A sequel to Days Gone, the Sony Bend survival horror open world, was pitched but never given the go-ahead. That’s according to a Bloomberg report, and it’s certainly corroborated by the departure of long-time leads like John Garvin and Jeff Ross – the latter of whom was a veteran at the studio spanning all the way back to the Syphon Filter days in the mid-1990s. It’s resulted in an outpouring of love for the biker-themed sandbox, although it’s perhaps important to remember that enthusiasts weren’t always this nice to Deacon St John and his ragtag band of post-apocalypse pals.
This game was, at the time of its release in 2019, very much considered the unloved stepchild in PlayStation’s first-party portfolio. Many pondered why Sony had poured resources into another zombie game – especially with The Last of Us being one of its flagship franchises. The similarities between Naughty Dog’s series and Days Gone were always few, but the game – with its familiar collapsed society aesthetic – unquestionably felt like an awkward fit in the PS4’s first-party line-up.
Of course, it’s the game that Sony Bend wanted to make and was passionate about, and we have to give PlayStation credit for supporting the team’s vision. The critical reception at the time – we described the release as “open world comfort food” – was pretty good, but some strange pacing issues and bugs at launch meant it never achieved the highs of, say, Ghost of Tsushima – and while it ranked among the 20 best-selling games in the United States in 2019, it wasn’t quite a breakaway hit.
But time has been extremely kind to Days Gone, and in the years since it debuted, much of the cynicism has eroded. Even around launch, the game attracted a fervent fan base; it was a rare example of a disconnect between critics and players, where those who liked it really liked it, and they made sure to tell you so. The seeming confirmation that there will be no sequel has resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of adoration for the series: how dare Sony not further the franchise?
To be fair, the story sets up a sequel, and it’s frustrating that we’ll probably never know what was planned. To us, the original always felt like a rough-cut diamond: we reckon iteration, much like we saw with Assassin’s Creed to Assassin’s Creed II, could have resulted in something special. The horde mechanic, which was the release’s flagship feature, surely could have been expanded on – utilising the environment to clear out waves of Freakers was undeniably fun.
And in a climate where survival games are some of the biggest around – the audience for releases like Ark: Survival Evolved and Valheim are enormous – it’s unfortunate we’ll never see what Sony Bend had in store. We really enjoyed the original’s threatening environment, and how your motorcycle became both your means of traversal and your sanctuary in a world that was out to get you at all times. Base building and camp management are mechanics that we’d like to have seen added.
For all the criticism it attracted as well, we enjoyed the story. Its cast were caricatures at times, from military nutcases to religious zealots, but there was something homely about the relationships in this game. Deacon and Boozer’s brotherly love was relatable, despite the extraordinary circumstances they found themselves in; some of the scenes involving St John and his wife Sarah were cute, too. It was low-budget, TV drama stuff – but it never pretended to be anything else.
The fact that the title is currently free on PS Plus and is being ported to PC later this year makes the absence of a sequel even stranger in our eyes. Sony Bend updated the release to run flawlessly at 60 frames-per-second in 4K resolution on PS5, and there’s never been a bigger audience for the title than there is right now. As time goes on, we’re convinced that its status as a cult classic will be enforced; the fact that there’s no sequel on the cards means that it’ll only be remembered more fondly.
Expect to see this series on many listicles moving forwards, as one of the forgotten franchises that deserves a sequel, alongside the likes of Twisted Metal and Jak & Daxter. Days Gone was arguably misunderstood from the outset, and it must be frustrating for Sony Bend’s veterans that only now is it getting the respect it always deserved. This apocalyptic open world was once the awkward, ugly duckling in PlayStation’s first-party line-up – but there’s no question that time will be kind to Deacon St John.