When I started the game Days Gone I was expecting another survival open world with zombies (Freaks is what they are called in game) with upgrade skill trees and maybe some towers for map progression (Thankfully they didn't Ubisoft it up), and while I did get pretty much exactly what I expected it sucked me in very quickly with familiar game play loops, a gorgeous world and characters that are at times the best and worst part of this game but I will get into that later. First lets break down the game itself.
The main meat of the game is riding around on your chopper killing Freaks, rescuing hostages and eliminating marauders all while upgrading your trust with survivor camps so you can get that sweet new engine part or the next big gun all while progressing Deacon's story arc of surviving and moving forward two years after the apocalypse. There is a crafting system in place that is needed to make better melee weapons, bike repairs, consumables and other thrown weapons and you unlock almost all of these recipes from playing the main story with better upgrades ready for completing side story lines and encourages the player to explore and do everything. The loop is easy to fall into and while some materials I run out of constantly (Looking at you Scrap) others I am always flush with (Rags and sterilizer ugh!). While not perfectly balanced a simple click of R3 to bring up your survival vision will highlight nearby salvage so you can always find more. There are some minor quality of life complaints that plagued me early game, mostly the limited inventory for crafting materials until you level up and double your capacity and that sometimes Deacon does this weird sidestep when looting items that make him dance around an item or body instead of searching it but still all in all not a bad crafting system.
Now the bike is both an amazing gameplay hook and the worst part of travel in this game. Early game your bike can take no hits, has less fuel then an electric scooter and you seem to be ALWAYS having to find gas and babysit it. Mid to late game though once you have a few upgrades under your belt riding around this gorgeous game is fun! Just outrunning a horde and hopping on your bike and speeding away only to run circles around them with donuts and nitro until your far enough away to circle back and pick some off again is exciting! It is still something I believe should have been balanced a little better for the early game but I still enjoying customizing my bike, upgrading it and boosting past hordes.
Another gameplay hook and the big feature of the game is the Hordes with a capital H. Hordes are massive groups of freaks that have set migration patterns on the map depending on what time of day it is in the world. Stumbling upon my first horde was terrifying as I only had a baseball bat, a pistol and one Molotov to my name and I was immediately consumed. You will most likely start off avoiding these hordes all together until you you get some gun upgrades from camps, health and stamina upgrades from Nero Checkpoints and better crafted items. This is something Days Gone did Excellent at is the need to plan and coordinate the best way of taking out these groups single handily and the rush of elation you feel when they go down. I never got tired of taking out hordes and even when I was fully geared out with grenades, machine guns and mines I was still nervous taking on even the smaller hordes. I cant stress enough that both on a technical level for the game and from a gameplay mechanic that this is one of the best parts of Days Gone.
Your combat style can be loud and proud, guns blazing if you dont mind attracting every freak around you or maybe a horde if your unlucky. Or you can do what is by far the most broken game mechanic which is stealth. You can oneshot almost any enemy in the game (Even some of the larger enemies if you upgrade the melee skill tree far enough) with stealth and it makes some encounters that normally would be difficult a cakewalk. I dont think this is a bad thing in fact I believe its what the developers intended and as such I recommend using it to your advantage to survive in the world.
So while there are some gripes with gameplay down to mostly personal annoyances my actual complaints with the game come down to two things story and characters. Not that the characters were all bad or that Deacon our protagonist is the blandest thing since white bread but the best way I can describe my love hate with the game is that it is a reverse bad sandwich. Instead of the filling being awful the filling is quite delicious but the beginning and ending pieces of bread are stale. Deacon switches constantly between muttering to himself like a deranged lunatic while playing in the open world to a jackass who slowly opens up in cut-scenes. This dichotomy is jarring and really took me out of it at times but as Deacon started to grow and I learned about him and the characters around him I was sucked into the story at least I was. I will have a spoiler section at the end but there is a turning point in the game where it seemed like everything that had been building up and the growth Deacon had was all for not. Its not that the overall story was bad but I would not be surprised if there were two different scripts at one point and they went with the one that could wrap the game up the fastest and cleanest.
Still Days Gone is a game packed with content and characters that I will remember for a long time. Despite its bumps in the road and hangups I feel with the story and choices made I recommend picking it up. The game even has added challenges with new trophies and a survival mode that I may try down the line but for now my time on the hog is at a close. Boozer is best bro btw you take that to the grave no doubt. (Spoilers section below for the story complaints)