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Opinion

In Days Gone, Deacon’s Bike is the Real Main Character

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A common piece of advice is to never judge a book by its cover, and with a post-apocalyptic, zombie-filled American setting, Days Gone can be seen as following a trend that has already left its prime. Upon entering the game’s world, one could experience déjà vu towards every aspect it has to offer, forcing some to disregard the title as being “another zombie game.” However, by ignoring the inkling to walk away and instead seeing the game for what it truly intends, players will be treated to a narrative that evokes anticipation.

Despite the cookie-cutter setting, Days Gone offers much to players willing to cast aside predisposed judgement. The narrative explores a wide range of issues that would plague any survivor of the apocalypse, even though the gameplay often contradicts the creative intent. Days Gone is an experience that grows with the player. From the beginning, Deacon resembles an average protagonist in a familiar setting. Throughout the course of the game, however, players begin to tear down the protective walls that Deacon has built to survive. The struggles presented in Days Gone are enough to make one wonder, in a world this far gone, what drives people to keep going on in life?

Identity Problems

From the moment Days Gone began, I could not shake the feeling of familiarity in its presentation and flow. Days Gone feels like it tries to be the embodiment of Sony’s “Greatest Hits” instead of creating a unique experience that will withstand the test of time. Rather than establishing an understanding of what is at stake in this post-apocalyptic world, the opening sequence is reminiscent of The Last of Us’s introduction. Additionally, throughout the open world exploration, I was often reminded of the time I spent wandering through Horizon: Zero Dawn’s futuristic wasteland.

Underneath Days Gone’s presentation exists an ideology and belief that carries the protagonist, Deacon St. John, through his journey. The title may not feel unique in presentation but succeeds in proving its value via Deacon’s closest ally. Throughout the promotional material, Deacon is rarely seen without his motorcycle, leading many to assume that its sole purpose is to fulfil his biker needs. Without dismissing the fact that he is a biker-turned-drifter, the motorcycle holds a more significant role in Deacon’s journey than advertised.

The story of Days Gone begins two years after the “Freaker” outbreak that caused the world to plummet into chaos. In that time, Deacon has made a career out of being a Drifter: someone who does not ally with a specific survivor camp, but rather provides scavenging services to all who seek it. Within the first few missions, Deacon’s bike is severely damaged while completing a contract with his best friend Boozer, forcing him to leave it for the time being. When he returns to collect the broken motorcycle, he learns it was stolen and sold for parts, leaving Deacon with no other option but to use a new and inferior bike.

The immediate shift from Deacon’s personalized bike to a stripped down-model is significant because it happens shortly after the introduction, resulting in the player never experiencing his personalized ride. Not only does this change provide a purpose in allowing the player to level up the bike, it signifies how the audience is only able to witness Deacon’s life from that point on, rather than understand the one he had before. What players may never realize is that Deacon’s bike is a metaphor for his journey throughout Days Gone.

The reason as to why many players might not realize the significance of the bike is because of the unaligned balance of narrative plot device and gameplay mechanics. In Days Gone, the bike is a plot device that provides visual growth for Deacon’s character. Additionally, the bike is also a gameplay mechanic for traversing the environment.

At first glance, Days Gone forgoes narrative theme for mechanics; instead of being a symbolic plot device, the bike’s use to establish the survivor mentality is at the forefront. Mechanically, the bike feels disjointed and unenjoyable to use. The constant need to fill up on gas mid-way to destinations, along with the delicate structure of its chassis, creates an initial disconnect between the players and their mount. This overreliance on survival simulation mechanics with the motorcycle, it takes away from its significance as a plot device.

Vir in Machina

Just as the apocalypse restarts life across the globe, Deacon’s life is reset by the loss of his personalized vehicle. To a biker, a motorcycle represents their identity, and, for Deacon, this is in more ways than one. In Days Gone the bike is not only a method of survival, but also the personification of Deacon’s ability and willingness to rebuild his life. Rather than the theme of survival, Days Gone reinforces the process one goes through to rebuild themselves, and the bike represents the catalyst for Deacon to do that.

To better understand how Days Gone accomplishes this goal, one should consider titles such as The Last of Us and 2018’s God of War. In The Last of Us, Ellie represents hope whereas Joel is the reality of what is left behind after the outbreak. Throughout the game, players discover hope when none is believed to be left, allowing Joel to grow as a character and rediscover his purpose.

God of War takes a similar approach with Atreus and Kratos, where Atreus represents the human side of Kratos’s god-like persona. Throughout the game, Kratos grows as he discovers what it means to fight and care for a purpose greater than his own. Without their other halves, Joel and Kratos would not have experienced growth and development. Likewise, without his bike, Deacon cannot accomplish what is necessary to obtain the answers he seeks.

I was not enjoying the experience of Days Gone until I began to see the bike as the game’s strongest achievement rather than its greatest mistake. From that point on, I became more invested into maintenance of the bike, strengthening my connection to Deacon and his journey. My annoyance toward the bike’s high consumption of fuel and upkeep shifted into a perspective that was more reflective of Deacon as a character. Fuel was no longer a barrier, rather a necessity for Deacon to continue his quest. Additionally, my perception of the bike’s physical upkeep became attributed to Deacon’s mental state. Just as the bike requires 100% stability to function, so does Deacon if he is to see his journey through to the end.

Days Gone

The bike is therefore an evolution of survival. The motorcycle represents the progress that Deacon is making in his willingness to survive after the outbreak. From the initial tragedy, Deacon perfectly preserved his motorcycle as a memento of days gone. Once it is taken from him, the significance of Deacon’s bike shifted from carrying the burden of memories lost, to finding the desire to keep going.

Cyborg St. John

Once understood that the motorcycle represents Deacon’s journey, the player realises how integral it is for the overall narrative. The bike is a symbol of Deacon’s past. His connection to the motorcycle can also be extended to the colours he flies, which is evident in the biker vest he and Boozer continue to wear. Both the bike and the vest represent a familiarity to a simpler time, where death and sorrow were not normalized and the fight for survival not as severe.

The bike can be likened to other mounts found in similar games. For instance, Red Dead Redemption 2 requires players take care of their horses by ensuring hygiene and hunger are maintained. In Days Gone the same can be said for the maintenance and fuel of Deacon’s ride. As in Red Dead Redemption 2, players will become attached to their mount, and learn to see its significance through Deacon’s eyes.

Days Gone

Due to the limited resources and economy, players will have to make tough decisions along the way about whether to spend resources on improving their experience on or off the bike. The reward for prioritizing Deacon’s mount is experienced through the ease of traveling across Oregon where, without it, he would have no purpose or means to continue.

Before the outbreak, Deacon would follow a biker code; one of comradery and family. For him, the continuation of that legacy is shown through his uniform and the bike he rides. Abandonment of the bike would symbolize a surrender towards the reality before him. With everything that has been lost in his world, all that is left are Boozer and his ride. For Deacon, his legacy lives on through the past; the time he spent with his gang, the “Mongrels”; the love he shared with his wife Sarah; and the bike that stayed by his side through it all.

A Road Less Travelled

When Deacon’s journey began, the bike felt like it was holding him back instead of driving him forward. The motorcycle constantly fought with the controls, making the experience of riding it more difficult than traversing on foot. The more I drove, however, the more I began to understand why Deacon held onto it for so long. I understood that the bike was his way of honoring the days gone, and the lives lost along the way.

One moment that stood out to me during the game was when Deacon expressed to Boozer his reasoning for continuing on with life. While riding together, Deacon admits that he continues on, “because what the hell else are we gonna do?” His response perfectly encapsulates the whole journey of Days Gone, in that it reminds the player that to survive in this new world, one would need a purpose to fight for. For Deacon, that purpose is fueled by answers from the past, and if he is to uncover it all, a part of him needs to let go and embrace the future.

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Opinion

The Final Fantasy VII Remake Might Turn Away Fans Instead of Creating New Ones

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final fantasy vii

In 1997, Square Enix, then Square Soft, released a title that would change the role-playing genre forever. Until then, the genre only found popularity within smaller, niche communities. In January of that year, Square Soft released Final Fantasy VII,a classic that would hold a special place in gamers’s hearts for years to come.

Until my early teens, I had only heard of the marvel known as Final Fantasy VII. Before that point, I had never experienced the game or seen much of its offerings. For years, I searched stores for a copy until finally locating a version that broke my juvenile bank. I had finally earned a chance to experience a game I had, until then, only known through word of mouth and, after my first few hours with it, found love.

Final Fantasy VII gave me characters to care about and a cause worth fighting for. With a protagonist as gloomy as Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy VII’s extended cast of misfits needed to outshine the leading man and give players a reason to care. The lovable Aerith/Aeris, adamant Tifa, and strong-headed Barret are some examples of FFVII’s supporting cast that remains iconic into modern gaming.

At E3 2015, Square Enix surprised audiences with the announcement that Final Fantasy VII would be getting a full-fledged remake. Fans would ride an emotional high for a while before the title was announced to be broken into multiple parts. A multi-part release, along with some questionable visuals and character design, was enough to shift fan excitement to worry, until both the game and conversation faded out of the limelight.

During Sony’s State of Play stream, audiences were shown new gameplay for the Remake, which featured adjusted character models and the inclusion of more beloved characters. Once again, fans were left on an emotional high after the stream until confirmation came later that the title would still be chopped up into multiple releases.

Square Enix is advertising this game as being too large for a single launch window. For reference sake, the single-player experience of Red Dead Redemption 2 launched in full in October 2018. Given how grand the narrative is for Red Dead Redemption 2, the title still needed a separate disc for installation. Nonetheless this did not encourage Rockstar to split the title into multiple launches. What Square Enix is effectively stating here, is that the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be more expansive than Red Dead Redemption 2 – a title that is already one of the largest games to date. Either the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be groundbreaking for the industry, or this is an attempt by Square Enix to capitalize on the fandom surrounding this beloved title.

As a primary curiosity, fans want to know how the game will be divided. For now, all that is known around this subject is just rumors and speculation, but that does not eliminate the need to discuss such possibilities. For example, will the game be split into two parts or will the division be more akin to the three-disc original version? This version of the split would be more faithful to the original, but then creates a new issue for fans.

The more parts Final Fantasy VII Remake finds itself in, the more expensive the overall experience will be for the players. Square Enix has not yet explained how it will charge for this remake. Given past trends within the industry, the potential for monetization comes via DLCs, expansions, or season passes. For example, Square’s previous entry into the Final Fantasy series – Final Fantasy XV – saw numerous added content post launch, including a second season pass before being cancelled. Additionally, the title received mobile spin-offs and tie-ins full of micro-transactions. In a perfect world, Square Enix would release each part at a lower price point than a full title, allowing the consumer to experience the full game at a ‘normal’ price. Fans will have to wait a little longer to get details on the pricing models, seeing as a release window for the first part is still nonexistent.

One aspect Square Enix should keep in mind, however, is player retention. As with past episodic titles, the possibility always exists for the playerbase to die off during the down time between releases. A large player-base exists that wait until the full title is released before purchasing and playing the game. Since Final Fantasy fans are not used to this kind of launch, many of them may purchase the first part out of excitement and anticipation and become turned off by the required indefinite wait afterwards.

For Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square’s decision to release the game in parts may not be as beneficial as it initially believes. Since the game is a remake, fans will have a certain expectation for the quality of its execution and development. The expectation towards the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be exceedingly high due to the fact that a Final Fantasy VII revered by many already exists. Ultimately, some fans will be disappointed by the remake depending on how faithful the content is to the original, already placing Square at a disadvantage with this beloved IP.

Despite the negativity surrounding Square’s insistence on breaking up the title, excitement for the Final Fantasy VII Remake remains high as fans are once again discussing what it may have to offer. Despite the confirmation of an episodic release, the community will not have any concrete facts until the game’s next showing later this year. Until then, all one can do is speculate based on trends within the gaming industry. I am genuinely excited to see a title loved by many re-imagined for modern technology, but the potential of it turning away die-hard fans due to business decisions leaves me worried for the worst.

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