Days Gone is an open-world zombie action game, from Bend Studio, also known for the classic Syphon Filter franchise. Days Gone didn't enjoy the warmest reception when it launched on PS4, hitting 71 on Metacritic. I have no experience whatsoever with the PS4 version, but some of the feedback seemed to revolve around bugs and polish issues — something Bend Studio has worked tirelessly to correct since then.
I recently started playing Days Gone's PC port on Steam. And so far, I'm having a blast.
Days Gone PC early impressions
I am someone who suffers immensely from something I'm going to call Assassin's Creed fatigue. I'm sick to death of open-world games which revolve around sparsely populated outposts, tower climbing to uncover waypoints, and grinding repetitive cookie-cutter quests that have become aggressively typical of the genre. I'm also aware I may be in the minority; these games seem to be continuously popular. The most recent I played was Watch Dogs Legion, which wasn't a bad game by any means. Legion had some great characters, particularly in its antagonists, and the faithful re-imagining of London was impressive. It just somehow lacked a hook to keep me invested in the long-term, though, before Assassin's Creed fatigue sank in once again. So far, I'm not having the same problem with Days Gone.
I can't put my finger exactly on what it is about Days Gone that is so appealing to me thus far. It could be the zombie apocalyptic setting. I am unapologetically a zombie fanatic. Put zombies in a game, chances are I'll get some form of enjoyment out of it. It could be Deacon as a character, and his relationship with his fellow biker gang member Boozer. Already I feel connected up to the characters in a way that generally escapes me in similar Ubisoft games.
I know from playing The Last Of Us that Sony is generally a little more willing to explore humanity's darker corners than some of the other publishers out there, creating more believable, engaging characterization. Indeed, I've put a fire axe through a child zombie's head. I can't help but feel like something like that wouldn't fly over at Xbox. Slaughtering child zombies is not necessarily my criteria for fun in a video game, by any means. But the way Sony's studios seem to be allowed to explore darker stuff makes me feel like the plot will be less derivative. Days Gone starts off pretty dark, and has gotten gradually darker as I've explored the world more and more. I hate happy games. Maybe I'm just emo.
In any case, some of the other criticisms I've seen about Days Gone haven't exactly held water for me. I've seen people criticize the shooting, oft-comparing it to Red Dead Redemption 2. For me, that's a good thing, though. I like feeling a bit more vulnerable in combat, I like having to think about when to take shots and spend a bit more time lining things up.
The character animations and combat movements are top-shelf quality too, as you might expect from a studio inside Sony's stable. Rather than seeing the same canned execution animations over and over, Deacon has a variety of contextual animations based on your position, movement, and currently equipped weapon. It might seem like a little thing, but it's in those little things that separate an average game from an amazing game, for me.
Days Gone is also just utterly stunning. My PC isn't the most powerful out there, but the visuals are breathtaking. Day and night cycles are an important part of survival in the game, since the zombie "Freakers" shun the light. Weather effects, smog, forest mist, and rain also affect visibility, and thus, your proficiency in stealth. Stealth ironically feels a tad more crucial in Days Gone than any of the modern Assassin's Creed games, that's for sure.
I've been playing the game on Normal difficulty so far, but I'm mulling starting over on the games' survival mode difficulty for a closer prepper apocalypse feel. So much of Days Gone's gameplay mechanics already feel designed to maximize immersion and realism, as far as you can without hitting tedium. You can't magically spawn your motorcycle, for example.
As a biker, Deacon's motorbike is as core to the gameplay experience as it is your weaponry, and maintaining it forms part of the game's progression mechanics. I can see why some people might find the extra step of refueling your bike as potentially tedious, but for me, it adds a bit of additional immersion I often feel is lacking from these types of games. Sometimes I wish games would do a bit more to make you feel grounded in the experience you're having. I loathe the game design trend that dictates the player must feel like an invincible superhero all of the time. Days Gone flips that on its head, especially if you play on the harder difficulty modes.
Like I say, I'm still at a relatively early point in the game, and do plan to put out a full review in the future. But so far, I am loving the experience on offer, and fully understand why Days Gone is dominating Steam charts.
Seeing more PlayStation hit PC is awesome
As someone who plays games primarily on Xbox and PC, especially from the Microsoft ecosystem, it's also just fun getting to explore the other side of the fence a bit. While it wasn't published by Sony, we got Death Stranding on Steam a while ago, and more recently, Horizon Zero Dawn. Seeing some of these games revitalized through the lens of a high-end PC produces some seriously stunning results, and bodes well for more titles hitting Steam in the future. I can totally see games like God of War and The Last of Us eventually hitting Steam, given that their sell-through on console has likely hit their peak. Bringing these games to PC will give Sony a ton of cash to reinvest in its already industry-leading studios, leading to benefits for PlayStation and PC gamers alike.
And hey, maybe Days Gone's success on Steam will help it eventually get a sequel too. Cheers, Bend Studio, for what seems to be a great PC port of a great game, and cheers, Sony, for supporting PC.