Over the weekend, Days Gone delivered the first of its 12 promised free challenges released weekly for the summer. First up: a horde challenge called “Surrounded” that puts players in the middle of a small run-down town, surrounds them with Freakers, and challenges them to survive for as long as they can. It’s hard as hell, and I like it a lot.
Here’s a thing you need to know about me and how I play video games like this: I’m a big ol’ meathead. I barrel headfirst into problems and try to figure out how to handle complications on the fly. I don’t really do “plans” or “schemes” if I’ve got several high-caliber, fully automatic guns along with a solid 15 pounds of high explosives on my digital person. The hordes in Days Gone proper were nice, because they made me stop and do some planning, but with my bike nearby for a speedy escape and a bit of help from some explosive barrels, I could still Rambo a horde into submission.
That doesn’t fly in this horde challenge. You don’t get to use your bike, and you’re restricted to the small corner of the map the challenge takes place in. Even though you’re armed to the teeth with some of the best guns in the game, you’re going to need to come up with plans upon plans as you die and die again in an effort to last a little bit longer and score more points. Earn enough points, or complete a task like “kill 10 freakers with explosive barrels,” and you’ll earn credits. You can then spend those credits on new character or bike skins, or patches for your jacket or rings that give you gameplay buffs. (These buffs also carry over to the main game.) Score enough points in a single match—points don’t carry over—and you’ll rank up, unlocking more rewards you can buy with credits.
Clearing the score thresholds necessary to earn credits is hard. You have a minute on the clock, and the only way to refill the clock is by killing more Freakers. That means you have to be both crafty and aggressive, memorizing the location of every chokepoint, ledge, explosive, and ammo box. You can’t hide and let enemies lose track of you for very long. It is extremely stressful, but also very fun—something I only really say about video games.
Taking out hordes is easily the best part of Days Gone, so it’s great that the first challenge mode added to the game is a small-scale distillation of this. What I like even better about this first challenge is the way that it sets up future ones, sequestering it away in a separate menu that should eventually be populated with all 12 of the planned challenges this summer. Over the next 12 weeks, we should see the challenge menu grow to become a full-fledged arcade mode, with its own set of rewards to unlock.
I wish some of the new mode’s rewards were more generous or substantial. You can unlock different characters to play as, but they’re merely skins and do not come with different loadouts or abilities than those you start with. The difficulty curve is steep once you decide to earn the credits necessary to get better rewards—but this is also a well-considered free update to an already-massive game, so it’s a minor quibble. I’m looking forward to next week’s challenge.