Early this month there was a lot of discussion about Days Gone, and since it was on sale on Steam I decided to ride into the Hot Take mines. So I packed my (virtual) motorcycle and headed to (also virtual) Oregon. I know a lot of people like Days Gone, but to be honest, I don’t see why. The game thoroughly doesn’t deserve a sequel.
Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. Days Gone is an open-world zombie apocalypse game. The main action of the game (or the parts I played, but more on that later) takes place in rural Oregon. For those of you that don’t know a lot about Oregon, it’s like a worse version of Washington State but since it doesn’t share a name with the US capital, people pay attention to it.
Back to Days Gone. The interesting thing about this open-world zombie game is that your survival is tied closely to your character’s motorcycle. You have to manage its condition and fuel levels. The currency you earn from doing missions goes mostly toward upgrading your bike. Riding the bike works really well the world is laid out well and the gameplay mostly works.
So why don’t I like it? Because the main character sucks, and his story isn’t worth telling.
Days Gone follows biker Deacon St. John. As someone who grew up in a very religious environment, this name sounds a bit like Churchy McChurchface to me. Early in the game, Deacon is separated from his wife as the zombie stuff goes down. We flash forward some time as to not complicate the story with society falling and get to the “post” part of the apocalypse.
The game starts easy enough, you have to track down someone and get something from them. After the first couple of missions the game opens up and the complication of Deacon’s best friend getting seriously injured is added to the ploy. This is when you start to learn about Deacon.
You first learn that Deacon cares a lot about his friend, but only so long as he has total control in the relationship. Deacon never bothers to be honest with his friend about the situation they’re in, constantly downplaying the relative danger and seriousness of the injuries. He lies about what he’s up to and is generally rude anytime concern is shown for his wellbeing. Then he turns to complaining constantly any time his friend tries to help.
Mind you at this pointing the game it is obvious your friend, humorously named Boozer, is dying. His injuries are severe, but Deacon downplays this. He constantly tells Boozer they don’t need help when they really do and conceals Boozer’s injuries from people who could help. Rather than have a serious conversation with a close friend, Deacon acts like a pissed-off father. Treating his supposed best friend like a nuisance rather than a companion. It’s about his time you learn Deacon has rules about women.
Days Gone takes place in a world full of raiders and death cults. Nearly every NPC you meet in the wasteland is trying to actively kill you. Given this, I have no idea why Deacon has a weird personal rule about not killing women who are actively pointing guns at him and in some cases shooting at him. Why he views women as people incapable of threatening him as men do is not something I find appealing. And it takes about 10 hours of gameplay to meet one NPC who calls him on this sexist behavior.
I know in popular media women with guns are generally laughed at, or batted aside easily. Days Gone is not unique in this perspective. What is unique is that, for a game published in 2019, Days Gone looks at this behavior and sees it as something worth explicitly calling out as a foundational part of the main character’s personality. Which compliments the other foundational part of his personality: selling people into slavery.
Throughout the game, you’ll encounter camps, and people that need saving. You can send the people to the camps. Each camp gives you different rewards, which are all a combination of currency and reputation. There is one camp that gives you a lot of currency. It is described as a labor camp. A labor camp where the guards, who are there ostensibly to keep the hordes of zombies at bay, regularly beat the residents and generally prevent them from leaving.
Most of the side missions for this camp involve hunting down people to bring in. Deacon has varying success because sometimes he finds women who basically say “if you want me to go back you’ll have to kill me” and his brain short circuits.
Later you learn that Deacon was specifically kicked out of a different camp because of his slave-trading behavior. And even then that clearly didn’t change his behavior. But the game doesn’t tell you that until you’re about ten hours in as well.
What we have is a game where you play a sexist slave-trader, who knows he’s a sexist slave-trader and doesn’t have a problem with that. Add on the fact that he says a lot of absolutely psychotic stuff when you get into fights with other people, Deacon is a bad person. But so is Arthur Morgan of Red Dead Redemption 2. So why do I hate Days Gone and not Red Dead Redemption 2? The answer is simple, Deacon isn’t trying to be better.
Deacon is presented as a man of honor. A wandering samurai or gunslinger who chooses life on the open road because he can’t be tied down. It’s a lie.
Deacon is deceitful. He will lie, kill, and steal to benefit personally from any situation. He will threaten others constantly for nothing but personal gain. This is a story about someone who takes on the roving biker persona of freedom because he’s been forced out of every community he’s come across.
Now I haven’t finished Day’s Gone, and I don’t know if I ever will. I’m 17 hours in and if this does turn out to be a story of redemption it will only be because his wife’s not really dead or something similarly overplayed and contrived, everything else is.
Days Gone doesn’t deserve a sequel because its main character is not worth telling stories about. There are too many people in this world like Deacon St. John. If this is the kind of person the developers want to tell stories about then they probably shouldn’t be making games.
Normally I write about where you can get the game, but I can’t be bothered to promote this one. If you liked it, please tell me why. A lot of people in gaming journalism and entertainment that I respect seemed to have liked this game. I thought it was really gross. I would love to hear other perspectives. The ones I’ve seen focus on gameplay, which as I said before was good, but frankly you can get a nearly identical experience from a number of other games, this one just has zombies.