Days Gone Is a Tale of Two Deacons, and One Is Far More Interesting Than the Other

Days Gone Is a Tale of Two Deacons, and One Is Far More Interesting Than the Other

"Is this how it starts? A trip to the laughing academy?"

Days Gone tells the story of a world besieged by a virus, with what's left of humanity trying to carve out a new way of life in the fallout. At the center of this tale is Deacon St. John, a biker who lost the love of his life and potentially his humanity, on the first night of the outbreak.

Deacon St. John is a gruff dude who will do anything to keep his friends alive, but is largely uncaring about those not related to him. Days Gone is Deacon's journey from a selfish man-among his crimes is bringing errant survivors to what's essentially a slaving camp-to the hero that the wasteland needs. Deacon is a character you've seen before: a survivor who'll do what's needed, regardless of how grim that task is. Despite his coldness, there are lines he thinks twice about crossing. He reminds me of characters like The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes and Sons of Anarchy's Clay Morrow. (Days Gone feels superficially like the intersection between both properties, despite being somewhat different in practice.)

Actor Sam Witwer does an excellent job with Deacon in the cutscenes. Facial capture and voice acting is excellent, and you can see the conflict on Deacon's face in several situations as he's pulled between camps of various ideologies. There's anger and loss underneath the surface, even as Deacon tries to play the stoic in conversations with the factions. Deacon in cutscenes is pretty straightforward as a protagonist.

People tend to talk about the dissonance between the characterization of a protagonist and their playable actions. For example, a hero that has ironclad morals about killing, while the playable version kills people with wanton disregard. There's some of that in Days Gone, but for the most part, Deacon's aims are in line with the player's actions.

The loneliness of Deacon St. John. | Mike Williams/USG, SIE Bend Studio

There's a second Deacon though, outside of the cutscenes. To keep the narrative beats going in the open-world, Deacon listens to Oregon Free Radio, chatters with the supporting cast, and in many occasions, talks to himself. These lines of dialogue are barks, meant to keep the game's audio a bit more lively, but it's here that a completely different character begins to emerge. One who's been hit harder by the events of the viral outbreak than the public face would allow.

When Copeland's Radio Free Oregon plays, Deacon loudly yells at Copeland, attacking or agreeing with his tirades about guns, government, and property. Deacon will mutter statements to himself while he's just riding around the town. When clearing out an ambusher camp, it once hit a fever pitch, with Deacon going on a loud and unhinged rant about marauders in general. As he kills them, he does his best impression of Jack Nicholson from the end of The Shining. "Here's Johnny," indeed.

There's madness in the Deacon you see out in the world. He's a little more broken. It makes his drive to save Boozer, his biker companion and best friend, even stronger. In the absence of his wife Sarah, and personally cut off from the more civil of the survivors (for events prior to most of the game's plot), Boozer is integral to who Deacon is. Boozer is his last connection to the person he was before, the lifeline between the Deacon of civilization and what he's become in the literal apocalypse. Because out on the road alone, without Boozer checking in on the radio, Deacon comes across as borderline psychotic.

Maybe I should go make friends? | Mike Williams/USG, SIE Bend Studio

In three different film versions of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend-The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and I Am Legend-there's a madness to main character Robert Neville (Robert Morgan in the first film adaptation). Every version undertakes small actions that would be seen as crazy within the civilizations they've left behind. Will Smith's Neville in I Am Legend talks to mannequins and camera recordings, because outside of his dog, he lacks any sort of living companionship. These Nevilles are survivors sure, but the madness belies their humanity. It actually enhances what was lost when humanity fell.

Deacon within cutscenes and the primary storyline is a fine character, but he's one I've seen a great deal across a lot of entertainment. Tough guy, making tough choices. The element of madness, though, is a little rarer. Tom Hardy's Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road carries this element. Even within his own reality, Max is bit... off, a little separated from the new normal. I think Bend Studio crafted a fine character, but I think it could've made a more interesting one by bringing cutscene Deacon closer to in-game Deacon. Because over the course of my playthrough, they almost felt like two different characters that shared a name and face.

It's a shame, as Days Gone leaves Deacon in a situation where he's surrounded by a bit more humanity. He begins the game mostly as a loner, and ends the game as something more than that, seemingly leaving unhinged Deacon behind. Hopefully, if Bend Studio gets the chance to make a sequel, the more interesting Deacon will be given a chance to return too.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

Read this next

Days Gone Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Days Gone is finally here, and it turns out it’s pretty hard to survive in a world infested with Freakers. Here are our tips for staying alive.

Days Gone Bike Upgrades - How to Customize, Refuel, and Repair Your Bike

You’ll need to keep your motorcycle in tip-top shape in Days Gone, lest you wish to be left stranded out in the open for Freakers to take you down. Here’s everything you’ll need to know.

Days Gone Camps - How to Increase Trust, Turn in Bounties, Kitchen

There’s a wide variety of Camps in Days Gone, each with its own Trust level and currency. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Fast Travel in Days Gone

Even though you have a bike at your disposal, there is still a Fast Travel system in Days Gone. Here’s how it works.

Where to Find All Days Gone IPCA Tech and How to Unlock the IPCA Stun Gun

Days Gone has a secret weapon which is awarded at the end of the game. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Unlock the Days Gone Secret Ending

There’s another ending after the credits roll, and it’s pretty easy to get. Here’s what you need to know.

More Opinions

Pokemon Sword and Shield Review Impressions: Lovely and Warm, but Not a Next-Gen Pokemon Game

Game Freak prefers to make us cozy on the Switch instead of breaking barriers.

Will Hideo Kojima Ever Stop Making Metal Gear Solid?

A closer look at Death Stranding reveals a game that isn't as different as it first seems.

Death Stranding, Explained: Breaking Down the Complex Relationships, Mysteries, and Ending of Hideo Kojima's Sprawling Epic

There's a lot to unpack in Kojima Productions' Death Stranding. That hasn't stopped us from having a crack at it.

More on PlayStation 4

Shovel Knight's Final Expansions Are Coming Next Month

They'll mark the end of Treasure Trove, but not for our brave blue Knight.

How to Get Small Game Arrows in Red Dead Online

We go over how to get the smallest arrows as quickly as possible.

How to Repair and Recharge Vehicles in Death Stranding

Increase your vehicle's durability with these simple tips.

More Action Adventure Games

Will Hideo Kojima Ever Stop Making Metal Gear Solid?

A closer look at Death Stranding reveals a game that isn't as different as it first seems.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Best Mods That You Should Download Now

RDR2 just released for PC players and that means more and more mods are coming in every day. Here are the best mods available right now for Red Dead Redemption 2.