Having just celebrated its second anniversary, Days Gone has found itself back under the spotlight, but not for all the right reasons. We’re here to ask what, if anything, comes next for the PlayStation exclusive and its developer, Sony Bend Studio.
Before we dive in, let’s address the undead elephant in the room. According to a recent eye-opening report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, there won’t be a Days Gone 2. Publisher Sony is alleged to have turned down the pitch from Bend before moving them onto other first party projects. For a while now industry pundits have had their eye on the Days Gone developer, especially after the departure of senior staff including John Garvin and Jeff Ross.
Days Gone launch and reception
Compared to other PlayStation juggernauts, Days Gone didn’t perform quite as well. As noted in Schreier’s report, the open world survival game was profitable for Sony and reached a decent audience, but it didn’t score well among critics (picking up a 6 out of 10 in our review) with development having been longer, and therefore more costly than expected.
Despite not being a runaway success, Days Gone continues to be supported by Sony Bend. Post-launch it was enriched with new content and features, followed by a PS5 patch last year allowing it to run at a smooth 60FPS on PlayStation 5.
Then there was the surprise announcement that Days Gone is coming to PC – now available via Steam and Epic as of April 26th, the second major PS4 exclusive to be ported after Horizon: Zero Dawn.
It’s also worth mentioning that Days Gone was included with the PlayStation Plus Collection for PS5 buyers, and then made free to everyone with an active PlayStation Plus subscription throughout April 2021. We’re expecting to see a surge in support for Days Gone, though it’s unlikely that this will change Sony’s mind about a Days Gone 2, especially if Bend has moved on to a totally different project.
Will there ever be a Days Gone sequel?
We won’t go into any spoilers, Days Gone certainly left the door wide open for a sequel. There are questions that still don’t have answers, the final act only partially unravelling a much wider conspiracy. Days Gone established a world and setting that could easily springboard into a follow-up, possibly bringing existing characters along for the ride.
Despite Sam Whitwer’s excellent performance, Deacon St. John is probably the least likeable PlayStation protagonist among Sony’s ever-growing stable. While we definitely enjoyed roaming Oregon and torching Freaker nests, those set piece highlights were wedged between dull story arcs used to flesh out forgettable, throwaway characters.
The truth is, Sony aren’t exactly dying for a gritty, post-apocalyptic odyssey teeming with infected nasties. Sure, we were excited when Days Gone was first unveiled, but even back in 2016 then we couldn’t quite fathom why Sony had greenlit its development with The Last of Us: Part II clearly going for a similar aesthetic and mix of third person shooting/survival gameplay.
Days Gone 2: what we’d like to see
All of this isn’t to say we’re completely against the idea of a Days Gone 2. As noted in our review, the original game boasts a gorgeous, dynamic natural world to explore with an interesting grab bag of systems and mechanics. If Sony were to unveil a sequel, we’d like to see a similarly sized map but a much shorter game overall, at least in terms of its main storyline, instead placing a greater emphasis on exploration and building settlements.
Recent comments made by former Bend director, Jeff Ross, suggest that multiplayer was a part of their sequel pitch, and so Days Gone 2 could have ventured into similar territory to Xbox exclusive series State of Decay. Instead of relying on sharp writing and characterisation, the games in this open world zombie survival series allowed players to create their own emergent stories through nail-biting gameplay moments. As in State of Decay, characters from your camp of survivors could die or fall ill with players assigning them to different duties when not out in the field, and the game could easily fold in co-op and emergent multiplayer.
There should be a stronger emphasis on carving out your own corner of the map to build a home for your survivors. In fact, seeing Days Gone lean into the kind of resource gathering and building mechanics sported by titles such as The Forest or even Valheim would be a surprising albeit strong change of direction, especially when you factor in the use of vehicles. Imagine trying to lug heavy materials through the mud ala SnowRunner, while fending off Freakers.
Over time, I’ve given myself a growing appetite for Days Gone 2, though even if Sony were to decide the IP deserved to return, it could benefit from waiting for the dust to settle. We don’t know exactly what is happening with The Last of Us right now, but Naughty Dog are likely beavering away on some PS5 enhancements as well as the eagerly awaited Factions multiplayer, which might be a standalone release. There’s also the looming shadow of a The Last of Us remake that has allegedly landed in Naughty Dog’s lap, and this could sit well alongside the upcoming HBO television series. Sony probably won’t want to distract from their post-apocalyptic poster child just as interest is hitting its peak
In the meantime, we’d love to see Bend Studio work on something else, whether an entirely new original concept or an existing PlayStation license they’re passionate to pursue – could Syphon Filter make a return? Although lending their talents to other studios could be beneficial for Sony’s game development efforts, Bend’s own stable of world-class devs are at their best creating new worlds for PlayStation fans to conquer.