The main takeaway from seeing Days Gone’s horde of not-zombies at E3 was ‘holy shit that’s a lot’. Hundreds of the things pouring across the screen like angry, arm-flailing water.
These things aren’t exactly zombies, though. Instead they’re infected humans, turned feral by some as yet unexplained disease. Because of that they’re a little more reactive to the game’s open world. ”Every creature is different, they are a living type,” explains senior animator Emmanuel Roth. “They have some needs and behave differently depending on the weather, the location”. We’ve only seen two variations so far: the main horde type and a “newt” - an adolescent version that appears to be the ‘hide and jump on your back' type of bastard.
While the E3 demo seemed to show easily killed creatures, mown down by the main character, Deacon’s gunfire, the final game won’t be that easy. "They are not weak,” clarifies Roth, who explains that what we saw was geared to be entertaining: “Maybe we dumbed them down a bit for the demo but they are not weak. It’s very dangerous. Those guys will be hard to fight”.
That danger will be something you can build up to, with Roth observing that, at the start of the game, the player will be in no state to handle the hordes seen so far (“that will happen later in the game where you are equipped enough to deal with them”). The open world also means you can avoid conflicts if you want. “If you went to the saw mill and you didn’t want to deal with the swarm, you’re fine. You can go somewhere and deal [with things] the way you want,” says Roth.
Fortunately you won’t have to worry about thousand strong crowds at every turn. In my demo an alternate route showed off some smaller encounters, fighting off a few Freakers at a time in side a building. “There’s going to be different sizes of horde; you’ll come across varying ranges of numbers,” confirms Pape.
Finally, if you were wondering just how many Freakers the game can fit on screen, it’s something developer Bend curiously aren’t discussing. “We’re not really allowed to discuss it,” says senior artist Brain Pape, “but it’s a lot”.
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