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Long Gone Days Review – Review

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There is no shortage of video games about the subject of war, and within that there is also no shortage of games trying to give those stories a serious and somber tone. Long Gone Days, a game from Chilean developers This I Dreamt, is one such game that attempts to tell a war story largely from the perspective of the civilians and refugees that experience the effects of conflict firsthand. While I would say it succeeds at certain parts of this particular conflict, there are also some places it falls short both in terms of stories and gameplay.

Long Gone Days takes place in a fictionalized version of the real world which is largely the same as reality, but in this world there is an underground dystopian society known as The Core, which often finds itself hired by countries around the world to help in wars or provide humanitarian aid. You play as Rourke, a sniper from The Core who has been deployed on his first mission to assist the Polish military fight a war in the Russian province of Kaliningrad. After successfully clearing out a base of enemy combatants, Rourke is horrified to learn that the people he just finished gunning down weren’t combatants at all, but civilians. The Core is not there to fight a war in Kaliningrad; they’re there to start one. Rourke flees the army he was once so loyal to alongside a Core medic named Adair, and the two begin a journey that will open their eyes to just how sinister the plans of The Core are, and how many innocent lives it has destroyed along the way.

The story overall is well done, with Rourke having a sympathetic character arc in particular. A particularly interesting characteristic in the writing is that the people in the cities you visit largely do not speak English, but instead the actual language of that country. If you, like me, only speak English you will not be able to understand a word anybody says until somebody that speaks that language has joined your party, Ivan and his ability to translate Russian, for example. Character designs are also largely on the strong side–myself being a personal fan of the German reporter–Atiye, all of them being successfully distinct while still looking like normal everyday people. All of this is unfortunately diminished by a distinctly bleak ending that felt less like the real ending and more like I had messed up somewhere and gotten a bad ending, but if that was the case I have no idea where my mistake would have or even could have occurred.

Gameplay in Long Gone Days is largely that of a typical RPG. You can explore a series of small (usually urban) areas and will occasionally encounter turn-based combat. Environments in Long Gone Days are largely fine, but they do suffer from the unfortunate side effect of taking place in modern cities: they all look the same. There is what feels like very little visual distinction between Kaliningrad and Kiel, Germany, and this is not only a problem for variety’s sake but also makes the environments themselves sometimes feel a bit confusing to navigate even when they’re fairly small and self-contained. That being said, every area contains a good amount of side quests that do actually give more life to the minor characters around you, things like finding somebody’s missing daughter right before an attack or even just reading newspaper clippings to get further elaboration on the conflict. These also can increase the party’s morale, which gives them a small invisible buff in battle and also has the potential to unlock even more side quests later on. The downside of this is that it shines a brighter light on how the game’s equivalent to dungeons are a weak point as pretty much all of them are entirely linear with very little deviation.

Where Long Gone Days shows its unique qualities most strongly is in its combat system. On your turn you can choose to attack, use a skill at the cost of SP, or use an item. It gets more interesting when you choose to attack, at which point you will have to select where your character will shoot. Different body parts on enemies have different levels of defense, and for the most part the lower the defense something has the higher evasion rate it has. This gives an interesting risk/reward aspect: do you go for the safe option and shoot at their torso for lower damage, or do you aim for their head for higher damage at the risk of missing your shot? Many enemies also have parts that have a chance of paralyzing the enemy when attacked, usually their arm, which will then cause them to have to skip their next two turns. For me this battle system is where the game shines its brightest; it’s simple but still felt like it added a little more depth to combat in general. There is no leveling up or EXP in Long Gone Days, making equipables the only way to increase a character’s stats. Instead of EXP, at the end of a fight you are offered the choice of a random item or a small bit of SP restoration. This is actually a meaningful choice, as many of the items it offers are extremely helpful and SP cannot be regained for free any other way, otherwise only replenished by using various items which are usually better saved for boss encounters.

Overall I find myself with relatively mixed feelings on Long Gone Days. I believe that it’s a good experience and many fans of the genre will probably enjoy their time with it, at least a little bit when all is said and done, but it’s those good parts that make its flaws stand out that much more. The soundtrack manages to successfully paint a somber atmosphere for the most part, the character stories are overall interesting even if The Core itself is kind of a generic antagonistic force, and I found the battle system to be interesting and engaging. But some slightly uninteresting settings to explore and an ending that still has me questioning whether or not I screwed up somewhere along the way make it a bit hard to give a glowing recommendation. It also should be mentioned that for some bizarre reason the game can only be controlled with the D-pad, which I found caused a lot more hand cramps than usual especially when playing in handheld mode. [UPDATE: We have been informed that this was the result of a bug, a patch has been submitted addressing this issue]. A lot of what’s here is good, but more than anything I think it just makes me more interested in what the dev team comes out with next with the lessons learned from this project’s completion.

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