It’s easy to write off Bend Studio’s Days Gone as “just another zombie game,” but if the demo showed at E3 2017 is any indication, there’s something more interesting happening here.
It also showed us that leather-clad badass protagonist Deacon St. John is one of three main characters that make the world of Days Gone a totally unique experience.
A living world
The world of Days Gone quickly emerges as another main character. While the freakers might be a standout feature that people cling to, they’re far from the biggest danger in the wilderness.
Human enemies are clever, and take a beating before they finally collapse. Infected bears with barbed wire attached to them threaten to rip you to shreds. Most of all, a cruel and inhospitable climate threatens to leave you stranded, frozen, or dead at the bottom of a ravine.
The team showed off an alternate version of the mission that ran during the Sony press conference, and surprisingly, the addition of snow changed everything. Instead of infected dogs distracting Deacon and causing him to run straight into an ambush, the animals had sought cover from the cold, and he was able to flank the would-be assailants and kill them brutally.
New freakers appeared where there weren’t any, this time active and hungry. The blanket of snow also brought with it quiet, causing Deacon to be discovered sooner by the marauding gang.
That change in weather is something all too familiar to the team at Bend Studio. The high desert of the Pacific Northwest is the studio’s backyard, and as fellow Oregon residents, we know the weather can flip from snow-covered to overwhelmingly hot in a matter of minutes. Each change affects everything from noise, to freaker population, to Deacon’s motorcycle’s traction, which brings us to the third main character.
Your best friend
With the world, the bandits, and the freakers all trying to kill Deacon, his trusty motorcycle is always at his side. The heavily modified chopper can take him off into the wilderness, as long as he keeps it fed with a steady supply of gasoline. That might not be as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes, Deacon will find a gas tank filled and ready to go, without anyone in sight. Sometimes, it will be the bait for an ambush. It could also be up the hill from a swarm of hundreds of freakers, which could show up anywhere, at any time. Take enough damage, and the motorcycle will stop working, leaving Deacon to find a way to repair it.
Best of all, the motorcycle riding aspect of the game looked really fun. The empty roads leave plenty of room to really get some speed going, with plenty of beautiful scenery around. Don’t look too long, because there’s also danger lurking around every corner.
Bend Studios is keeping a lot of the specifics under wraps, but it’s clear there’s a lot of opportunities to customize, upgrade, and grow and evolve with the bike. The team says we’ll hear more about that soon enough.
Deacon and the freakers
As we learn more about the harsh realities of the Days Gone world, we’re starting to find the freakers are taking a back seat to a mixture of other systems. The goal for Bend Studios is now to make sure that those interlocking mechanics, and the beautiful, vast world, can shine through the tired idea of another zombie game.
That’s going to be an uphill battle. Trying to call the freakers something other than the Z word is a start, but one that’s also not a totally original move. The team is already trying to focus in on the world, and the motorcycle, as key component in Days Gone, and both of them are much more impressive and original than even a thousand zombies.
Days Gone will hit the PlayStation 4 at an unknown date.