Days Gone

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JaySevenZero
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Days Gone

Post by JaySevenZero »

Here's where you can contribute your thoughts and opinions of Days Gone for potential inclusion in the forthcoming podcast.

A friendly reminder to all that where feedback for the podcast is concerned, we love it - but self-editing (brevity) is appreciated. We do want to include a breadth of opinions where appropriate, but no-one wants a discussion podcast that’s mainly reading. Better to save yourself time and cut to the chase if you can.

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DeadpoolNegative
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Re: Our next podcast recording (19.4.20) - 415: Days Gone

Post by DeadpoolNegative »

Since there are no thoughts so far I'll repurpose some stuff I wrote elsewhere in the forum and add additional thoughts later:

I'll be the first to admit this game has problems. It's VERY long, for one thing, which is why I played it on Easy. It's actually GOT story, but it holds a lot of it behind some grindy, repetitive missions. There was a moral choice system that Bend Studio removed seemingly late in development, because, and rightfully so, I think, it made Deacon St. John too much of an asshole, and in the final product he's balanced out by Witwer's performance. You can definitely see this in the contrast between the Tucker and Copeland camps. The game probably wanted you to send more survivors to each camp and debate on which one was better or worse, but in the final product it's just do you want more loyalty or money, or just loyalty or just money? There's also the fact that Deacon won't take Boozer to either camp despite his injury and they keep asking Deek where Boozer is and he evades every answer. I think there was something there.

A digression about Copeland for a moment: this is one of the odder things I've come across in a game recently. Copeland is an Alex Jones type who rants about the fact that now the Freakers have (seemingly) destroyed the world Americans are finally free to be Americans and have thrown off the yoke of the US Government. He's voiced by Crispin Freeman in his maximum "This is a BAD DUDE" dudgeon. Whenever Deek intercepts one of his many radio transmissions Deek always responds with shouts and hollers about what a paranoid dweeb he was before the fall of civilization and how he shouldn't be taken seriously.

The thing is, with all the stuff that eventually happens in the game, especially with NERO and their strange intentions, Copeland is essentially RIGHT to be so paranoid- the government was doing some shady, strange stuff at Sarah's lab, someone tried to blow the whistle, and now everything's gone to shit, NERO is still experimenting and not telling the truth about what's going on, and everyone needs to pick up a gun and protect themselves. Bend Studio's writers clearly don't intend for Copeland to be seen as a good person, but in the early hours of the game, in contrast to Tucker, he feels like at the very least an honorable man. He's apologetic to Deacon about the loss of his bike. His camp looks rickety but the people there seem satisfied. Whereas at Tucker's camp she's got better amenities, better security, and better merchandise, but she's essentially running a forced labor camp. Although it's never explained what, exactly, she's doing. Is she supplying food? Does she run some sort of racket with the other camps? Iron MIke's crew seemingly doesn't need her help (and in fact Deacon and Boozer were exiled from Mike's camp for doing business with her) and it seems like nobody north knows about what's beyond the mountains down south. I really thought in the final act of the game there would be some sort of "Unite the camps" mission where Deacon tries to get everyone together, which would pay off your interaction with both Tucker and Copeland. But that doesn't happen; once you get to Iron Mike's both Copeland and Tucker recede from the narrative only to pop up offering occasional side quests.

Noah Gervais, for my money one of the best analysts on YouTube, did a fantastic video contrasting the pacing and structure of both Days Gone and Horizon Zero Dawn. I also played Horizon this year (and maybe one day I'll get around to discussing it) and while like Noah, I'd agree that in every aspect I think Horizon is the better game, I have to part ways with Noah I certainly didn't mind spending time with Deacon St. John (Granted, Gervais admitted St. John remind him too much of some real life people he's dealt with). And that largely has to do with the actor who's playing him.

When I first played The Force Unleashed a decade ago (I'm trying to play it again now, with diminishing returns), I really loved the game, I thought it was fantastic. it made me, however briefly, believe in Star Wars again. And a good credit for that goes to Sam Witwer.

Witwer is one of those actors that, while physically he looks kind of weird, and will probably be stuck in genre pieces for the rest of his life, is actually quite good, usually better than the material requires (Other genre examples of this include Aaron Douglas and Morena Baccarin). he brings a lot to his characters. Can one mocap performance save a game? Probably not, but I doubt I would have made it through all of Days Gone if Witwer wasn't with me.

In his video, Noah complained that Deacon St. John is a wife guy, the kind of stupid violent goof that doesn't kill women- except in a side quest! The thing is, Witwer does interesting things with that. It's clear that the loss of Sarah means Deacon is really not all there anymore. He mutters under his breath, whines to no one when he's all alone, he can't quite let go of his fear and anger at others and just rejoin civilization even though that's the smart play. He cares about Boozer deeply but also can't explain to him how he's really feeling. He refuses to see Iron Mike's pragmatism until Mike literally shoves him into it. When he discovers Lisa, Witwer shows the conflict within Deacon: On the one hand, he desperately wants to help this girl but on the other he really has no fucking idea whatsoever how to deal with someone who's even more psychologically broken than he is, so he keeps trying to push her off onto someone else. And that has consequences.

And it helps that they do these flashback missions illustrating his relationship with Sarah (It's also very video game logic that both Deacon AND Sarah's past actions contributed to central sections of the overall plot. Oregon's a small state I guess). Courtnee Draper is fun and flirty and there's a little hint in both actors' performances that the reason the two connected is that they're so different. They're a release valve from the other's day to day. The buttoned up scientist and the likely untreated PTSD afflicted ex-military biker. That hilarious wedding scene works because in ways they're both playing a role (Is it just me, or does Sarah have zero tattoos in her first flashback scene?). Maybe because Elizabeth is still so seared in my mind after all these years, but it felt like Sarah was significantly younger than Deacon, even though there's only an eight year age difference between Draper and Witwer. And the whole thing about Sarah pays off in the end, even if you see it coming a mile away.

There's a lot of other good voice acting in the game too, Eric Allan Kramer, who will always be MY Thor, dammit, is almost unrecognizable as Mike at first. He brings a lot of depth to a thinly written role (but even he can't sell "Why is Skizzo still around"). Nishi Munshi, whom I've never heard of, has a lot of chemistry with Witwer as she tries to get Deacon to grow up and integrate herself with the rest of the camp. There's Debra Wilson, playing The Debra Wilson Video Game Character, and well, as always. Bernado De Paula does a surprising amount with the O'Brian character even though for the majority of the game his face is completely covered. The character is the typical wimpy scientist guy Who Secretly Knows More Than He's Letting On, but Can't Tell The Hero Because Plot. In fact, in the movie version he would be played likely by Mark O'Brien. But DePaula brings a weariness to the character that gives him a bit of pathos. O'Brian may be "protected" but he doesn't like his bosses any more than Deacon can tolerate Tucker and Copleand.

I've been taking about the acting but I haven't gone much into the plot which wavers from a taut, tense examination of the psychological toll the apocalypse takes on a person to a Walking Dead plot line we've seen a million times, and it can frustrate . Yet there's a lot in the game writing, credited mostly to co-director John Garvin with Anne Toole, that's strong. It's a very schizophrenic experience. Like Deacon can't understand why Iron Mike is so tolerant of the Rippers, and at first the player almost can't. Why negotiate with them? Why not take them out? Well, eventually Iron Mike doesn't just explain to Deacon he shows him. And while eventually he's proven wrong by what happens, Iron Mike's desire NOT to have blood on his people's hands, makes a twisted sort of sense when you discover what he went through in the early days of the fall of civilization. Of course, going on during the Iron Mike section is all the stuff with Skizzo. While I'll give Jason Spisak credit for his enthusiasm, this character makes no fucking sense whatsoever. He's mean, he's disruptive, nobody likes him... but Iron Mike keeps him around, and doesn't really answer when Deacon asks him point blank as to why. It's bizarre how the writing takes so much care with most of its characterization yet Skizzo is such an obvious one. Even the military weirdos you run into later in the game, as bent as they are, seem functional. With Skizzo you're just waiting for him to turn on you, and he does in the most predictable fashion. And he leaves the plot and arrives in times of maximum convenience.

Rikki is a good character, and her interactions with Deacon and The Debra Wilson character are a highlight of the game. I sometimes think The Debra Wilson Character was a victim of the cutting room floor, since she has a bit of a half-formed arc. Garrett is a familiar stereotype, and Daniel Riordan is doing his usual schtick, but he has his moments, even if it's hard to believe someone so obviously mental could hold such sway over seemingly rational people.

I haven't talked too much about the gameplay, but I do like it; I like having to worry about gas, blowing up nests, taking out freaks, being very careful about my ammo and not getting caught by hordes early in the game. It helps that a lot of the fast travel and power ups do feel useful, so you're compelled to check off all the things on the map.

But here's the weird thing.

I can't take down a horde.

Now, the game makes you wait a long, long, LOOOOOOONG time before it gives you the tools necessary to take out a horde. When I got that napalm I was fucking overjoyed! Finally we're gonna have some fun!

And I couldn't' do it.

I tried once. twice. three times. TEN TIMES. And over and over again, I could barely make a dent in the horde. I would run away. I would try to redirect. But I'd get off my bike, position myself, lure some freakers to a bottleneck or corridor, and success! But I could never take out enough for me to protect myself long enough to get back on my bike and get away. I tried strategically attacking certain areas, but I could never make any progress. The AI for the hordes would simply outmaneuver me. My guns were never powerful enough. The napalms never had enough spread.

And then the game lets me skip them! It lets me skip the story required horde takedowns. I really needed to finish the game and move on to other things, so I shamefully moved on. I don't know if Im just clumsy or needed to practice more. But here's the game's big standout setpiece and I cannot do it.

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DeadpoolNegative
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Re: Our next podcast recording (19.4.20) - 415: Days Gone

Post by DeadpoolNegative »

I've been struggling to come up with more things to say about Days Gone (the above was written back in December). Not because I don't have anything to say, but because the idea of a world ravaged by an outbreak where everyone is cut off from each other, and said plague is evolving and even the smart guys, the scientists who know the most about it, they don't know how to stop it, well, it makes me hesitant to approach the keyboard.

But I do have some more scattered thoughts: Like Red Dead Redemption 2, Days Gone is overly long to a fault, and the storytelling is sometimes not quite up to snuff or the writers' ambitions. Like Red Dead Redemption 2, I felt compelled, almost despite myself, to see it out to the end. Like Red Dead Redemption 2, the game is anchored by a fantastic lead performance, one full of depth that may have not been there on the page.

I think what makes me want to give the game the edge over Red Dead Redemption 2, is that I felt more drawn into Deacon St. John's world than I did Arthur Morgan's, probably because i knew how Morgan's story would end.

While the missions are repetitive at times, eventually the routine of them, of clearing out safe houses and freaker nets to find better ways to move about the world, becomes compelling. Deacon St. John drifts between camps, doing job after job, trying to make sure Boozer gets better, holding on to a scrap of hope regarding Sarah. But as the game's story continues, he finds himself drawn into the greater conflicts involving the camps, the freakers, the rogue gangs, and the scientists. I think one of the points the game's story tries to argue is that you can't go it alone. Deacon St. John is not perfect, he may not even be a good man- but in a world as ravaged as the world of Days Gone, he turns out to be the man it needs. He may desire the open road and the wind in his face, with only Boozer at his side and a gun on his hip, but when it finally came time to defend the people who needed defending, when he learned there were threats bigger than just the Freakers, men like Garrett and their madnesses, and by the end, he's pretty much become the new Iron Mike. He didn't want to be a leader he didn't want to be part of this world. But as the tagline said, the world came for him. And he's a peace with it. And as the game's final epilogue reveals, Deacon St. John's story is just beginning. I guess you could say this first game was good, but a sequel- if it happens- could be great.

Overall Days Gone has a familiar if solid gameplay loop that falters more than it should, but it's a gameplay loop I keep coming back to in my mind, there was something to getting on that bike, doing a mental check of what I needed to do to set up the next mission, how much gas I needed to travel, nervously turning my headlight off so as not to attract any freakers. It's little details like that that make this game memorable.

--Dan

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Re: Our next podcast recording (19.4.20) - 415: Days Gone

Post by Simonsloth »

The oft repeated “if you give it X number of hours it gets good” definitely applies to Days Gone.

I’ve got to admit it starts quite well with some creepy sequences and story building but then the open world elements create too much padding and It takes a long long time to get any kind of attachment to the narrative or characters.

I can’t ascertain how many hours it took to start really enjoying it but it’s probably when you start getting involved with Iron Mike’s camp. I have to say at that stage I was gripped to the point I was actually counting down the hours at work so I could get home to play it.

The missions were generally closer to the main camp, there was more exposition, character development and almost made the opening 20 or so hours unnecessary as it to me added almost nothing. I genuinely started to care about the main characters now and it really felt to me like it was hitting the same notes as the walking dead Tv series at its peak.

A special mention must go to the hordes which were an intense, stressful endurance test. They were so thrilling I often saved gameplay videos to watch back and marvel at how I managed to even take them down (usually by the skin of my teeth). Even fully stocked and equipped these are very challenging. You can’t hide. You can barely stop to take a breath. Run out of equipment and you’ll have to scavenge and craft whilst a hundred freakers pour through the doors, windows and ceiling like some sort of unnatural nightmare river. I do feel the end of the game was poorly considered as several consecutive were horde takedown missions.

I did genuinely get some morbid satisfaction from leading a horde right into an enemy camp whilst I watched chaos ensue. This glee would quickly turn to fear though as once they are finished with them their attentions would turn to me when I was often ill prepared. Emergent moments like this were the only parts that justified the open world setting to me.

Its tricky for me to recommend playing a 20-30 hour mediocre slice of a game to get to something really excellent but if you’ve already put some hours in then it won’t be as arduous a task.

Trim the fat and the open world setting off this game and what’s left is delicious.

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