First things first: there are no zombies in Days Gone. SIE Bend Studio, the developers, call them freakers and they are still alive. Apparently, they need to eat and drink just like the rest of us. They run like zombies, attack you and try to bite you like zombies and the ones we have seen certainly look like zombies but they are totally not zombies.
Now that’s out of the way, Days Gone is an open world action/survival game where you are thrust into the shoes of Deacon St. John, a rogue biker guy. It is set two years after a global pandemic ‘infected’ a ton of the world’s population. Due to come out sometime this year, we thought it would be cool to look at how this game can stand out in a world that is abundant (thankfully not in reality) with zombies. Except these definitely aren’t zombies.
1. Customisation and upgrades for your post-apocalyptic aesthetic
As we all know, any good open world game has got a ton of customisable features and upgrades for your character, weapons, vehicles and homesteads. The developers of this game apparently wanted to see how many enemies they could fit on the screen at once, therefore it is safe to assume that you’d need a safe house to get away from the hordes. Personally, I’d love to see a safe house/homestead with some great customisation options. Not just aesthetic ones either, but practical upgrades to help you fend off attacks.
If the open world is as large as they say, then the game would definitely need multiple safe houses where you can stock up on ammo and fuel. Different upgrades for the different locations would add a nice variety. However, one thing that we might not see different versions of is Deacon’s bike. Judging from what the developers have said, there seems to be a personal bond with this bike and therefore it will probably be with you for the whole game.
Seeing as we might not be able to change the bike, hopefully there will be lots of cool upgrade options for it. The tone of the trailer suggests that you won’t be able to go full ‘Dead Rising’ vehicle with it, which is probably a good thing, but they have spoken about realism with the bike. I hope that doesn’t mean that I’m going to search a cave full of ‘not zombies’ for an hour to only find a new mudguard.
2. More diversity away from the protagonist
Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed that the protagonist of this game is yet another grizzled, brooding, white male who’s “seen some things man, and some stuff”. SIE Bend Studio has spoken about trying to avoid the standard tropes of zombie games but have somehow wandered into one of the biggest tropes of games in general. Aiden Pearce, Joel, Max Payne, Booker Dewitt, Sam Fisher, Talion, Solid Snake, Marcus Fenix and the list goes on. Some are awesome, some are less so depending on the layers and development given to them but they are all essentially the same thing. I can’t be the only one who is a little bored of it.
There’s plenty of examples of games which try to break away from this, especially recently, and that’s great, but Days Gone has now committed to Deacon St. John (don’t get me started on that name) so it will have to go some way to get me interested in the characters. I’m really worried that there’s going to be a biker gang of stereotypical bearded white guys, a token black guy, and a couple of white women and they are going to be what we have to deal with as side characters for the game. Diverse and interesting side characters are what helps propel an open world game forward so let’s hope for a lot of them to make up for, sigh, Deacon St. John. Who knows, he could turn out to be awesome.
3. Choices that shape your playthrough
One thing that gamers are clamouring for, and is becoming more and more important in modern video games, is choice. If your friend is trapped in a zombie filled building, we don’t want the story to decide that we have to break in, fight through the horde and rescue them. We want to be able to decide whether or not it is worth the ammo and effort. We also don’t want the story to tell us we are helpless and don’t have enough ammo. We want to be able to bust our way in and start pummeling everything with our fists. It’s these kind of choices that add massively to the immersion of a game, and the harder the choice, the better.
What we don’t want though, is the illusion of choice. If the game lets us make all these choices but the outcome is the same no matter what then there was really no point. To this extent, I’d like to see multiple endings that depend on the choices you make throughout the game. Otherwise it’s all just an illusion that we are in control when really we aren’t. Multiple endings would also add replay value as you could revisit the choices and try something different to find the different outcomes. Choice is more than just different ways to complete the same mission and would really make for a unique experience for each player if they could pull it off.
4. Depth beyond the main storyline
When I say depth, I mean everything outside of the main storyline. Some of the best open world games are great, not because of the main story, but because of the variety and the intrigue generated from grinding out side missions. Interesting and diverse side missions are what we need from this game. They can be a way of lightening the tone of a serious plot, as well as expanding the universe we are in. If utilised correctly then it adds a whole new dimension to your main plot.
Of course there are also probably going to be collectibles with bits of story hinting at that past and all that good stuff, so let’s make sure that’s interesting as well. If a million little things pop up on the map and the player gets nothing out of collecting them then they can just be annoying. If collecting a certain amount unlocks new weapons and abilities then awesome. Not everyone is going to hunt them all down just for the achievement.
5. Unique qualities to help you kill not zombies
Even though it’s set for release this year, there isn’t much information or gameplay around for us to really see what this game is going to be like. What we can see though is that it clearly takes inspiration from The Last of Us. The stunning vistas, the crafting systems and the ‘global pandemic’ all sounds good on paper but we don’t just want an open world The Last of Us. Days Gone will need something to make it unique and help it stand out from the crowd in the zombie genre. It isn’t the first open world zombie game and it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t be the last. So what’s going to set it apart?
Days Gone looks promising. If the game is as good as its looks and setting then Sony might be onto a winner with this exclusive zomb- I mean, not zombie game.