Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Fool’s Theory
Review code supplied free of charge by the publisher.
Sometimes games can be difficult to talk about coherently. Take Seven: The Days Long Gone, for instance; there were times when I was genuinely enjoying its open-world stealth-RPG mechanics and unique world, and yet there were also other times when I utterly hated it. It can be pleasingly willing to let you figure things out for yourself, and it can be annoyingly vague about many things. Its parkour can let you smoothly slide into a heavily patrolled area, and it can be breathtakingly clumsy in its controls. This new game from a bunch of ex-Witcher developers is one hell of a mixed bag from start to finish, and it feels like every 30-seconds of gameplay is a rollercoaster.
So here is the gist; you are Teriel, a thief who has been sent to the prison island of Peh (I’m not kidding, that’s its name) after a job went wrong. Implanted in your head is a A.I. which Teriel reckons must be a daemon, because the world is post-apocalyptic, covered in technology from before whatever disaster befell everyone and while this technology is used it is not well understood. A remote control or cracked phone is called a “mysterious idol” when looting, for example.
Its a world filled with jargon like “tinnies” when referring to the heavily armed guards. Its fine for the first while but since you’re playing as someone already familiar with the world and its slang there does come a point when everything begins to blur together and it sounds like the writers just flicked through a crappy fantasy novel, the kind that loves to keep everything weird names in the mistaken belief that it makes their world more interesting. It can, but only when done correctly.
Before too long you’ll find yourself wrapped up in helping overthrow a tyrannical ruler, but it’s all largely forgettable stuff that struggles with a lack of interesting characters. Teriel himself is charmingly acted but has no real personality beyond being a slightly sarcastic thief.
Right, so thieving is the game and as such there’s a couple of standard stealth rules that apply: hiding in bushes or even piles of junk will keep you out sight, but there’s no cover system or anything of the sort, so if you want to hide behind something or around a corner you’ll need to do it manually, although you need to be careful as the camera can sometimes make it difficult to tell if you’re genuinely hidden, plus a few glitches let guards see through certain things. Running or even going fast while crouching will alert nearby guards as will using a drill to open boxes or doors. You can pop on disguises by equipping the right gear which enemies can see through but it takes them time to do so, which is usually more than enough to saunter past on your way to the objective. Or at least, that’s the idea; sometimes guards will grow suspicious and start chasing you around for no apparent reason.
This is where Teriel’s ability to climb around the world comes in very handy. A quick tap of the spacebar will send him kind of slowly climbing up any objects that are low enough, plus the world is designed with lots of sneaky ways to hop over fences or leap between rooftops. It’s almost like the whole island was built with a thieving bastard in mind, eh?
You can always opt to stab enemies in the neck rather than try to evade them, with both attacks from the rear and above providing bonus damage that’s enough to take out lesser foes. However, the armored enemies, of which there is a hell of a lot, typically can’t be taken down by a single backstab move, and in this way the game still encourages pure stealth over anything else. If you do backstab them it’s because you see little other choice and want to gain an immediate advantage, although it’s rarely worth it since nearby guards will become alerted to your presence and come charging in.
There’s some special abilities to help deal with such problems, though. There are things like brief invisibility or even magically trading places with an enemy, because seemingly in this world there is technology that’s damn close to being sorcery in our primitive eyes.
Indeed, one thing I did like about the game was its handling of skills and upgrades. Rather than earning experience for completing missions that you can use to level up new skills are found around the world in boxes. The amount of abilities is controlled by how much Nectar you have, something which the game doesn’t do a good job of explaining, a resource that can be located around the environment. It’s a good way to get you exploring off the beaten path in the hopes of finding something cool, although there are still some limitations in place based upon the current chip you have equipped, which is a bit of a shame.
As for new kit and upgrades you can craft those by breaking down the huge quantities of junk that can be looted from the literally thousands of boxes lying around the place. You can then use this stuff to craft new upgrades for your armor or weapons, with higher tiers of upgrade needing a higher tier of workbench.
Speaking of weapons and armor there’s….not much to say, actually. You can find swords, daggers, spears, axes and ranged weapons like a crossbow or energy gun, but none of it is hugely exciting. A range of craftable traps are more interesting since they fit the stealth gameplay nicely, letting you setup ambushes before luring enemies into them, but it’s fair to say that this is not a loot-driven game.
Technically wading in with a sword, daggers or an energy rifle is an acceptable choice, but in reality there are two reasons why you shouldn’t: you aren’t going to survive all that long, and combat sucks hard. It boils down to spamming the attack button and using the lethargic dodge to keep out of trouble. Attacks pass through enemies with no impact to speak of, it’s easy to lock some opponents into a permanent state of being unable to counter-attack and the whole thing just feels slow and clumsy. If there are multiple opponents it’s even worse as everything becomes a sloppy mess.
But it’s ultimately the camera that left me feeling the most annoyed with Seven. The game employs a top-down view and doesn’t allow you to alter the angle, which would be fine but since parkouring around rooftops is a large part of Teriel’s job the open-world has a lot verticality with buildings often having multiple levels. To combat this the camera will completely get rid of anything above Teriel or to the side, but that often means you can’t see escape routes, or will jump up to something only to find a ceiling right above you. There is also the issue of coming up a flight of stairs only to be immediately spotted by a guard before there is no way for you to see. I can’t count how many times I accidentally ran into a wall that I hadn’t even realized was there, either.
Parkour suffers worse as it’s very tricky to judge distances and heights. Sometimes this isn’t a huge problem as you might try an experimental leap only to take minor damage from the fall. Lesson learned. But other times you’ll attempt a jump that looks perfectly reasonable only to fall to your death like an idiot. Oh, and for some reason fall damage is hugely variable, so sometimes you’ll be fine and other times a small drop will crush every organ in your body before setting you back to the last save point, which can be quite far if you forget to manually save the game.
Then there’s the problem of a lot of objects not being climbable. A lot of times I would attempt to escape a battle only to discover that the very climbable looking object I was trying to get up couldn’t be climbed at all. In fairness, though, there has been an admirable amount of time sunk into designing a world where you can get around potentially dangerous situations by clambering over stuff. Teriel might sometimes look like an old man because of how slowly he pulls himself up onto a ledge but there is no denying that it’s fun to circumnavigate an entire area full of bad guys using some careful climbing.
When you toss these movement issues together what you wind up with is a very clunky feeling game, which is the exact opposite of what you want from a stealth experience. It’s a shame because when it gets it right parkouring through a restricted zone feels fun, albeit it still never coming close to matching the movement in other stealth titles.
In fact, I can go even further by saying that there are times when Seven is downright good fun. Myself, like so many others, love that feeling of satisfaction that stems from executing a perfect heist mission, from using the right disguise to sneaking throughout without ever have to use a weapon. Or if you’re like me using your weapon as much as possible because everyone knows you’re a crappy thief if you don’t leave a trail of dead bodies in your wake. The point is sometimes Seven gets it right, and it’s nice to play a stealth game where being stealthy is actually the goal rather than many other games that paint themselves as a stealth title but let the player slice through goons with ease.
But it feels like Seven is always on a mission to ruin its good moments. It’s hard to feel like a master thief when you’re struggling with the camera, or banging your head off a ceiling, or dying due to a jump you couldn’t judge or because you fell about 2ft. The fact that you can’t take on an army of guards is great, but the fact that the moments when you do have to fight feel so bloody awful isn’t.
Even the user interface isn’t free of frustrating problems. For starters you have an equipment screen displaying your current gear but for some reason you can’t equip new armor and weapons from there and must instead go to the inventory screen where you double click on whatever you want which takes you back to the equipment screen where you then have to double-click again on the slot for it, which is plain daft because there’s only one place a helmet can go. As for stealing stuff there’s a neat idea where grabbing an object causes time to progress, so the more you want to take the closer a patrol might get. It’s a good idea, but the interface obscures most of the screen, so you can’t keep an eye out for guards. Maybe that’s deliberate, but it was annoying nonetheless.
And what’s up with quest tracking? The map is covered in white and blue circles which show quest objective locations, but you can’t find out which circle indicates what quest. It’s just stupid.
Oh, and the Sense Mode where you can discover important things in the environment doesn’t let you rotate the camera, so to properly check an area out you have to pop in and out of the mode.
A whole host of bugs get in the way of enjoying the game as well, from getting stuck in scenery to enemies suddenly running, spinning around and then becoming trapped in a box or swiping madly at you from the other side of a metal wall. The game crashed on me numerous times, controls would suddenly stop responding for a few seconds when exiting menus, certain events wouldn’t trigger and so much more. To the developer’s credit they patched a few issues, like Teriel exiting crouch when clambering over things, during my time with the game and seem to be working evening out other issues and performance.
Speaking of which, performance is a mess, and not just because the developers weirdly opted to place a default 30FPS cap on that you can change, provided you think to look in the gameplay menu rather than the graphics options. Even with this option cranked up I still noticed some horrible drops using a Ryzen 5 1600, GTX 1080 and 16GB of DDR4 RAM.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that I like the sound of Seven: The Days Long Gone on paper. A stealth RPG is right up my proverbial alley, and I do think there’s a genuinely fun game hidden underneath a layer of grime. It just needed more work before it hit the marketplace because right now its incredibly frustrating. If you’re willing to overlook its many problems then there’s an intriguing world, decent visual style and plenty of missions to undertake, but to me the games few genuinely good ideas and mechanics don’t outshine its myriad flaws.Follow @wolfsgamingblog