Days Gone is finally here. Considering the three years since being originally revealed, it was a grueling wait for the PlayStation 4 exclusive developed by Sony Bend studios. It has made good on the promise of a gorgeous open-world thanks to the long amount of time that it has taken in development. Allowing players to immerse themselves within captivating survival horror mechanics and an emotional story (which you can read more about in our review here). However, the post-apocalyptic title during its review period was mired with technical issues that have resulted in some criticisms of a game which no longer exists.
Bad first impressions
When the title was first revealed, Days Gone resonated with very few people. At this point in time, the average consumer was no longer interested in zombie action titles. Despite the game’s take on zombies (referenced in the game as Freakers) being unique in that it was a technical showcase of a vast and overwhelming horde, there wasn’t much for fans watching the conference to feel connected to. Since this was also the same conference that God of War, Insomniac’s Spider-Man, and even Death Stranding were also first revealed; it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it was a gameplay demonstration that went largely overshadowed.
When the review embargo lifted for Days Gone, some criticisms stemmed from performance issues. While extra polish could’ve been taken on the game’s base design (especially regarding the dissonance between narrative and gameplay systems), this first impression left many to criticize the various facets underneath a stickler microscope. While Deacon St. John (the game’s biker protagonist) might not have connected with reviewers due to his occasionally bitter demeanor, the debilitating performance of the game prior to the first few patches surely didn’t help when sympathizing with his plight. Should the game have been delayed even a few more weeks, Days Gone scores would be higher if those playing the game were able to experience it in the more optimized state that it is today.
Out of chances
Considering that the release of Uncharted: Golden Abyss was in 2011, it’s safe to assume that Days Gone was in development for approximately eight years. While fully-scaled development wasn’t initiated until the beginning of 2015, this is a long time to be developing any title. While much of it might have to do with originally having a smaller development team (as the studio grew much larger while Days Gone was being made), fully sculpting and realizing the dense wilderness of Oregon is one of many accomplishments of the game that are a result of this time-consuming development process. After finally settling on a release window of sometime in 2018, it was delayed twice into the early months of 2019.
While Sony Interactive Entertainment has largely become forgiving to its developers for taking the time to craft well-made video games. From a business perspective, it seems that the company became anxious to release the title and receive a return on the investment of keeping Sony Bend’s doors open. There was a heavy marketing push behind the game in the final weeks of release, and it seems as if (at least in the UK) it’s premiering with strong sales in its first week. With plans to release free DLC in June and almost consistent performance patches, the best hope for the game to find success in other circles now will be word-of-mouth.
From an expectations standpoint Days Gone still exceeds in many ways. Apart from Syphon Filter, Sony Bend is a team which is largely known for contributing to Sony’s forays into handheld gaming. Providing iterations of Resistance and Uncharted that were at a much smaller scale than home-console counterparts. Sony Bend is a modest studio from a modest backwoods town in the Pacific Northwest it is aptly named after. The achievement of creating a big-budget AAA open-world title is a testament to the passionate industry veterans that call the studio home. However, this impression only comes after shifting perspective from the lofty expectations that come with being a Sony PlayStation exclusive game. Should the game have been delayed even just a few more weeks for reviewers to experience the more polished experience, Days Gone could’ve been more accurately criticized alongside these impossible thresholds.