Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Game Review: Days Gone

Posted in botch, reviews, video game by commorancy on June 20, 2021

This former Sony PS4 exclusive game (now also available on Windows), while sporting only the rare fun game mechanic, is hands-down one of the worst single-player games I have ever played. It’s not bad in the same exact way as Fallout 76, but it is definitely the absolute worst game of its kind. Days Gone needs to begone. Let’s explore.

What’s wrong with Days Gone?

That’s a good question. Let’s dive deep into this Sony Interactive / Bend Studio disaster. It’s funny. You would think that Sony could put together good games… especially considering that they seem to keep hiring large ghost developers behind the scenes to put these games together. Well, you’d be wrong. Let’s take a look at Ghost of Tsushima to understand where Day’s Gone goes so horribly astray. Even though Ghost of Tsushima would be released not quite one year after Days Gone, they both share similar problems. Both games must have also been in development during the same time frame.

While Ghost of Tsushima could have been a good game, it copied way too much of Assassin’s Creed for its own good and didn’t do it very well. Though, both Days Gone and Ghost of Tsushima are very pretty games, looking beautiful can only take a game so far. The blowing reeds and flower petal particles in Ghost of Tsushima are wondrous to behold, same for the Oregon mountainous landscape in Days Gone. It’s the game’s mechanics which undermine all of that beauty. Why would I want to play Assassin’s Creed set in feudal Japan when it’s not even written by Ubisoft? Yeah, so there’s that. Regardless, the problems that plague Ghost of Tsushima are the same problems that also plague Days Gone, except Days Gone is even worse than Ghost of Tsushima by an order of magnitude.

With Days Gone, the problems start right from the beginning. First, the game steals the hero’s bike away from him. An unnecessary start to this disaster. If that were the only problem, I could live with it. Second, the sole point to stealing the motorcycle is in giving the player a way to spend time rebuilding the bike… a completely unnecessary included mechanic. That’s the least of the problems with the bike in this game, however. It’s perfectly fine to allow us to rebuild the bike to our own whims and on our own time, but the stolen bike storyline was entirely unnecessary.

Even More Bike Problems

The motorcycle given in concession to the stolen bike is crap by comparison. This crap bike requires the game player to grind, grind, grind for money to repair and enhance the bike. That means heading out to do all of the missions in the game. Except we then run afoul of all of the insipid bike mechanics.

Gasoline UsageStupid Mechanic #1

That this bike mechanic exists is entirely insipid. Real world motorcycles get between 35-40 miles per gallon on average. That means a full 6 gallon tank of gas should see a motorcycle go around 240 miles. In Days Gone, a full tank of gas lasts about 5 minutes of driving, or maybe 3-5 miles. The game literally forces you to stop and gas up about every 5-10 minutes of play. It’s an incredibly time wasting game mechanic. I get that the game wanted to add some measure of realism around requiring gasoline, but this mechanic is overkill and overly burdensome on the player.

If you’re planning on adding this level of burden to the player, then at least have the decency to allow us to disable requiring gasoline as a game option. Grand Theft Auto isn’t that stupid. Why not follow GTA’s formula which doesn’t require gas at all? Gassing up the motorcycle constantly is not only repetitive, it’s insanely stupid. If you’re going to include a gassing up mechanic, at least make it realistic enough that you can drive from one side of the map to the other and back on a single tank. This problem is the first in the tip of this game’s cracking iceberg. Oh yes, it does get worse.

Paying for GasStupid Mechanic #2

When you’re out and about running around, gassing up every few minutes, you can find gas canisters and gas pumps which offer infinite free gas. You just pump and go. However, when you finally meet up with the various factions, these factions require that you pay for gas. Why would you ever do that? Just drive a little bit up the road and find a gas can in the back of a truck that will completely fill the tank. It’s the complete opposite of how this mechanic should have been designed. You should be required to pay for gas at pumps and get free gas with the factions.

RepairsStupid Mechanic #3

Motorcycles don’t just randomly fall apart as you ride them. Yet, in this game, they do. Hopping over the most insignificant little ramp immediately causes damage to the bike. Meaning, by the time you land, the bike already needs 15-30% repair work for each and every little bump. See, I told you that it gets worse.

Further, as you get clothes-lined or snipered by road side ambushes, the bike’s damage level immediately goes from 100% to 0%. There’s no chance of seeing less damage from an ambush. The bike’s repair level is always at 0% after an ambush of any kind. It’s like the bike is some kind of child’s toy made of plastic or something. This tiresome repair mechanic combined with the constant tank refilling makes the bike more of a hassle than a help.

Worse, it takes at least 10 pieces of scrap, probably more, to repair the bike from 0% to 100%. Looking for scrap in this game is also pain in the ass… finding two pieces here, one piece there, cracking open hoods of cars in among a bunch of ghouls. Anyway, you can drive around when the bike is 20% repaired, but that means one tiny little bump and you’re back at 0% again. Both the gas refilling mechanic and the repair mechanic combine to make the entire bike worthless and clinch the disaster that is this game. You could probably walk to locations faster than riding a bike, were it not for the ghouls.

Ghouls and Apocalypse

Here’s where we finally get into the Days Gone story, such that it isn’t. Basically, the world has undergone an apocalypse. A virus has been released that has turned many people into zombies, not unlike the ghouls in Fallout 76. The ghouls are pretty much ripped straight out of Fallout, lunging attacks, screaming and all. It’s like the developers said, “Fuck it, let’s just steal the Feral Ghouls right from Fallout”. So, that’s what they did. While Fallout 76 has modified the Ghouls to be able to run like the Bionic Man at supersonic speeds, the Ghouls in Days Gone remain at least a bit less superhuman than that. That doesn’t make them any better.

The point is, it’s basically an apocalyptic world pretty much like Fallout. Instead of radiation being the culprit, it’s a virus. Regardless, the power plants don’t work, towns are abandoned, ghouls roam the land and the story attempts to unfold what went on and why the ghouls act as they do. It’s a very weak story designed only to give the hero character motivation to find his girlfriend after they get separated.

He also has a brother who loses an arm to burn damage because of other threats across the land. Of course, the world wouldn’t be complete without some deranged faction with loony toons followers, which seems to indicate the first stage of the virus. The second stage of the virus is the ghouls who have no mental capacity other than instinct to kill only. The third stage of the virus is when the ghoul turns into an albino version and gains significant strength. There is a fourth stage of the virus when it turns a ghoul into a hulking brute beast. Not sure how that happens, but the hero encounters one as a boss. If there are further stages, and there probably are, I’ve not yet played far enough in to encounter them.

The ghoul mechanic works okay as an enemy, but it’s also way too much like the ghouls in Fallout. Couldn’t they come up with something new? The ghouls are only a small part of this game’s problems.

Quests and Map Markers

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, literally. The game has you traipse all over the map using that weak ass bike for each and every quest. Noooo, the quests can’t possibly unfold close in proximity. The game literally has you go to one side of the map, perform a quest, then drive all the way across to the other side for the next one. This constant and incessant yo-yo movement is tiresome and highly annoying, particularly when you’re constantly required to refill and repair the bike halfway across the map each and every time.

There is no efficiency in layout of the quests on the map. It’s super annoying and yet becomes completely predictable. This means you’ll need to drive by a refill station at the halfway point before completing the trip to the quest marker… every single time.

There’s no fun to be had with this mechanic. It’s simply becomes tiresome after the third time doing it. Repetitive? Oh, yes. Fun? No way. This game is certainly on its way to being one of the worst games ever.

Ghoul Hordes

Here’s another game mechanic that seems to have been added just to see if it could be done technically. Sure, there’s a story element that weakly ties into the hordes. Additionally, the hordes seem mostly to have been included to also inconvenience the player. There are literal times where the horde goes right over your bike which is parked somewhere away from you. When you want to go back to your bike, you can’t because the horde is right there.

Let me also state that, in general, hordes are basically unkillable under most circumstances. What I mean is that for a player to attempt to attack a horde means certain death. There are so many ghouls in a horde, you simply don’t have enough bullets or melee damage to kill every single one. The only thing you can do is hide in the bushes and wait for them to walk by… slowly… which is like watching paint dry. You can’t do anything else while waiting on a horde. Yet another insipid game mechanic.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a way to defeat a horde as I’ve done it. You must do it at a location where the horde can’t get to you, like on top of a small cliff where only your bike can reach. So long as the ghouls can’t climb up, you’re safe. You can stand on the edge, craft and rain molotovs down onto them. Molotovs are actually the best way to handle ghoul hordes in this game… and these are the easiest grenade-style weapons to make. Unfortunately, ghouls are very agile and can amass in very large numbers quickly and silently. Don’t take a horde on unless you know they can’t get to you.

With that said, hordes are an unnecessary inclusion. I get why they were added, but they’re mostly a nuisance since there’s no general means of taking them out. Taking out a horde requires a very specific set of circumstances which don’t occur often… unless you explicitly know how to plan for it.

Motorcycle Chases

Inevitably, you’ll run into one of the many poorly designed motorcycle chase routines in the game. In fact, these seem to happen about every 5th quest. You’ll arrive at a quest marker and a random motorcycle will speed by requiring you to chase and “subdue” them. Oh no, you can’t kill the biker. You must keep them alive.

Worse, though, is that your gun holds perhaps 10 shots and you’re limited to which guns you can use while on a bike. Oh, but you’re not just chasing one bike, you’re chasing 3 bikers: a primary biker you need to subdue and two random bullet sponge bikers riding just behind. These bullet sponge bikers were included simply to waste bullets. By the time you get those two gone, you’ve already wasted half of the ammo in your gun. This means you have maybe 3-5 bullets left to attempt to stop the fleeing primary biker… not enough to actually do the job.

If the game mechanic only had you chase ONE biker, you would have well enough ammo to do the job. Instead, the game forces you to waste ammo on unnecessary random bullet sponge bikers that honestly make no sense being there.

This chase routine wouldn’t be so bad if there were ways to carry more ammo with you on the bike, but you can’t. All the ammo you carry on your character is all of the ammo you have for that gun. Because there are limited guns you can use while on a motorcycle, once you are out of ammo, the whole thing is done. Without ammo, you cannot subdue the biker without trying to ram him off the road, which is next to impossible on the crap bike they’ve given you. If you could swing your melee bat at him or his bike, you could easily subdue him. The game doesn’t let you use this weapon while on a bike.

Here’s where the game gets its crap reputation and why Days Gone is one of the worst games I have ever played. If, as a developer, you’re requiring us to use a bike, then damn well let us carry as much ammo as we please. Why 10 pieces only? Ammo doesn’t weigh much and even if it does, you could store it on the bike somewhere. You might have to stop to reload, but you could then continue. Unfortunately, the game offers the player no such mechanic. Once you’re out of ammo, you’re pretty effectively forced to abandon the chase and try to buy ammo, find some in a cop car or attempt to locate ammo at some other place. This means you simply can’t finish that quest. It also means you’re going to be redoing that quest over and over and over until you can find just the right set of circumstances to get that dumbass on the bike to stop. Why the game developers didn’t allow us to use all of our weapons, including the melee weapons (which can be used one handed), I have no idea.

One last thing about this chase is that the game refuses to let you go faster than the bike ahead. The game always keeps the biker ahead of your bike regardless of how fast you are traveling. This makes it almost impossible to straddle along side the biker to knock him off. Oh, and guns? Yeah, the primary biker gets to carry not only pistols, but shotguns and molotovs… something the game doesn’t allow the player to do.

Again, nothing fun about these chase scenarios… at all. Simply tedium and frustration only.

Factions

Here’s where the game takes a U turn. There are three factions which you can “join”. By “join”, I mean become a mercenary for. Ultimately, you’re only in it to take quests, fetch things and kill intruders. These quests earn you reputation points and money with each of the factions. Though, why you’d want to be friends with these factions, I’ve no idea. All three of them are run by stupid, insensitive schmucks. None of them understand the gravity of what’s going on out in the world, nor do they really care to know. As long as they have the fence that blocks out the ghouls, they’re happy. All three of the factions really make no sense being there in the way that they are.

It’s actually one of the dumbest game mechanics I’ve seen in an apocalyptic game… especially considering that all three factions are nearly identically configured. Other than in a video game, how could that ever happen?

Ultimately, the factions are only there to dole out quests for the player and offer up money to buy crap.

Disappearing Quests

Here’s another mechanic that always makes me angry every time I see it in a game. You’ll be playing along and something randomly comes along and kills the player’s character. With this game, not only is there an incredibly LONG reload time waiting for the entire game to almost completely reload, once it does reload the quest you were on has completely disappeared along with any enemies who were there.

Worse, these are apparently one-time quests which appear once, but don’t appear again… so you can’t retry. This is true of the roadside ambushes. When they appear, you have one chance to subdue the attackers. If they kill the player, that mini-quest is long gone and won’t appear again… so no vengeance in this game. This situation is entirely frustrating to the point where I want to break the game disk in half. Thankfully, it’s a digital copy and that’s not possible. Though, I most certainly have considered deleting the game from my console several times. For whatever reason, I keep coming back to it in hopes that it might get better. It never does.

Fun in the Game

There are a few places in this game where I have had at least a minimal amount of fun. Though, it has nothing to do with that crap ass bike, the rail quests or any other story progression. The one and only one fun element is taking out the ghoul nests. These are side quests that are solely designed to enable fast travel to points beyond the nest site. However, these activities are probably the most fun thing to do in this game world. The reason is, there are no artificial constraints forced onto the player, like the bike chase artificial weapon constraints that sap all of the fun out of what could have been great fun.

Because clearing out the nests is entirely an open world side quest, you can use whatever weapons you want, choose whatever tactics you like and do it as you see fit. The developers don’t stand in your way by having you do it in some very artificial and unusual way. With all of the primary quests, it’s all so rail based. Each of those primary quests are so artificially constrained, so in-your-face and so unnecessarily burdensome, the player must fully play by the developer’s rail-based rules to complete it. You can’t venture off of your bike and choose to do it your own way, otherwise the game will detect that and fail the quest.

With many of the side quests, there are few, if any constraints on how you to achieve your goal. If you wish to be sneaky, that’s your choice. If you want to lure the ghouls into a specific spot and take them all out with a bomb, go for it. It’s all left entirely up to the player. It’s these open world tactics that make this game fun. It’s also the artificially constrained main quests that make the game repetitive and tedious.

Game developers need to learn that open world games without any play constraints are way more fun than rail-based quests. Such quests, in the case of this game, force the gamer into artificially constrained play methods to complete that quest… such as being forced to craft and throw a molotov, but you cannot use any other weapons. While molotovs have a place and a use, they are not always useful for every situation. Let the player determine the best strategy to employ for quest closure. Don’t force the use of a strategy onto the player as it makes no sense and saps the fun out of allowing the player to choose their play style.

Enforcing a specific play strategy onto a player is best left up to a game’s tutorials. Tutorials are designed to show the player how to use a molotov or a pistol or a sniper rifle. This is the one and only one place where artificial constraints can be used. Players understand that tutorials are designed to teach how to use a specific game mechanic. However, once in a open game world, those constraints need to disappear. When they reappear as part of a primary quest, the quest becomes more about fighting the constraints and less about actually completing the quest.

Open world games need to remain open world 100% of the time, not whenever is convenient for the developer. That developers seem to think we want to play under super-artificial constraints is both stupid and asinine. We don’t.

Side Quests vs Main Quests

If side quests can offer fully open play, thus allowing the gamer to choose his or her strategy, then why are the main quests so constrained? It’s a valid question… one that game developers need to pose internally to their team. If the game can offer fully unconstrained questing with side quests, then it can also offer fully unconstrained questing with the main story quests.

For example, the NERO quests require eavesdropping only. You can’t engage the enemy at all and you cannot be spotted. Why? This is insipid. There is absolutely no reason why I can’t choose to engage this enemy and take out those who get in my way. If I can take out random ghouls all over the place, I can take out the NERO guards as I see fit. Again, insipid.

Yet, when you go to burn the nests (side quest), you can choose exactly how you want to do this quest, though you will have to use molotovs to burn the nests. But, if you choose to take out every single ghoul, that’s your choice. How you choose to take them out is also your choice. You can sneaky-sneak up behind them and use your boot knife or you can pull out your favorite pistol and gun them down. You can even stand on a ridge and sniper them. Again, your choice.

With NERO agents, you’re given some weak story context about them wearing Kevlar. Hello, Kevlar doesn’t cover every exposed portion of their body. This is a virus laden apocalypse, their Kevlar is probably damaged. Yet, no. The game prevents pulling out the weapon to even try. Kevlar also can’t stop damage from grenade or fire based weapons.

If side quests can offer the flexibility of choice for how to complete them, then the main quests need to also offer this same level of flexibility. As I said, these main quests are too artificially constrained to specific tasks and objectives, deciding for the gamer in advance how to complete it. For the main quests, there is only one correct path, all other paths lead to failure.

Repetitive

With all of the above stated, the game is highly repetitive, main or side quests. Once you do about 10 quests of any form, you’ll find yourself repeating them over and over… such as burning nests. This activity is always the same, the only thing that varies is where the nests are located, which locating them can sometimes be the only challenge. Being an errand-boy is also one that becomes repetitive. Indeed, you’ll even find yourself performing similar quests in the same town multiple times. Yes, it gets old.

Most games which offer quests do have a repetitive nature, but Days Gone is overly repetitive. Not only do all of the enemies look identical, they are identical, particularly the ghouls. To make money in this game, for example, you have to hunt ghouls or animals and collect meat or souvenirs. These items can be sold to faction merchants for credit in that particular faction.

This money can be then used to buy weapons, supplies and bike parts depending on which of the 3 factions you visit. Once you embark on the chore of hunting ghouls, it’s very, very repetitive and not much in the way of fun. The ghouls themselves have specific attack types which are easily avoided once you understand their inane strategy. The same can be said of most enemies in the game, not just ghouls.

The one type of attack that you cannot avoid is being clothes-lined or sniper ambushed. By the time you see either, they’ve already pulled the bike out from under you and sent it to 0% repair land. Again, these ambushes are both predictable and identical each and every time. The part that isn’t predictable is where the ambush is located. The game randomly spawns them in trees or in places you can’t see. Because there’s no warning system, it can be almost impossible to avoid being ambushed. Yes, there are flashing question marks on the map (?), but these sometimes appear without any warning.

Gas and Missions

This game is also, unfortunately, terribly inconsistent with gas usage while in missions. Some missions don’t use any gas at all. Some rely on the gas that’s in your tank and will run it out. You have no idea which mission uses gas and which doesn’t… that is until after the mission starts. This is probably one of the most ridiculous inconsistencies in this game.

Either all missions need to use gas or none need to use it. Having some require it and some not and not knowing which is which makes me again want to break the game disk in half.

This inconsistency is probably one of the more egregious problems in this game and is a serious enough problem that has made me want to rage quit this turd of a game several times. Gas isn’t something you can find easily or quickly. If you’re going to toss me into a bike chase to take down some random NPC, then you damned well better make sure gas isn’t consumed during the chase.

If gas were readily available all over the place in this game or if you could carry extra gas in a can on your bike, I wouldn’t rail so hard against this problem. However, gas is very difficult to quickly find in this game. It’s even more ridiculous that you also can’t carry spare gas on your bike. It’s worse that you can’t drive more than about 2-5 minutes before the tank is empty… that’s just overly stupid.

Again, if you’re setting me up for a chase, then the gas consumption needs to halt for the duration of the chase. There’s simply no time to take a detour to stop and fill the bike up in the middle of the chase. That just doesn’t work. Attempting to locate gas during a bike chase will end that chase in failure. It’s the same problem as running out of ammo. You can’t carry spare ammo with you or on your bike. You’re forced to go to a merchant or hunt for a cop car and spend time cracking it open to raid the trunk. Ammo is another item that’s not easily found simply lying about. It can only be found in very specific locations throughout the game and it takes way too much time to find it. Invariably, the chase will take you in some direction no where near a gas pump or any ammo.

Overall

This game is trite and cliché. The play value is crap. The quests are uninspired. The game is repetitive and insipid. The game is not thoughtfully designed for either functionality or fun. There’s really very little redeeming about Days Gone other than its very pretty rendering engine. I feel sorry for the graphics and map designers. They spent a lot of time and effort to make the game seem very realistic. Unfortunately, the game mechanic designers completely failed the graphics guys. The game’s mechanics are horrible, insipid, repetitive and, at times, unplayable. The story is even worse to the point of being unengaging. Why should we care about these people, Bend?

Graphics: 9.5 out of 10
Audio: 8.5 out of 10
Combat: 3.5 out of 10
Bike Combat: 2.5 out of 10
Main Story Quests: 2.5 out of 10
Side Quests: 7 out of 10
Overall: 1.5 out of 10

Recommendation: Rent only. Do not buy this absolute turd of a game.

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