Title: Long Gone Days
Developer: This I Dreamt
Release Date: October 10, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Serenity Forge
I have a unique relationship with war; my family is only here today because my great-grandfather served in the military and was stationed in Berlin during the tail end of World War II. So, I’ve been fascinated with the history of war and, of course, the media related to it. When I heard that there was a game promising to tackle war in a way I hadn’t seen before, I was intrigued, to say the least.
Long Gone Days focuses on Rourke, a private in The Core, a private military group that raises children to fight wars. Today is Rourke’s first mission to the surface. It’s simple—all he has to do is use the skills that have been taught to him since birth to kill radical terrorists and save civilians. However, after chasing a target that escaped, Rourke realizes that the enemy base he was told to attack was full of civilians. Deciding that he can no longer be active in his mission, Rourke deserts The Core and attempts to find ways to help the civilians he helped attack.
The story can be a bit slow to start, as the beginning has Rourke exploring the base while talking to his brother and sisters in The Core. There are a lot of little clues inside each chat about The Core. It’s instantly clear something is wrong but hard to pinpoint, as each character treats the life they lead as normal. Even a few NPCs chat about being jealous of somebody who got to test a new weapon prototype by being shot at by said prototype.
These soldiers, indoctrinated by The Core, make every interaction subtly uncomfortable, especially when a large number of the recruits have never been outside, having spent their whole lives in Headquarters training to be sent out on missions. Looking back on it, I actually love the beginning, despite my initial thoughts of it being slow. The opening gives insight into Rourke and The Core to its members while hinting that the group has something sinister lurking in its underbelly.
It also shows how idealistic Rourke really is. He views himself as a hero doing his part to ensure the safety of the world, so the early reveal of the fact that Rourke has been killing those whom he thought he was protecting hits him hard. So much so that he convinces his unit’s medic, Adair, to escort him away from the mission so he can get his head on straight.
This makes Rourke highly relatable even despite his training as a sniper; it’s clear that he not only isn’t used to killing but is actively against senseless murder. The guilt of what he has done follows him once he and Adair accidentally get caught going out of the mission area and become defectors. Leading him to join the defense of Kaliningrad, using the skills that were given to him to finally do what he feels is right.
The other party members help give Rourke an inside look at society, as the first people he meets outside of The Core are Ivan and Lynn, two civilians attempting to evacuate from the attacks. They are openly friendly to Rourke, inspiring him slightly to take up arms for what he finally believes in. They are relatable enough as civilians not used to fighting. However, it feels like they are instantly friends with Rourke, especially during a time of turmoil.
However, after Rourke has helped the town and evacuated as many civilians as he can, their friendship feels earned and genuine. I feel like I personally relate more to Lynn, as she is a person without a real goal in life. So, Rourke showing up as a call to action for her to finally do something that she can be proud of with her life does, in retrospect, make her immediate friendliness make more sense and complements Rourke well.
Rourke is an excellent protagonist who feels well-rounded and has a lot of room to improve himself, making his journey an interesting one. I couldn’t put down my Steam Deck once the major reveal happened. I was hooked and wanted to see if Rourke could get himself out of the situation that he was thrust into and if he could rise up to be the hero that he truly wanted to be. This ties nicely into one of the social mechanics of the game: party morale.
Morale, from what I can tell, is a hidden stat that lets you know when it has been raised or lowered and will affect the party’s attitudes toward the war and their outlook on survival. This can even affect the ability to accept side quests from NPCs, as Rourke won’t be confident that he could even help people if his morale is too low. This is an interesting mechanic to show the effects of war, but I find that it is a really simple stat to raise as long as players keep doing side quests and try not to be a total ass, as Rourke.
During my time with the title, I had only lowered the party’s morale a few times; the most memorable time was during a side quest when a man attempted to threaten Rourke. The game then gives two options: to either fight or not fight. In this context, I thought it meant to stand up for yourself or don’t. So, I chose to fight him, only for Rourke to just punch the disingenuous interloper, causing not only myself but the rest of the party to ask Rourke what he was thinking. This ended the side quest as a failure and negatively impacted everyone’s morale.
I admittedly got a laugh out of this, but with the morale system being as important as it is for accepting side quests, I ended up deciding to reload a save and choose the other option. This makes the side quests a little lackluster at times, as any choice that can be made usually has an objectively correct one. However, these choices are rare, as most of the time, a quest ends up being a quick delivery or fetch quest to help others. However, it does lead to one more interesting mechanic of language barriers.
Rourke, Adair, and Lynn can only speak English, making communication with many of the locals impossible without an interpreter. Ivan speaks Russian, and once he joins the party, he will translate all NPC dialog from Russian. I like this mechanic in theory; however, there are instances where characters are talking in their native language without any of the PCs there. There aren’t many, but for instance, two of the antagonists are speaking to each other with no translation of what is happening, and the party isn’t there.
So, it’s confusing to show a scene that won’t affect the party immediately, and that keeps the player out of the loop of what is happening. For one scene, I decided to use Google to translate what the two characters were saying. The conversation ended up boiling down to them discussing the party raiding their base and that they were going to alert more of their guards. This scene adds nothing and could have been completely omitted, especially if the player wouldn’t be getting any information out of it.
Thankfully, these scenes do not happen often, so they are a minor confusion rather than a widespread problem with the game, which is otherwise very solid in gameplay. I like to think of the game as split into three different sections: exploration, combat, and sniper mini-games. The fastest is the sniper mini-game; players will need to shoot the indicated number of targets within the time and bullet limit.
These are a fun addition to the game and aren’t overly difficult; there is a bit of sway to the cursor, but otherwise, I had no problems shooting the targets within the limits. In fact, the only time I missed was on purpose and didn’t seem to negatively impact the mini-game in any way. Exploration is where the party gets to talk to NPCs and do side quests. These sections will have little to no combat, instead focusing on character interactions.
Players will spend most of their time exploring towns, completing side quests, and talking with characters. This helps make combat feel like a surprise when entered, as unlike other titles in the genre, combat isn’t a common occurrence. In fact, there are quite a few encounters that can be bypassed by choosing a different path or simply ignoring them. The few encounters that are forced upon the player are usually treated as events rather than random combat.
The rarity of battle helps keep the combat from getting stale, as it is a relatively simple affair. Players can attack and use items or skills to defeat whatever enemy stands in their way. The unique aspect of combat is that players can choose which body part to focus an attack on. This will change the likelihood of the attack missing, the amount of damage, and whether or not a paralysis effect could happen.
This is interesting, but after the initial battle, I found that I would choose to focus on two targets: the head, which does the most damage, and the arms, which have a chance to paralyze the target. Body shots are safe hits but will do the same amount of damage as a shot to the arm without the chance of paralysis. For the majority of the game, players will be fighting drones or humans.
So there isn’t very much variation in combat that can lead it to feel a little boring, as tactics will not need to change very much. Despite this, the combat is straightforward and easy enough to understand without feeling bloated. If there was more enemy variety or a wider range of targets and status effects to cause on enemies, this could be a really fun battle system that I would want to spend hours grinding.
With how rare combat is, leveling up isn’t really a thing, as players will not earn any levels or money through combat. Instead, skills are tied to story progression, and the party has absolutely no money, forcing them to be reliant on the kindness of strangers. Winning encounters allow the player to choose between getting items or recovering a bit of SP that is used for their skills. The choice is interesting, but for most fights, choosing the item will be a better choice outside of rare instances.
Long Gone Days is an ambitious title that attempts to showcase the horrors of war and the effect it has on citizens and those who fight. The themes can be a little dark at times, and not every mechanic lands. Despite this, it is a game with a lot of heart that manages to stand out in a wave of RPGs. While it may not hit the mainstream, I am certain that Rourke and the rest of his friends will be talked about for years to come.
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