Days Gone Director Jeff Ross made one thing very clear during Bend Studio's E3 2016 presentation: This isn't a survival game so much as a game about survival. What does it take, on an emotional level, to endure a world-changing tragedy? That's what the developer hopes to explore with its upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive.
Folks who tuned in for the Sony E3 press conference on June 14 likely noticed that, just after the God of War trailer, there was a trailer for a brand new game called Days Gone on display. The presser ended with a demonstration of that very game, showing the struggles of a biker trying to escape a horde of monsters.
My behind closed doors session with Director Jeff Ross and his game proved that Days Gone is nowhere near as scripted as the flawless run at the press event appeared to be. When the oceans of baddies showed up, the protagonist (His name is Deacon St. Johns, I was later informed) took a completely different path through the abandoned mill to avoid being overrun and eaten.
Along the way, Deacon improvised several life-saving tactics, including throwing obstacles in front of the hordes of enemies, lighting them on fire with Molotov cocktails and even blowing up a barrier that allowed a bunch of massive logs to roll over his pursuers.
For these reasons, Ross explained that Days Gone certainly appears to be a survival game. Instead, though he said it's more of a game "about survival." You'll need to outrun enemies, craft useful items and gather supplies, sure, but the team at Bend Studio is hard at work on crafting a narrative that packs a meaty punch, too.
Deacon, as it turns out, is one of the few survivors of a viral outbreak that turned much of the population into "freakers." Ross explained that they are "not zombies," but instead humans who have been deformed and basically turned into wild, bloodthirsty animals because of a virus.
Deacon lost everything in the outbreak, including the woman he loved and the crew he used to ride with. What does it take to survive in a world gone mad after everyone you know and love has been wiped out? How can you survive when it seems like there's no road to salvation? Ross explained that these themes will drive the narrative in Days Gone, which Bend hopes will provide more engaging hooks than finding that next supply cache or gear upgrade.
The story is about humanity and how we struggle to survive, trust and rebuild after a tragic event. The game is about Deacon trying to cope with loss and keep moving forward in a world where everyone is dying.
As for that big chase scene, Ross explained that the path Deacon took and the violence he enacted on the freakers was for dramatic effect. He said the player could just as easily "run the hell away," but that the demonstration was used to show off a bunch of the different tools that will be at the player's disposal. Also on display during the extra session with the game was environmental kills, such as shoving a freaker into a massive saw blade.
Also worth noting is the fact that Days Gone is an open world game. Again, Ross said that the demonstration makes the proceedings look linear, but the map is open to the players and crafted in a way that gives them free reign to approach various situations as they see fit.
As Deacon, you'll move from camp to camp spread across the state of Oregon. The region was selected for its varied biomes all within a short distance of each other. Your role is that of a mercenary and bounty hunter, and the demonstration showed one of Deacon's bounties meeting an unfortunate end.
There's still no launch date for Days Gone, but it certainly seems to be shaping up nicely.