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‘Days Gone’: I’m Not Angry, Just Disappointed

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After sinking 40 hours into Days Gone, the game has been truly a mixed bag of good and bad but constantly leaves me wondering what could have been. Buried deep (and I mean deep) beneath the serious graphical issues, inconsistent narratives, frustrating glitches, and repetitive gameplay elements lie the foundations of a game that honestly could have been one of the best in the PS4 lineup, but these problems ultimately hold the game back from achieving its true potential.

Originally lauded as the “next big thing” on a Playstation console, Days Gone’s hype dwindled as its release neared. When first previewed as a part of their 2016 E3 presentation, media outlets immediately began calling it The Last of Us meets Sons of Anarchy and geeking out over the dynamic weather and environment, advanced zombie AI, and survival mechanics. Originally slated for a 2018 release, the title was pushed back to 2019 to distance it from the competitive titles of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Spiderman. Despite this valid reason, Day’s Gone’s marketing initiatives seemed to be scaled back on the title and developer news came to a standstill in recent weeks, causing some fans to worry that the game may be another No Man’s Sky. That being said, Days Gone was released in April of 2019 to spectacular sales numbers, topping the charts in the UK as the biggest physical sales launch of the year.

Buried deep (and I mean deep) beneath the serious graphical issues, inconsistent narratives, frustrating glitches, and repetitive gameplay elements lies the foundations of a game that could be one of the best in the PS4 lineup

As a fan of zombie games and post-apocalyptic titles, I was first in line to pick up Days Gone and one of its biggest believers in spite of the skeptics. On the surface and in game trailers, the title seemed destined for success. Deacon St. John, a rough and tumble biker, struggles to survive in an undead wasteland as he searches for clues about what happened to his dead wife. Using his motorcycle, Deacon must travel between the groups of various survivors to make it in the Oregon wilderness, using either stealth or firepower to last against the zombies and maniacs that roam the countryside. Along the way, he forges bonds with local survivor camps to earn better upgrades for his guns and his bikes, ultimately trying to uncover the secrets behind the infection that plagues mankind.

Days Gone is such a disappointing title because it falls victim to some of the classic video game development blunders that haunt well-known 3rd party developers like Ubisoft. Namely, these are graphical concerns. Greatest of all these sins, the title absolutely LURCHES on a standard PS4 when transitioning from one area to the next as the game engine struggles to bring out the assets of a larger city area. When riding on a motorcycle in-game, Day’s Gone can barely keep up with the speed at which new pieces of landscape and houses must be generated. Of course, this is just one of many graphical faults as the game is rife with glitches as well. Occasionally, zombies will fall to earth in t-pose, dialogue will lag a few seconds behind the cutscenes, and enemies will spawn from nowhere, making some laughable and unforgettable moments.

Days Gone’s narrative also is lacking some respects, as its dialogue, character development, and storyline raise some eyebrows throughout a playthrough. The dialogue ranges from cliched biker jokes, unreasonable reactions, and painfully bad attempts at romance (a personal cringe was “I’ll give him his ring back if he promises to ride me as much as he rides his bike”). Although Deacon influences other camps and earns their trust by completing various quests, these actions hardly lead to anything meaningful in the story outside of upgrades. Days Gone being an open world game, I expected these various factions to be in competition for power or materials and that favoring one group in game would result in a negative outcome on Deacon’s standing with another. Alas, nothing that places your footprint on the in-game world is implemented. Also, some storylines (Boozer’s dog, Lisa’s life, etc) felt out of place in the context of the larger game and seemed to be tacked on to the larger story in order to influence the player’s feelings with classic emotional flags (animals, children). Although developers promised a “very strong narrative,” Days Gone’s lack of the gravity and weight commonly seen in Playstation first-party titles was one of many disappointments.

days-gone-defeat-bears

Although the game seemed to catch its stride around the 15th or 20th hour, Days Gone eventually becomes bogged down with the repetitive quest elements that plague other open world games. Initially, the novelty of the missions is fun, but after some time with the game I noticed that most missions boil down to drive here, look around, find/kill this, loot crafting items, drive back, and repeat until the pattern feels like doing chores in order to progress. As the game goes on, instead of adding new and surprising gameplay, developers just make the rides longer and the searching harder, leading to some frustrating moments. Nothing kills a “one more mission” buzz like another repetitive, longer ride to nowhere just to head on back again.

Although the game is not without its flaws, I still maintain that the Days Gone has some foundational elements that could have made it an essential part of the PS4 library. In other words, when the gameplay works, it REALLY works. Nothing is more satisfying than staking out a zombie-infested base, sneaking in, grabbing the item that you need, getting seen by the horde, running away as the music swells, hopping on your bike, and zooming away from sure death. This is the mechanic that the game truly was built for, and the sensation that it brings when experienced is like nothing seen before in a zombie game. The motorcycle’s momentum, the zombie AI, and the dynamic environment work really well in tandem and feel incredibly fluid in motion. It’s too bad that these moments are few and far between, often resulting as the culmination of hours of fetch quests and bounty missions.

Days Gone Review

Furthermore, as a sandbox to play around in, the game is also incredibly fun. Nothing beats driving around rural Oregon, searching random caves, finding collectibles, and looting bandit camps away from the main story. Similarly to another great sandbox, Red Dead Redemption 2, Days Gone’s weather and varying climates also create a great atmosphere. Even the odd selection of guns feel pretty nice and varied in battle against the horde and the different approaches to combat (stealth, gunplay, distractions, weaponized zombies) give a plethora of options for the patient player.

Nothing is more satisfying than staking out a zombie infested base, sneaking in, grabbing the item that you need, getting seen by the horde, running away as the music swells, hopping on your bike, and zooming away from sure death

It may sound ridiculous, but the disappointment that results from Days Gone’s wasted potential is really its greatest downfall. It doesn’t have the anger or backlash of a colossal PR mistake like No Man’s Sky, but Days Gone truly feels like a mismanaged idea that never reached its full promise. Although one can never know what happens behind the scenes, it is possible that Sony Bend, having never published a full console title since 2004, couldn’t handle the intense level of detail that goes into crafting a modern open world game. The vision and mechanics behind Days Gone may have been fantastic but the actual scope of the project may have been their ultimate downfall, leaving them with too many moving pieces, a meandering story, and AI glitches nearly impossible to solve.

Days Gone Review

All in all, Day Gone is mostly a disappointment, having some fun gameplay mechanics that are marred by subpar writing, painful glitches, and repetitive gameplay. Despite these criticisms, the game is still a pretty fun romp for a fair amount of time even if you can’t get all the way through its larger issues. Don’t get me wrong, Days Gone is absolutely worth your attention, probably just not at full retail value. Fans of the survival-horror genre or zombie titles will probably find their energy well spent, and those looking for a mediocre replacement to open world titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 may find an average quality diversion. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the title on a North America PSN sale in a few months, so sit tight. As for me, it was an okay adventure, and I’m still not angry, just disappointed.

[penci_review id=”153354″]

Ty is here to talk Nintendo and chew bubblegum, but he's all out of gum. He is an Animal Crossing Fanatic, a Mario Kart legend, and a sore loser at Smash. Currently dying all the time at Apex Legends on Playstation. Add him on Switch at Creepshow101 or on PSN/Live at Grimelife 13 and play!

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Maximus

    June 26, 2019 at 1:49 am

    Yea I’m gonna disagree with this review, aside from a few hitches here and there on the PS4, the game ran fine for me, and IMO had a great story, with character development and progression, on top of really awesome gun play, and moments of terror… I mean if you wanna talk bugs talk XCOM 2 or Fallout 4.. this game was pretty damn clean in the scope of things, and I give it a solid B+

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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