It’s that time of the year again where the video game industry begins to ask the monumental question; who will win Game of the Year? As each year passes, the stakes for this prestigious award rises. The winners from the previous three years were God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Overwatch. Each one of these games changed the way we look at games in the future for their respective genres. We look at those games as the pillars for story-telling, action-adventure and first-person shooters. In 2019, what game will become part of that elite club? What game created something original? What game delivered the best experience this year? Here are some of the notable games for 2019 to consider; Resident Evil 2 Remake, Control, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Borderlands 3, Gears 5, Outer Wilds and Days Gone.
Today, I am here to plead my case for Days Gone and why I think it deserves to win Game of the Year for 2019. Days Gone has dominated in sales ranking sixth in the all-time best-selling list for PlayStation 4 exclusives, according to the NPD. That is an extraordinary accomplishment considering the game has only been out for five months. The financial success obviously doesn’t determine the whole picture on why a game should be considered for Game of the Year, but it does show its merit with the gaming society. I want to look past the numbers though and explain why Days Gone rises above the rest in gameplay, narrative, originality and technical aspects.
If you know nothing about Days Gone and you look at the cover, you may see just see another iteration of zombies. However, that is not the case and my point to this article is to show you the innovation behind it all. The Freakers in this game are not dead. The Freakers are a whole new threat that you haven’t seen in video games. The outbreak didn’t just affect humans, but it affected animals as well and there is not just one type of Freaker like there are with zombies in movies and television shows. Each Freaker type has their own characteristics and behavior. For example, infected adolescents are called Newts. Newts have the physical appearance of young teenagers and will only attack you when low on health. They like to watch from rooftops and crawl to traverse. Breakers are another type of Freaker that play the opposite role of Newts. They are enormous and strong and will charge at you on sight with powerful attacks. There are ten types of Freakers making the game feel fresh throughout your whole playthrough as you learn new strategies to defeat each one. Once the virus spread across the world turning animals and humans into cannibalistic creatures, it didn’t stop there. The Freakers are evolving throughout the story and leaves us questions on this dangerous threat for the future of Days Gone. Each Freaker raises the stake of the last one you encountered never creating a dull moment in the world. This is not just another zombie game.
I didn’t even mention the innovative horde mechanic yet. The hordes in Days Gone are one of the most impressive aspects of the game. There are 40 hordes ranging in size spread across the map. The hordes don’t just sit in one spot waiting for you to ambush them though. They migrate from their hibernation nests (usually in a cave) to locations of water, or you will see them just wandering around. As you make your way to the next mission, you may stumble upon a horde crossing the road. You either fight or turn around and ride away. Every time you encounter a horde, it’s an adrenaline rush. With the hordes placed in different environments, it allows you as the player to strategize your attack, place traps and create an exit plan. Battling hordes are a fun and addicting gameplay loop always keeping you on the edge of your seat.
New original enemy types, check. New horde mechanics, check. Now, onto the motorcycle which adds multiple layers to the game including the connection to the narrative and gameplay elements. At the very beginning of the game, you start off with a loaded motorcycle to give you a taste of what you can expect as you move forward. Unfortunately, that motorcycle gets taken away from you quickly, and your left with a basic bike with no upgrades. After realizing the potential of your bike, the bare bones motorcycle just doesn’t match up. It’s slow, the exhaust is loud, the tires have very little traction, fuel tank is small and there are no other accessories to protect it from damage. This is when you realize that the drifter bike is more than just a means of transportation, but a whole other character in the game. As you would upgrade your character in other games with better armor, better weapons and your own personal taste of appearance, is how you approach Deacon’s motorcycle. There are certain spots in the world that your basic bike will not be able to get to because it won’t have the engine power to go off a ramp and clear the gap. These spots are called NERO Research Site locations and are beneficial to you for leveling up Deacon to take on the larger hordes later. There are also countless ways to customize your bike from colors, to decals, special bike skins and accessories. Days Gone makes it a point for you to go out in the world and complete missions to be able to purchase upgrades for your bike. Better yet, each mission you do connects to the overall storyline making your time feel worth it. More on the narrative structure later. The post-apocalyptic Oregon is not a place that you want to walk around. Bridges are collapsed, roads are blocked and Freakers are everywhere. Days Gone did a great job in making the motorcycle feel apart of the world. By the end of the game, it will persuade you to start wanting to ride a motorcycle in real life!
Stories are what moves us, inspires us and change us. Days Gone is a narrative focus game that intertwines multiple storylines to the overall arch. The narrative structure is different than most open-world games. The side missions are not just fetch quests or a checklist to mark off, but separate storylines that connect to each other. Everything you do will advance the narrative in some way immersing you more into the world. The narrative is not laid right out in front of you either. In no way am I saying this is a bad thing, but quite the opposite. There is a lot of world-building at play during some of these storylines and its your job to connect them and learn more about the world around you. The player and Deacon are learning together creating a bond between you and the character. The best stories are layered with emotion and Days Gone checks all the boxes with mystery, hope, love, regret, brotherhood and trust.
The thing that ties it all together between the story, gameplay, and creative decisions is the technical side behind it. Days Gone is one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 4 due to its dynamic weather and the beauty of nature and destruction. (Take a look for yourself at the gallery of in-game photos here: Photo Mode). The audio beats pair perfectly with the visuals adding to the realistic environment. Throw in the score composed by Nathan Whitehead as you are about to encounter a horde and you will soon realize what makes Days Gone so special. The details of Deacon’s hair moving during the gusts of wind, the snow covering dead bodies on the ground, the mud spraying from the back tire as you drift around the corner are just a few details that show the love and care that was put into the technical side of the game.
Why should Days Gone win Game of the Year? Because it rises above the rest in gameplay, narrative, originality and technical aspects. The gameplay provided me with the most thrilling and fun I’ve had in any video game. The story of Days Gone created an impactful and memorable experience. There has been nothing like Days Gone before. The setting of desolate Oregon, the band of motorcycle riders and the threat of new enemies is original and stands unique among other post-apocalyptic video games. The graphics are second to none with superb lighting, foliage and landscapes. I could sit here all day writing the praises I have for this game, but I wanted to focus on the points that make Days Gone original and unique. Bend Studio achieved an ambitious feat that deserves a lot of recognition. Days Gone is a phenomenal game and is worthy of being crowned Game of the Year.
Remember, whenever you post your photos or videos about Days Gone on social media just add the hashtag #GOTY to give Bend Studio a little boost in exposure for the award season. You can also go vote for Days Gone for the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards right now! Days Gone was nominated for Best Storytelling, Best Audio and PlayStation Game of the Year. Head to the Home page above and follow the link to cast your vote.
Source: NPD via: PushSquare