There are games that try to do something that no other game can do. It is a difficult feat. After all, if a developer could just create a unique selling point that easily, every game you play would be totally different from the last. Of course, we know that’s not the way the industry works, and sometimes trying to force an unusual design can backfire on us. This is Jason Oda’s problem Day before fundamentally suffers from.
The inner struggle of awakening
Day before is a third-person action game with a narrative twist. In the game, you incarnate in a deep coma as the afterlife approaches. After you have had the opportunity to ascend into the afterlife, you reject it to fight for something more meaningful.
The steps in Day before are indeed part of your buried consciousness. You are responsible for bringing together both your past memories and the parts of your physical body in order to revive your very existence. It’s a wild concept that is certainly worth studying, but its implementation is subject to debate.
Throughout the game, your abilities and your party members are built based on your actual experiences. For example, very early on you are asked to describe an expensive pet. What species were they? What was their name? What race were they? Subsequently, the game adds a follower to your party inspired by your true furry friend.
Considering how easily players can get attached to pets in other games, you can imagine how cool it was to see my adorable little West Highland Terrier running alongside me. However, I doubt everyone has the same experience.
Appearance options are limited. I was lucky and one of the presets looked like a Westie, but the other races are not represented. It would certainly be frustrating to try and immerse yourself in it and realize that you can’t even have an accurate version of your dear pet by your side.
Either way, the idea of living your own story is interesting. I just think it’s such a bold design choice because executing it is really hard. People’s lives vary in far too many ways for a video game to ever cover them. And this is something that has hampered my ability to really immerse myself in Day beforethe story of.
Getting lost in the mental landscape
Perhaps the most frustrating gameplay element of Day before is the inability of the game to provide meaningful direction. The way the levels are laid out and interconnected with each other makes their crossing more difficult than it should be. This problem gets worse as you progress through the game.
What is strange is that Day before Sometimes offers a clear lens at the bottom of the screen – but not all the time, and sometimes that lens doesn’t even update properly when completed. Because of this, I was often not sure whether I was ready to move on or not.
Worst of all is Day beforerelies too much on colors for its cartographic interface. I’m doing my best here telling myself to go to the exit via the magenta dots on the map. Or if I need to accomplish an objective nearby, it is indicated by a green dot on the map. But being that I’m a color blind gamer, differentiating between the often criminally close colors on this minimap is extremely frustrating. I found myself spending more time trying to navigate the levels and figuring out where to go than actually progressing to the next objective.
Fight for your life
Despite its relaxed and meditative design philosophy, the core gameplay of Day before is based on rapid action. Boss fights and brawls rely on the player being constantly on the move while using various weapons to deal damage.
Your base kit consists of a ranged projectile attack, a swift melee attack, and the various abilities you collect as you progress through the story. Some of these abilities are just direct damage dealers, while others are summons and support spells.
There is a decent variety of fights out there, with some requiring defensive play styles where you have to deflect fire to take out an enemy. Others are simpler, instructing you to stun an enemy, then melee them before they get up.
If these mechanics hardly reinvent the genre, they are still sufficiently capable of avoiding disturbing Day beforeits selling point, its story. If I got damaged it was probably my fault, and it’s a system I can live with. It is very rare in a fight that you get hit and the game was to blame.
If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that I don’t think you should have to constantly charge your melee attack. Whenever you mingle, it uses a charge that builds up by absorbing fragments dropped by enemies. Running out of melee mid-fight is needlessly irritating while adding little to the experience. Guess there is an added element of resource management, but you already have limited loads on your special attacks anyway. I think that alone would have been enough.
Visuals and performances
It’s hard to criticize the visuals of Day before. This is a beautiful indie game that showcases the best of independent artistic talent the industry has to offer. It would be difficult to find a screenshot of Day before where you couldn’t make it your wallpaper.
Some areas are a little too dark for my taste, but it fits in well with the whole coma story. And to be fair, much of the game is still bright, but not overly colorful. The greatest spectacle Day before has to offer are its boss fights which are a wonderful blend of stunning lighting effects and beautifully designed environments.
Considering these high quality visuals, you might have concerns about Day before, but there is nothing to worry about. The average FPS on my RTX 2060 stabilized at around 120. During more intense, action-packed segments it dropped to 78 FPS, but these are rare. During slower movie segments, Day before consistently maintained well above 200 FPS.
Considering the game’s minimum GPU requirement for any “dedicated video card,” I doubt many will experience serious performance issues. Day before is a well-optimized game that should be able to run on a wide variety of systems.
Frustrating but not necessarily bad
Day before is one of the most frustrating games I have ever played because it comes so close to delivering on its promise to be an emotional and meditative experience. But this is not the case. For every chunk of relaxing dialogue, there’s an irritating level or hidden outlet to counter it. For every moment that puts a warm smile on your face, there is something else that makes you want to go to your office.
I see what the developer was trying to achieve, and deep down I really wanted to like this game. But faced with its UI oversights and lower-level design, I’d be lying if I said it did. Either way, if you’re looking for something a little different, and you value writing stories over in-game features, there’s probably enough of it that you can do. take advantage.
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