in 1993, began their foray into console gaming in 1996. And while they faced their fair share of difficulties in doing that, Syphon Filter proved to be a huge success. The stealth action spy game became an unexpected success, and the Bend, Oregon-based studio was acquired by Sony soon after and renamed Bend Studio. The developers have since worked on a number of sequels for Syphon Filter, all well-received, and has even collaborated with Naughty Dog to release content in the Uncharted series.
So it had been a long time since the studio had delivered an original idea by the time we started hearing rumors about a new zombie game under construction. Days Gone was first unveiled at E3 2016 with an announcement trailer, and we have to say that we were intrigued. Not that there were a whole lot of new elements, but the tone and the sympathetic storyline had us looking forward to seeing more of the game.
What we know about Days Gone so far
By the time of its announcement, Days Gone had already been in development for over a year. That it was shaping up to be something else was made clear by what we saw at E3 2016. What had specifically caught our attention was that Days Gone was being described as a zombie game, but the trailer itself featured none. The focus was wholly on providing a empathetic background for the mercenary hero of the game. That, admittedly, led us to compare the game with Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, a character driven survival game that won over many hearts upon its release in 2013.
But later looks showed us the zombies- copious amounts of them, acting as if they were one fluid form in themselves. And while we couldn’t help but feel the focus drifting away from character, we found it impressive, to say the least. This is because Days Gone, to us, looks like more like a story-driven survival narrative to us from almost every angle. Deacon St. John is at the centre of it all, but while his background will be integral in understanding him (and we all like a bit of relatability- a human touch), the focus so far seems to be on the objectives. We repeat that you may not find a whole lot that is unique to the new game- but the age-old formula seems to have been given an interesting facelift. Besides, The Last of Us 2 is already in the works, so there’s always that to look forward to if we want beautiful character sketches. But this one may well be worth your time too.
The Story in Days Gone
Bend Studio’s upcoming offering focuses on a world ravaged by the aftermath of a widespread pandemic, much like almost every other zombie survival game in existence. But the intrigue lies in the presentation. The main story begins a couple of years after the pandemic changed most of the living, leaving the world with but a few survivors. Deacon St. John is one of the survivors, but it looks like all those he loved and truly cared for did not quite make it.
This emotional void makes a drifter out of him, and being the outlaw rider that he is (his bike is the heart and soul of exploration in the game), he rides around as a mercenary, doing jobs and getting entangled with people and matters that may directly endanger him.
But Deacon likes living dangerously, probably because he has nothing holding him back. He is the ideal survivor who “eschews the ‘safe’ wilderness encampments set up by mankind’s last survivors and takes his chances on the broken roads,” reads the official description.
The story is set in the deserts of the Pacific Northwest, and exploration will bring you face to face with the terrible creatures that the game refers to as Freakers. There will be resources to keep him going, but considering the conditions, expect those to be sparse.
Days Gone: What to expect
E3 2017 Gameplay Reveal for Days Gone
Open World Gameplay: One of the primary things we love about Days Gone is that it knows how to make use of an open world setting. Bend has designed the environments of the game to be intuitive, affording several options and approaches for the player to take on their missions. But at the same time, it can be dangerous, thanks to the circumstances. Almost everything that is a part of the dynamic world retains exudes dynamism, and the player can make crucial decisions about their approach towards a particular mission based on that. Your surroundings in Days Gone will help you immensely when you decide to stay undercover, but you also have the option to go in all guns blazing. Weather and the day cycle will be dynamic too, influencing the gameplay in crucial ways.
The bike is more than just a vehicle in the new game. Bend Studios executives have spoken about how the bike serves as both the means of exploration ad also a big part of the story. It is probably the only thing left in the world that Deacon can relate to. While it is ironic that it is an inanimate object, the creators have tried to instil a symbol of living on the edge and a sense of brotherhood through it. There are no cars for use in Days Gone– this one bike will be the player’s everything on the road because it isn’t just a vehicle to him, but something he may very well live out of if he wishes to. It also makes for a great exploration tool, keeping the confines of a car at bay and being more connected to the open road ahead.
Fight Zombified Humans, Zombified Beasts, and well, Just Humans: Like it or not, the game has so many of the undead that it might leave you swooning. In fact, Days Gone is nearly spilling with zombies, regardless of how Bend wants to package them by naming the creatures differently. Sony officials have explained that there will be different types as well- the kind that sneaks up on you, and, and others that swarm together in hundreds like bees. Being a part of a game that boasts of dynamism, you can expect them to be equally unpredictable. So you will find that the Freakers behave more aggressively in the dark than during the day. From what we have seen, they are pretty scary when the sun is up, so imagine what it might be like to fend them off at night.
However, there’s a great thing about the (ahem) Freakers in Days Gone– that they can actually be manipulated in ways to aid the player’s missions. We must say we were impressed by the possibilities when we saw Deacon take down an entire band of bad folks by unleashing the creatures (watch the E3 2017 trailer above). This is probably because the developers are making a game about survival, and not just about zombies. This is also why the zombies are not the only enemies you will fight, but also battle other survivors with their own agendas (which are obviously detrimental to Deacon). But we have saved the best for the last- the humans are not the only ones to have been infected. Animals too, for the E3 2017 trailer ends with a zombie bear, of all things!
Crafting makes it better: Resources may well be few and far between in Days Gone, but the good news is that Deacon is a former outlaw, which means he is very resourceful in himself. That also means lots and lots of finding stuff and using them to craft what you need. Bend officials explain that this is where Deacon’s shady past will come in handy for the player. Not only is he skilled at surviving, he is also great at hunting for resources. So if he finds a piece of equipment from his time exploring, chances are that he will be able to make it into something necessary- be it a weapon or a survival tool to aid better resource gathering. “For example,” the developers say, “you’ll see he’s actually threaded the barrel of his pistol with the same thread pattern as an oil filter, so if he finds oil filters out in the world, he can screw them on and it will allow him a couple of suppressed shots.”
However, there will be others with skill sets similar to Deacon. All the remaining humans are survivors, and their experiences have left them desperate to continue surviving. So it’s definitely not going to be easy.
Modes: Days Gone is single-player only, meaning if you wanted to try your survival skills in the company of a friend, you can’t do that here. If you remember, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was a single-player only game because Capcom wanted to preserve the feeling of being all alone and scared. It’s not quite the same in Bend’s game, but it does aim to focus on something other than meeting the most popular player trends of the day. The story is the star here, and the point is to let the player get acquainted with Deacon, explore the world at their own pace, and survive the Freakers and all associated hazards, all by themselves. We don’t know if a multiplayer will be added at a later time, but we approve Bend’s approach. And the more we look at it, the more it seems like it will be best played alone.
Days Gone Trailers
Sony had revealed Days Gone at E3 2016 with a gorgeous reveal trailer. Enriched by the need to build a narrative background, the trailer establishes the context of the story and the protagonist’s life by showing some insightful flashbacks. A number of videos surfaced subsequently which focused on the gameplay aspect, and that’s where you really get to see the Freakers. Take a look below.
Days Gone Gameplay Demo from E3 2016
Days Gone Release Date
Sadly, we don’t have a release date for the game right now, but we imagine that some news will be rolled out soon enough. For now, Days Gone is thought to be slated for release sometime in 2017 itself, but unless there’s any official word, it is hard to comment on the accuracy of this assumption. Back in March, a retailer based in Austria had seemingly leaked the Days Gone release date. But while most assume that it may be launched later in the year (if 2017 is indeed when we get it), the leak suggested an August 22. That’s not too far away, and if the rumor has any weight to it, an announcement should be on the way soon. That remains to be seen, however.
Days Gone has already amassed a fan following, and not only because it comes from what used to be Eidetic back in the 90s. The game looks great because of a central focus on narrative blended with the bloodlust of a man who has seen hell break loose on earth. If you are among those who have been captivated by what you have seen until now, let us know what you would like to see in it.