*This article will contain spoilers for Days Gone’s story*
Before Launch and Reception
Sony’s Bend Studio released Days Gone in 2019. It focuses on Deacon St. John, a veteran and former motorcycle club member, who pursues his missing wife, Sarah, two years after the beginning of a zombie apocalypse. Players provided a mixed reaction to the game at launch. Glitches, choppy frame rates, and the game’s slow pace were common issues for many. Others had a positive experience with the game, and grew to love the world, characters, and gameplay mechanics. Regardless, in the end, Days Gone was not the success that many players or the developers were hoping for.
It is for that reason that Sony has decided to not continue with the series, cutting off fans’ hopes for a sequel. Many were so disappointed by the news that they took to creating a petition to get Sony to change their minds about the project. This petition now has over 100,000 signatures.
My First Journey With Days Gone
I was one of those 100,000 people who signed the petition, because I grew to love Days Gone this year. This was a dramatic shift after initially having an experience with the game that was forgettable. There weren’t many technical issues, but I was unimpressed by the slow burn of the game’s narrative and open-world design.
I was initially very excited to dive into the world that Bend had created. I saw Days Gone, with its zombies, damaged environments, and hardened survivors, as an intriguing new adventure. However, upon finally playing the game, the connection was simply not there. The characters and the gameplay, particularly the driving, were lackluster. After a short time, I tossed Days Gone to the side.
I reluctantly tried the game one more time during the summer. As I spent time playing, I realized I was still unsatisfied. The story was seemingly going nowhere and I felt no attachment to the characters. After a short amount of contemplation, I finally decided to drop Days Gone entirely.
A Second Chance
After the PlayStation 5 was launched, I began to notice myself thinking about Days Gone more and more. I didn’t have many games to play on the console at the time, and many people had been praising the game online. I started thinking about the reasons as to why I gave up on the game. Was the pacing really that bad? Shouldn’t I have been a little more patient with the characters? Wouldn’t the driving improve over time? These questions became more and more frequent as the days went by. It was because of this, along with my newly developed love for Sons of Anarchy, that I finally decided I would give the game a second chance.
This time, I found the experience more interesting in the beginning. The opening scenes where Deacon loses Sarah were far more endearing to me. I found them well-acted and well-written. Deacon puts Sarah on a helicopter after she is injured, and then sends her away with other survivors to a nearby camp. He chooses to stay behind with his best friend Boozer, who was also injured, in order to ensure his friend’s survival. Deacon attempts to find his wife at the camp later on, but is unsuccessful. These moments define his character going forward.
I was impressed with the opening sequence and its thematic implications, but also with the gorgeous visuals that the game’s setting had to offer. Post-apocalyptic Oregon, with all of its stunning landscapes and environments, continued to impress me as I went from one mission to the next. The shooting and driving mechanics also stood out to me as much more satisfying, perhaps due to the upgraded DualSense controller. The hordes of the game were also a stand-out feature; I found them increasingly enjoyable and intense.
Deacon St. John
Aside from beautiful visuals and fun gameplay, the most important aspect of a game, from my perspective, is the narrative. Days Gone is a slow burn, but one that I became invested in because I grew to care about the characters. I was at first ambivalent about Deacon. I respected his struggles and how he could not process his wife’s disappearance. But I also found his frequent yelling and outbursts, particularly when he was talking to himself, to be slightly frustrating. It was only as the game continued to unfold that I became more intrigued by, and ultimately resonated with, Deacon as a character.
I realized that his behavior was perfectly understandable given the horrible situation he found himself in. I feel that Deacon is a far more compelling character than people give him credit for. His trauma stems from his time in Afghanistan, as well as the loss of his wife and the outbreak. He feels guilt over his decision to put Sarah on the helicopter, and thus feels responsible for her disappearance.
A perceived loss of control defines his character. This is why he is constantly talking to himself. He feels insecure over his past traumas, and ends up overcompensating by always having to reaffirm his ability to impact the world around him. Deacon’s flaws and his compassion both express his inherent humanity. He displays many acts of empathy and loyalty throughout the game, while also being aggressive and impulsive. Understanding these character attributes made me connect with and appreciate Deacon, and ultimately, Days Gone as a whole.
My change of heart
The supporting cast is also one to remember and they are all interesting and compelling characters on their own. Despite my praises, I still recognize the game’s issues. It was still too long despite the fact that I enjoyed the slower pace this time around. I also felt like the final antagonist was a weak and cliché choice. But it was the characters, along with the engaging gameplay and open world, that led to me being truly happy with my second experience with Days Gone.
I Love all forms of fiction, but have a special passion for games. Character and narrative > everything else.