In a generation of stellar video games with incredible voice acting, astonishing graphics, large immersive open worlds and layered narrative, we as players are currently living in the golden age of video games. With that, it also brings us to the state of being spoiled with the quality of games, leaving us to miss some moments or details that should be applauded more. Unfortunately, those moments or details go unnoticed or are underrated for the accomplishment that the developers achieved. This is the reason why I wanted to write this little piece today to give those moments and details the proper acknowledgement they deserve in Days Gone. It isn’t to say that you or other players didn’t appreciate these intricacies, it’s more about how they impacted me during my playthrough.
The first thing I would like to highlight is the dynamic real time weather. The weather in this game is quite impressive and something to behold. From bright sunny days, to the peacefulness of fallen snow, to the strong winds that forcefully sway the trees and the pouring rain. Oregon has it all! The strong winds (which is visible in the Cascades region where Copeland’s camp is located) is a weather condition barely used in video games. The only game that comes to mind with remarkable wind features is from The Witcher 3. The wind breathes life and brings energy to the environment as you hear the whooshing sound of the leaves and seeing the trees move in a realistic way.
The snow is beautiful! It will begin as a slight flurry and then continue to accumulate as it covers the environment including vehicles, objects, the clothes on Deacon and dead bodies. When you ride your motorcycle, you can see the snow covering the boots and pants of Deacon as the spinning wheels dig up the snow on the ground. The sun creates picture perfect shots through photo mode as it glimmers through the pine trees and rises just above the snowy mountain tops. With the sun comes superb lighting as it dances across the landscape around you.
The weather doesn’t just serve as an appearance though. If you listen and pay attention, the weather influences the enemies and sounds around you. For example, the rain will dampen the sound of Deacon’s footsteps and create less visibility creating a stealth opportunity into an ambush camp. However, the rain creates a slippery terrain when riding your motorcycle down roads and dirt paths covered in puddles. Of course, nothing can be easy in this world as the rain makes the Freakers stronger (along with the snowy weather) and they will appear more in numbers during the day as it rains. Here is a little experiment for you to do to show just how excellent the audio sound is compared with the weather conditions. After it rains, and the grass is wet have Deacon walk down the road and listen to his footsteps on the cement as they clomp along. Now, walk him onto the grass and hear his footsteps change as his boots sink into the ground creating a sloshing sound. It’s incredible!
The day and night cycle go hand in hand with the weather, creating a survival experience for the player to use strategy with the current condition of the environment. Want to take out a horde? The best time to do that is during the day when the Freakers are hibernating in their nests or cave. They will all be in one spot creating a perfect place to light them up with some molotovs. You will also see them less in number and weaker as they stumble around the wilderness during the day. Want to be brave? Try to attack the hordes at nighttime when the Freakers are stronger and more active as they leave their nests to roam around.
The next thing I would like to praise the people at Bend Studio for is the attention to detail. You might have to look close at a couple of these, but its truly amazing how far they went to create a rich experience. First, look at Deacon’s hands when he pulls up a gun. (You may have to use photo mode to get a good angle). When you aim your weapon, his finger is on the trigger. When he is just holding his weapon without aiming, his finger is off the trigger. This is considered proper trigger discipline. Now, look at Deacon’s hands again when riding the motorcycle during acceleration. You can see his left hand squeezing the clutch to switch gears, along with his foot pressing down on the gear shift. Both details are something that most players probably won’t see, but putting small details like this in a game creates that immersive experience you hope for. This next detail is more noticeable than the last two. After Deacon performs a knife blow to a Freaker or another enemy, you can see the blood splatter onto his hand that is gripping the knife. That blood will stay on his hand for a good duration too. The last detail that I noticed was the empty bullet casings flying out of your gun when firing. You can see this in the picture I took below. This is certainly not the only details in this game, but just a few that really caught my eye and gave me a deeper appreciation of the creative process.
**This section may contain possible SPOILERS. Please proceed with caution.**
Lastly, there are two moments during the story where you get that sense of freedom that motorcycle riders talk about. The first comes on the mission, ‘Ride South to Lost Lake.’ You have Boozer on the motorcycle with you as Deacon talks about leaving Farewell and the thousands of Freakers devouring the people trying to outrun them. The song, Soldier’s Eyes begins to play creating this amazing and beautiful ride through the night sky on the broken road. The second moment begins on your ‘Ride to the Summit’ once Iron Mike takes you to the Thielsen Pass. The song, Hell or High Water starts as you weave around the snowy curves with the hope of finding Sarah on your mind. The lyrics to this song fit perfectly with the story and the emotion that Deacon is feeling. Both moments captured my focus and put me into the shoes of Deacon. The ride with Hell or High Water was captivating, emotional and left an imprint on me for one of the greatest moments in video games.
Those are the moments and details that felt most fascinating to me and hopefully they did to you too. The Internet tends to focus on the faults of games and not praise the games that deserve it. So, take a second and go on social media to thank Bend Studio and their team in creating Days Gone as they spent the last five plus years making this game for the players. You can find all their information below.