An interesting concept, if it works.
On the surface, Sony Bend’s Days Gone doesn’t look like it’s doing much to really shake things up. Zombies have become commonplace in the medium and the crafting and combat mechanics look pretty familiar, especially when compared to those seen in The Last of Us. While there’s no disputing that the game visually looks great, it doesn’t inspire the same kind of intrigue as the likes of Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn. While this may be disappointing to some, Days Gone does have a pretty unique and intriguing factor under the hood, and one that we got to see in action first-hand.
Unfortunately, our behind-closed-doors demo with Days Gone was hands-off. We saw Senior Game Designer Eric Jensen playing through the same section of the game that was shown during Sony’s E3 2017 conference. However, things were a little different this time around. It was snowing. Something so minor actually underscored the game’s most unique feature – its dynamic world. According to Jensen, the game’s world is alive and constantly changing, providing multiple different factors that can change even when approaching the same mission. As a result of this snow, Deacon’s motorbike had less grip on the roads, which proved to make traversal a trickier affair than how we’d seen in the conference demo.
It wasn’t just the motorbike’s handling that had been affected by the snow, though. The Marauders and squanderers that Deacon had to take care of had reduced visibility, allowing for a more stealthy and tactical approach to the combat. This weather doesn’t just affect your human enemies’ visibility; according to the developers, the kinds of zombies you’ll see and how people and the world reacts to your actions will also be affected.
The most notable difference between the two playthroughs came in the form of the wolves that we saw in the conference gameplay walkthrough chasing after Deacon. As he was distracted by the wolves pursuing him on his bike, he drove straight into a trap laid across the road by Marauders, resulting in him being ambushed and left in a compromising position. In the hands-off walkthrough we saw, the wolves weren’t there and Deacon had plenty of time to see the trap, scale a nearby hill, and ambush the enemies laying in wait. It highlighted the completely differing experiences that players could potentially face despite having the same core mission objectives at heart.
It’s an impressive idea, but with this being an isolated mission out of the entire experience, as well as it being a hands-off demonstration, it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much of an impact Days Gone’s dynamic world will actually have on the moment-to-moment gameplay. Jensen told us that even when they’ve been toying around in development that “the game throws things at us that we didn’t even expect to happen.” It’s certainly a promising statement, but I’m skeptical about the extent to which all of these minor changes will have on players’ experiences once the full game releases.