Had you told me a week ago that I would be thoroughly enjoying the Days Gone experience in seven days' time, I'd assume you had gotten me mixed up with someone else. I couldn't stand the opening handful of hours, but the more I forced myself to play it, my opinion began to change. You may have picked up on that recently through our weekly What Are You Playing articles, and it has now gotten to a point where I can say that I genuinely enjoy playing Days Gone. There's a very particular point in the story where my mood started to change, though, so let's discuss the events leading up to that and the aftermath that ensued.
Despite my overall thoughts improving dramatically, the opening hours of Deacon St. John's adventure through post-apocalyptic Oregon continue to baffle me. With a bike slower than a 1995 Ford Fiesta, I slogged my way through the first couple of uninspired missions unable to quite comprehend what I was experiencing. This is a Sony published game, and I'm not enjoying it in the slightest. These types of open-ended titles are normally my bread and butter – I love Assassin's Creed Odyssey, for example – but Days Gone just wasn't clicking whatsoever. The open world was largely boring, Freakers didn't really seem to pose much of a threat, and the shooting felt utterly abysmal.
I think I'm going to keep having nightmares about the first automatic assault rifle you acquire in Days Gone. That thing couldn't hit a target a mile wide if its life depended on it, and the worst thing of all is that it's still your best option for combat encounters until you manage to raise your trust level with any particular camp. But while that frustrated me to no end, the plot and accompanying cutscenes weren't doing much of a better job either.
There's one in particular that really, really stands out to me. Certain side missions allow you to learn more of the relationship Deacon shared with Sarah, one of which explores the events that lead up to their ill-timed separation. I'm learning how she got her life-threatening injury when the game suddenly proceeds to replay the entire opening sequence of the game over again. I've already seen that cutscene, so what on Earth were Sony Bend thinking by playing it once more? The frequent fade to blacks don't make things any better either – constantly taking you out of the experience to trigger a load screen.
But still, I trudged on in the hope that anything whatsoever would grab me. And then it happened. Making it to the Lost Lake camp is a complete revelation in Days Gone, as it feels like it's there where things really get moving. I'm introduced to characters I quickly build a liking for, a setting that feels welcoming, and a narrative that suddenly kickstarts itself. While the search for confirmation of Sarah's death has persisted up until now, the only other beat to riff of was the act of riding up north with Boozer. Now, I have multiple threads to follow that involves both humanity and the Freakers.
Whenever a NERO mission pops up, I now go and do it immediately. The world-building and lore those quests introduce are really quite impressive, detailing the backstory of the outbreak along with speculating the inner workings of it. I'm not going to spoil anything, but these acts pose some very interesting questions that I find myself pondering when I'm not even playing the game.
I've even managed to find a machine gun that shoots accurately by this point! The Lost Lake camp genuinely changes the game for the better, to the point where everything that came before it almost feels like a prologue. I'm enjoying going out on missions with Iron Mike, scouting the hordes and learning how they tick, while Rikki gets personal about the gang and her connection with Deacon St. John. I look forward to exploring each and every one of these narrative threads with a souped-up bike that can actually put some distance between me and the Freakers. Let's compare it to a Mazda RX8 now.
One more understanding I've come to is how to approach the open world. It's fairly generic, with only the likes of the random blue question marks there to pull you off the main path. As such, I'm sort of skipping that portion of the experience entirely and leaving it until the end-game for now. I fast travel all over the place, completing sequences of missions one after the other, and I definitely think this is the best way to play. From where I'm standing, it's constant narrative and consistent action. That's exactly what I was looking for during those opening hours.
The craziest thing, though, is that I'm apparently only halfway through the game. I can't wait to see where the plot takes me, experience combat with every upgrade unlocked and a whole host of top of the line weaponry, and then there are the hordes waiting for me when everything is about wrapped up. I'll experiment with the open world once all is said and done, and with the upcoming free DLC, I'll probably have even more to do by the time I reach that point anyway. Yeah, I'm really enjoying Days Gone.
Have you ever done a 180 on a game halfway through? Was it for the better or worse? What are your thoughts on Days Gone so far? Avoid the Rippers in the comments below.