While missing some staples of a typical RPG, Long Gone Days is a great game, with a grounded story that effectively showcases the effects war can have on people.
RPGs are my favorite type of games, and I’m always looking for more that I can try out in between Final Fantasy playthroughs. When I first saw the trailer for Long Gone Days, I was very interested in the bleak tone it set, and curious on how studio Serenity Forge would fit RPG elements in a wartime setting such as this one. The result is a game that feels well-grounded in reality, with RPG aspects built around a gritty, conflict-heavy world.
Long Gone Days takes place in a world very much like our own, with one big difference — an organization called The Core. This group raises children from birth with the sole purpose of carrying out military operations, supposedly in the name of making the world a better place. You play as Rourke, who was raised by The Core as a sniper. The game begins with him finally about to go on his first mission (which is also his first time seeing the outside world), but he soon discovers the truth behind this operation and deserts The Core.
From here, the game opens up into a world that is afflicted with strife, and deals with related themes: What is worth fighting for? How can you have empathy during wartime? Can you redeem yourself for past sins? I think the game does a great job exploring these themes, in large part through the main characters, who all have their own secrets and regrets to work through. Long Days Gone also tries to answer these questions through the game’s cities and civilians that have been affected by the war.
Because of the themes tackled, and the overall premise of the game, things can feel pretty bleak at times. However, the devs do manage to throw some humor in during calm moments, taking advantage of Rourke being a fish out of water — for example, during one scene, he is genuinely confused on how he’s supposed to eat a simple burger.
In many ways, Long Gone Days is a typical turn-based RPG. There are some changes to make it fit in a more realistic world such as this one, however, with arguably the biggest change being the lack of any kind of leveling system. Once you get a character, you can improve their stats by giving them new equipment, and they will learn new Skills as you progress in the story, but they will never level up or have any kind of natural stat growth. Additionally, there are no random battles in the game. All of the enemies you can fight can be seen on the map, and every battle is part of the story in some way (or, rarely, part of a side quest).
While these differences may seem a bit jarring, I think they’re fitting for the more realistic world of this game. There are no fantastical elements here, and you’re just playing as ordinary people, so it makes sense that your party doesn’t get stronger just by defeating enemies — and that they don’t just run into random creatures trying to kill them constantly while exploring areas.
In battle, you can have your characters attack, use a skill, or use items. When attacking, you can choose different areas of the enemy to shoot, typically three options: an easy to hit but low damage area, a high damaging area but with higher evasion, or another area with low damage but with a chance to paralyze the enemy. I enjoyed this system, because it gives you a more interesting decision-making tree than just “do I attack or not”. However, I found that going for the paralyze option wasn’t worth it in most cases; these attacks have a very low chance of actually inflicting the effect, and even if it does manage to hit, it only lasts for a single turn.
Possibly the most interesting mechanic in Long Gone Days is the morale system. Morale acts as this game’s version of Mana/MP in other RPGs, but there’s also more to it than just being a resource for your skills. If you manage to get your morale to max on a character, they will always land critical hits with their attacks for the rest of the battle. Conversely, if you’re reckless and completely deplete it, your character’s attack damage will be cut in half.
You don’t get any items to simply raise Morale, but there are many opportunities both in and out of combat to increase it. After every battle, you can choose to raise your party’s morale instead of gaining an item, and many dialogue choices during both the story and side quests will affect your morale — meaning if you make the wrong choices you can actually end up lowering it. It’s a really neat — and fitting — mechanic for the game. Not only does it help make battles require a bit more thought in terms of how you want to tackle them, but it also gives much more meaning to your dialogue choices.
Progression and Navigation
Long Gone Days is fairly linear. The game generally makes it clear where you need to go at all times, and the various areas of the game are not interconnected — no huge overworld to wander around in. Each area does give you some room to explore and find items, however, so it’s worth looking for alternate paths as you progress.
The game also features side quests: when entering a new major area, you can check all of the available side quests there in your quest log. These side quests are typically fairly short and you can track your progress on them, however they don’t always feel like they’re worth going out of your way for. Some will give you some useful items, but many of them will just give a small Morale boost, or in rare cases give nothing at all — there was even one side quest where my ‘reward’ was losing Morale because I made a wrong choice. On top of this, due to the nature of how the story progresses, it is very easy to lock yourself out of completing these quests if you progress too far into the story and move to a new area.
Longevity and Replayability
A typical playthrough will take around 10-12 hours. You can extend that somewhat if you go out of your way to do every side quest and fully explore every area, but it wouldn’t extend it by too much, given how short the quests can be.
There also isn’t really a reason to play through the game more than once. While there are dialogue choices you can make throughout the story, they don’t change anything other than possibly affecting your Morale — you will essentially get the entire story in a single playthrough.
Overall, Long Gone Days is a very good RPG that tells a story grounded in reality. If you enjoy games with stories about war and that tackle some darker themes, I would definitely recommend trying this one. However, if you’re looking for a more typical RPG experience, you may find the lack of a progression system and other elements normally in the genre disappointing.
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I'm a huge gamer who especially loves the Final Fantasy series. I will play just about any game, especially if it has anything resembling a Dragoon.