One More Look: Days Gone (PS5) – An underrated gem overshadowed by bigger titles
To call Days Gone an overlooked title in 2019 is an understatement. Coming off a heavy month of big AAA releases such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Devil May Cry 5, and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, and with the last big PS4 exclusive being Spiderman, Days Gone has some pretty large shoes to fill. It didn’t help its launch that the game released with numerous bugs that would not be fixed until months down the line.
With the Metacritic score being a 71, it further buries this IP into obscurity and doesn’t join the higher echelon of the “Sony exclusive” club enjoyed by games such as God of War, Spiderman, The Last of Us 2, and Ghost of Tsushima.
Playing the game on the PS5 by way of the PS Plus Collection a year and a half later, I had a good first impression of Days Gone and wondered why it didn’t receive enough credit at the time of release. As I take another look with this game after being patched, there are many aspects of the game that fall under the line of an overlooked gem as well as reinforcing what was criticized on its release.
Compared to how most post-apocalyptic IPs tell their stories, Days Gone feels like they’ve dropped you into the middle part of an ongoing game, with its earlier first chapter being revealed in flashbacks and through the storytelling of found artifacts/collectibles. As a narrative choice, I appreciated and enjoyed this.
Days Gone tells the story of Deacon “Deke” Saint John, a drifter who does contract work for survivor settlements after a world ending outbreak event. Largely a cynical individual with a death wish due to the death of his wife, Sara, Deke rides through the Oregonian badlands fending off against freaks and marauders, wasting away every single day.
At times, side quests and other non-mainline quest events feel quite jarring and take you out of the momentum, but the choice of disparate and interconnected story lines fit greatly with the open world format. Juggling between settlements as a free agent allow you to stitch together side quests and even story missions to save on time (and gas) and deliver to the settlement all at once.
Another refreshing feature is the skill progression, it fits with free flowing combat and Deke’s skill set without activating a separate skill button. Melee and ranged combat flow with each other, easily switching between close-range and long-range combat. Stealth and open combat does not affect any story or character progression, given that you have enough resources to craft supplies.
I also enjoy that each settlement has its own credit system and their own supply chain, so it makes you strategically plan your runs and picking settlements that have weapon upgrades or motorcycle parts, depending on what you will need.
Difficulty spikes are not jarring. It feels that facing off against more difficult freaker or marauder variants could be predicted on where you are in the story. Though there are times when facing off against the infamous Horde as story mission felt way too late in the narrative as around the 20 hour mark, I could take down a mid-sized horde with my current level. Horde clearing really feels satisfying when you’ve defeated one.
While I enjoyed the early to the mid-game progression in the story, the late game is when the title started to come apart at the seams. The gasoline feature, while it was a clever satire on humanity’s thirst for energy, became an annoying feature when the novelty faded.
Motorcycle combat feels like a separate skill set that we don’t necessarily get enough of because of fast travel. After a while though, fast travel is hindered by the gasoline feature where we plan our runs around gas stations and outposts. At times I was searching for a horse or thinking of a way to train deer to just drop the idea of riding my motorcycle.
I personally didn’t agree with the narrative choices around the end of the mid-game. There were character inconsistencies with how Deacon acted earlier in the narrative versus his late game choices, but that’s me nitpicking. Furthermore, the final act of Days Gone felt like a preview to a sequel rather than concluding a well crafted story. It felt like the game loop had reset and I personally took a break from the game. It was that jarring.
Endgame is when the game breaking bugs started to commonly appear. My Dualsense controller loses connection at times that I had to resort to manually resetting the console. The game crashes just as much as Cyberpunk 2077 in between missions. And an assortment of immersion breaking bugs such as clipping and vanishing enemies randomly occur. I understand full well that I am known within my circle to be a bug magnet, so mileage may vary, but there were enough to make my playthrough slightly miserable.
Finally, I feel that a future update of Days Gone for the PS5 could utilize the Dualsense controller better. I personally don’t like the tracking aspect of the game and while we all can’t be Geralt of Rivia, we could improve quality of life by adding the haptic feedback to accurately pinpoint the location of the tracked object versus the inaccurate and frustrating rumble feature of the Dualshock controller.
Frame rate dips were more obvious in the endgame, but it mostly started within the 30th hour of gameplay. Also as a PS5 game, the loading times felt like a PS4 compared to most ports that have speedy load times. It’s quite understandable that it isn’t optimized yet, so a lot of these can still be improved.
What We Liked:
- Improved performance, minimal bugs until the final act of the game.
- Refreshing open world based on relationship with outposts.
- Narrative choices are well outlined and matches with the open world.
- Skill progression feels natural.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Endgame story started to drag with inconsistent character and narrative creative choices.
- After a while, the gasoline aspect becomes a chore.
- Tracking mini-game could use the haptic feedback over the random rumble function.
- Weirdly enough, startup loading times even on the PS5 takes long.
Verdict: Buy It!
Overall, I enjoyed my experience. The bulk of my gameplay was in its early to mid-game exploration, which made me fall in love with the game and dare I say, I enjoyed it more than Ghost of Tsushima. However, what stopped this game from being great are the endgame hiccups from inconsistent narrative/character creative choices to game breaking bugs.
A year and a half later, with its patches, playing it on the PS5, and its starting price point, it feels like a higher tier post-apocalyptic game that carries a good momentum to get you started out. It is a good 30 hours of gameplay experience until the 10-15 hour endgame where certain bits could affect that momentum. Value of money-wise, I enjoyed my experience for most of the game and at a $19.99-$29.99 USD price point currently, it is definitely worth your money and time. For PS Plus subscribers who own a PS5, it’s free from the PS Plus collection, so you can’t really complain about free.
It is definitely a refreshing open world experience that sidesteps what annoys me about most collect-a-thon open world formats. It helped that the disparate storylines and for the most part, Deacon’s sardonic character, carried the game. It’s just unfortunate that the late game didn’t stick the landing to turn this title from an underrated gem into a timeless classic.