Serenity Forge hit me up before PAX to try out Long Gone Days, and being the small outlet that we are, I took it seriously and after like 20 minutes of play at the expo, I was pretty much sold. Now that the game has finally come out, I can honestly say it’s one of the most unique yet familiar games I’ve ever played, and while it’ll be lost at a time in which we’re looking forward to so many titles, it’s still something I’d recommend for anybody interested in the game’s aesthetic.
At first glance, Long Gone Days looks like an Earthbound-type RPG with adult characters, and while it’ll have some similarities namely with its setting’s visual style, it has a much more different vibe. The game’s story is politically driven. You play as Rourke, a talented young sniper for The Core, an underground organization that trains its community in combat and pretty much nothing else. People born into The Core know nothing but the core. They’re under the impression that every other member is their brother or sister, and they all have the same father, the Father General. Cult? Absolutely.
As Rourke, you find out that The Core is nothing like it seems when you’re put on a surface mission. Again, your job is a sniper, so your job as a sniper is to shoot on sight. But should you still shoot if the people you’re shooting at are innocent people not even fighting? This is what happens in the first hour of the game, and together with a Core Medic by the name of Adair, you find yourself on the run from The Core… all while learning they’re actually a terrorist organization.
Still sound like Earthbound? Hardly. Long Gone Days‘ story brings you to places like Russia, Poland, and Germany to name a few to see how The Core’s actions are causing unnecessary war all around the world, and you’ll meet various characters along the way who have some real stakes at everything happening. The cycle of meeting these party members is rather interesting to. As any well traveled person will tell you, going to new places internationally not only brings you some culture shock, but difficulty with the language barrier can cause some angst too. With every new place you come to, you meet a new party member that makes the local tongue understandable; it’s a simple concept but you have to wonder why this isn’t seen in other RPGs.
From here, the game becomes familiar ground to RPG enthusiasts. Whatever city is in is at your fingertips, and you’re encouraged to explore and get to know the locals as you choose to progress the main story or go off the beaten path and do sidequests for the sake of world building along with typical benefits for your party.
The menu has a tracker for all the sidequests you have in the game, but it doesn’t really do a good job of indicating where it is you have to go because there’s no map or radar function in the game. This was probably on purpose because each sidequest is accompanied by a still of the area you’re in, but it would’ve reduced a lot of the legwork if a map was available.
When things get serious, there’s two main ways of combat with the first of which not having enough sequences, so let’s start off with that. As mentioned, the game is about a sniper, so there are sequences in the game behind the scope where you shoot at enemies. It’s easy to do–just aim and shoot. The problem as just stated is the fact that there aren’t enough of these sequences in the game. I counted three times we engaged in this; that’s not nearly enough.
The other form of combat is your typical run-of-the-mill turn-based battle system. Pretty much every party member you come in contact with will be armed in some way, and when you’re fighting most human enemies you’ll be limited to attacking the head or another body part. Of course, shooting at the head will cause more damage (if not kill them right away), so that being said, knowing this information why would you choose anything else? Aiming at the head results in an attack that isn’t nearly as accurate as shooting at any other body part, but again — there is nary an opportunity for you to even want to attack any other body part, so it doesn’t make much sense there.
Interestingly enough, the other wrinkle to the battle system is there are no experience points. Almost every battle you’ll have in the game is scripted, and there is no benefit to fighting enemies over and over. When you beat an enemy, you have the option of choosing an item or a stat buff, and in most situations, the former is the better option especially when you get to the end and you really need those items.
The best thing about Long Gone Days is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Depending on how much effort you put into all of the sidequests, Long Gone Days shouldn’t take anybody longer than eight hours to complete, and that’s on the conservative side. The game doesn’t do anything jaw dropping, but the political story in addition to the way the game presents familiar content in new ways really makes Long Gone Days a title to give real consideration despite all the other gaming options available at this point of the year. In a time where RPGs are getting harder and harder to differentiate, this one does enough to make it well worth your time.