Days Gone has been scrutinised for not criticising Deacon's behaviour, but its ending didn't need to fulfill a character arc like The Last Of Us with Joel.
Days Gone is Sony’s newest PlayStation 4 exclusive, and it has been heavily scrutinised by a bunch of outlets because of its technical shortcomings and because it’s not a masterpiece on par with The Last Of Us and God Of War.
One of the most common complaints amongst reviewers is that Deacon is a selfish protagonist whose behaviour the game isn't critical of. This criticism has become prevalent because Deacon doesn’t undergo a transformation similar to Joel in The Last Of Us and Arthur in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Because of this criticism, Deacon has been dismissed as an obnoxious and selfish jerk. He isn’t forced to confront his heinous mistakes to emotionally grow, which – apparently – means that Days Gone’s narrative is unfulfilling and ruined.
This viewpoint is a popular one amongst the game’s biggest critics, but I strongly believe that Deacon didn’t need to follow through with a transformation similar to Joel and Arthur.
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Days Gone – Deacon didn’t need a character arc like The Last Of Us’ Joel
Spoilers beyond this point
The Last Of Us and Red Dead Redemption 2 both end with their protagonists completing a transformation. Joel starts as a bitter and grumpy man who sees Ellie as nothing more than a job, but by the end he sees her as a daughter.
With Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur redeems himself by helping others, as well by aiding John Marston and Abigail in their efforts at escaping Dutch and his roundabout life of crime.
Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last Of Us have two of the best stories told in the video games industry. Their narratives are emotional and complex, and they result in their protagonists being revered individuals.
But, while The Last Of Us and Red Dead Redemption 2 have better stories than most Hollywood films, it doesn’t mean they’re the bar that always needs to be replicated.
Not every narrative focused video game needs to end on a sad or topical note, as sometimes it’s just satisfying to see a wounded and messed up individual be rewarded for their years of suffering.
To avoid spoiling everything, Days Gone’s third act includes the obvious twist that – gasp – Sarah isn’t dead. This twist culminates with Sarah and Deacon riding off into the sunset so they can enjoy a blissful life of riding each other. The end.
Is this final image as sad as Arthur dying after redeeming himself? No. Is it open to interpretation like The Last Of Us? Of course not.
Instead of being sad or debatable, Days Gone’s conclusion is simply satisfying and nice. Yes, it robs Deacon of having to find a way to live a meaningful life without Sarah, but it’s ultimately a simple yet happy payoff to a dozen days of misery.
It’s not going to win the game any awards for best writing or characters, but it does succeed in providing a pleasant and somewhat refreshing send-off that hints at a better life for Deacon. With the majority of the post-apocalypse being bleak and purposefully unpleasant, this cheesy ending captures the heart-warming goofiness established in the romance scenes between Sarah and Deacon.
There's already a bleak, dark, and consistently miserable zombie post-apocalypse with The Last Of Us, so it’s good that Days Gone differentiates itself by being a bleak, dark, and consistently miserable zombie post-apocalypse with a happy ending.
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