30It’s no surprise that with how good The Last of Us was both critically and commercially that every zombie game made afterward is going to be compared to it. In some ways, it’s good to have games aspire to be like the greatest game ever made in the genre, and in some, ways its an incredibly unfair comparison if the new game never intended to be anything like it.
Days Gone seems to straddle the line between trying to be like The Last of Us while still doing its own thing and exploring new ideas. This article will explore the ways Days Gone feels like a clone of The Last Of Us and the ways in which it’s totally different.
There are a lot of similarities between Deacon from Days Gone and Joel from The Last Of Us. They’re both grizzled characters who’ve lost those most important to them, and, as a result, are broken individuals that do whatever they feel is necessary to survive.
They’ve both developed their own codes of honor that can justify horrific acts of sadism against those who wrong them while still permitting them to be nice guys who do right by those they view as allies. Deacon saving Lisa from the Rippers feels a lot like Joel saving Ellie from the cannibals, both are willing to become monsters to save someone they care about.
While The Last Of Us was a more cinematic experience focused on the narrative, Days Gone is an open world adventure. The player is free to go where they want and tackle missions when they want. While both follow a linear story the player isn’t trapped into it like they were with The Last Of Us.
This allows the player to put off harder tasks until they’re sufficiently prepared and gives a greater sense of realism as the world is shaped by their actions. Where The Last Of Us prods the player along a set path to tell a story, Days Gone is willing to forgo the story a little to grant greater freedom.
In Days Gone, the story takes place two years after the viral outbreak that caused humans and animals alike to turn into Freakers. The Last Of Us has a whopping 20 years go by after the fungal outbreak that decimated its world.
As a result, both games have a similar feel in that the characters have begun to move on and accept the new reality, and the time before the outbreak feels like it almost never existed. The characters rarely talk about their pre-outbreak lives, and there’s never talk of trying to make things the way they were before in any way. It's unfortunate that more zombie games aren’t willing to try taking place during the apocalypse like Prototype did, and these two games seem content to operate in a new world created by the apocalypse.
The Last of Us had a few moments where large groups of zombies appear on the screen, like when the characters are trying to jumpstart the truck, but they never have massive hordes like Days Gone does.
Days Gone embraces the horde nature of the Freakers and builds around the idea of having up to 500 Freakers on the screen. The end game even tasks the player with tackling hordes, making the face off an inevitability rather than a horrifying moment of bad luck. It’s a bold step for Days Gone to take and one that seems to pay off rather well.
Admittedly, this isn’t the strongest entry as The Last of Us has the characters explore multiple settings transitioning from urban to rural settings and back again. But it’s interesting to see just how similar the forest settings are despite the fact that Days Gone takes place in Oregon and Elli and Joel never make it to Oregon.
In fact, there’s an eerie resemblance between Deacon’s stomping grounds and the forest where Ellie runs away on horseback. With the big beautiful pine trees, open dirt roads, and large mountains in the distance players are forgiven for wondering if the two games take place in the same universe.
Never in The Last of Us is the player ever confronted with a zombified animal ready to tear their throat out. That’s not to say that zombie animals don’t exist; according to recordings found in the University, one of the Fireflies was bitten by a monkey that was somehow, but the zombies Joel kills are exclusively human, or at least they were human.
Days Gone however explores the horrifying reality of what would happen if the virus jumped to other animals, namely crows, wolves and bears. These nightmarish animals make for some of the more difficult fights of the game and the thought of mutated wolves outrunning even the fastest motorcycle is a horrific thought.
While crafting is present in most modern games, the crafting system in Days Gone bears too many resemblances to the crafting system in The Last of Us for it not to have at least been inspired by it. Using odds and ends found in the wild, players are able to craft melee weapons, bandages, bombs, and traps in both games.
Sure, the player can craft more things in Days Gone then they can in The Last of Us, but it’s obvious that Days Gone took a lot of inspiration from the other game when developers were devising a crafting system for their world.
The world in Days Gone goes through a day/night cycle that can make survival significantly harder or easier depending on what the player is trying to do. Entering a Ripper base without arousing suspicion is easier at night, and tackling a zombie horde in the day is always preferable. The weather is also subject to change and has to be taken into account
The Last Of Us had set times and weather events that will never change regardless of playtime. Players were locked into sneaking out of the city at night, and the snowstorm never blew over while Joel fought his way into the cannibal camp. The day/night cycle and changing weather makes Days Gone’s world feel a little more colorful as a result.
Both games have moments where the player is required to employ stealth in order to progress and failure to do so results in death or botching a mission. Sure, players could run around guns blazing in The Last of Us, but ammo is often scarce, and the player is always outnumbered.
Days Gone offers the player plenty of chances to tackle missions how they want, but there are moments when the player simply has to be stealthy to make progress. It would make sense in a post-apocalyptic world that stealth would be the name of the game, and both games aren’t afraid to force players to adopt a sneaky approach.
Hands down, the motorcycle is the most unique aspect of Days Gone and a surprisingly good element of gameplay. The motorcycle must be maintained, repaired, and upgraded for those hoping to survive and progress. It also introduces a bit of resource management as the player has to be careful how much gas they use and when to go looking for more.
The benefits of having a functioning motorcycle more than outweigh the bad, so the player is rarely annoyed by having to hunt down parts or dig up a few liters of gas. It’s a strong game mechanic that will hopefully be adopted by other post-apocalyptic games in the future.