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Days Gone should have been (or the engine and many assets) a multiplayer survival game

I started playing Days Gone recently. I picked it as my next game in the backlog after platinuming Ghost of Tsushima. So far I've had a really mixed experience with Days Gone, but it's not that I haven't enjoyed the game — at least, not in the sense most people probably think of when they consider whether or not a game is fun. I do think the game is fun, however, my fun is dampened by the near constant anxiety I feel when I play it, which I think is a testament to the game's quality.

For those who haven't played it, Days Gone has the following off the top of my head:

– a bleak narrative in a "zombie" infested open world filled with raiders, survivor camps, with both a main storyline and option missions

– a "mount" in the form of a motorcycle that you can customize and upgrade, which uses fuel for regular and fast travel, requiring the player to conserve and find gas while traveling, as well as repair their bike at times

– scarce ammo and resources for crafting weapons and other useful items

– a reputation system with different camps

– unlockable/purchasable weapons

– a stealth and cover system

– 3rd person shooting

So far I've completed probably five or six main story missions and some side missions, including finding "freaker nests" and destroying them, although I have not yet killed a "horde" which is a large group (dozens to hundreds) of freakers, that act like boss fights.

While playing, I often feel forced to take things at an almost agonizingly slow pace. This is because death can come quick when you get ganged up on by freakers, the need to frequently look for resources while traveling or in an engagement area, and what I feel the need to call the "realism" of the game. Whenever I rush through somewhere, I inevitably create problems for myself by not seeing an enemy that was hidden. This has lead to some fun and immersive moments of emergent gameplay.

So far in about 10 hours of playing, I have been ambushed twice by bandits/raiders/marauders. The first time occurred when I was on my way to a mission area, and I was knocked off my bike by a clothesline strung between two cars on either side of the road. I was immediately set upon by NPCs, who although they died easily, severely damaged my bike and created an exciting moment.

Similarly, I was riding and was shot at with a sniper rifle from a ridge overlooking a stretch of road. I narrowly avoided being shot off my bike, went and parked near the enemy camp, and proceeded up the path to their area. It took several tries to kill the enemies in this camp because I kept creating issues for myself. One time I was being very careful not to set off any tripwires, only to blast right through one as I was creeping up on an enemy whom I assassinated. Although my assassination was successful, the whole camp came down on me and killed me because I hit the tripwire. Another time, I accidentally stepped on a bear trap and my characters screams drew in a group of about a dozen freakers, who then went on to attack the enemy camp while I hid. Yet another time I hid when a wolf wandered into the camp and began attacking the enemies.

This isn't the only time something like this happened. And I have to say, whether these are truly emergent moments from the game's different systems and AI, or if they're very cleverly hidden behind triggers and routines, I really enjoyed them, frustrating though they were at times. It felt like it added to the realism. Anyway, another time I was at a small town trying to destroy nests. I saw an enemy patrolling around a small lake on their bike who was being chased by about 50 freakers. I laid in wait to shoot the enemy off their bike, only to run out of focus, not get a shot off, be seen by the freakers, and immediately overwhelmed by the small horde.

I think that all these systems are good on their own, and perhaps I just suck at the game, but it feels like it would be much more enjoyable if it could be played cooperatively with a friend. When on your own, you have to stake out an area the freakers can't get to and shoot them from there, or perform a combination of sprinting, turning around to fire your weapon, sprinting, turning around to fire your weapon, repeat. With a friend(s) I think the cooperation aspects that could be built in, building and maintaining a base, potential survival aspects, and the ability to set up fields of fire when taking out groups of freakers would be superior to the single player experience that exists now. All of the systems seem like a friendlier, more approachable version of something like DayZ, and I just think that all of the systems currently in the game, and its general design would lend itself well to an online survival game.

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