When a group of former AAA devs with titles such as the Witcher series under their belts get together to form an indie studio, you might be forgiven for expecting something ambitious and intriguing for their first major title. Seven: The Days Long Gone from Fool’s Theory is certainly both of those. A curious mix of isometric view stealth and combat set predominantly on the sci-fi/fantasy open-world prison island of Peh.
The game starts with our hero Teriel, master thief and swordsman, attempting to steal a mysterious artifact in a self contained level. Armed with a number of weapons, traps and skills granted via an implanted chip, the mission serves as a tutorial to a few of the options available to Teriel in either dispatching or avoiding guards and bypassing the various security measures in place.
You quickly learn that the guards in 7:DLG don’t follow set patrol patterns and are very quick to spot you. On one hand this is good as it forces you to adapt tactics on the fly and dispatching a sequence of guards stealthily can be immensely satisfying. On the other hand you find yourself constantly save-scumming as things rapidly fall to pieces and multiple opponents swamp and overwhelm you. This continues throughout the game and at times can be very frustrating.
Once you complete this first mission the action moves onto the island of Peh. Teriel is stripped of all of the fancy gizmos and skills that he had in the opening mission and is thrown into the world with nothing but the clothes on his back. Various markers on the mini map indicate available optional side quests, but these have no difficulty rating and some of them can be nigh on impossible until Teriel has significantly improved gear.
The game becomes less frustrating once a good disguise and a decent arsenal has been acquired, but you never feel super powered and it’s all too easy to make a simple mistake and for everything to fall to pieces in seconds.
Tall Open World
The island of Peh is a large landmass with numerous diverse areas, much in the style of the Elder Scrolls series, where one type of terrain merges into another fairly seamlessly. There is a heavy emphasis on verticality in the map structure right from the starting town. Large, towering buildings and striking cliffs and gorges cover most of Peh, making exploration a complex and lengthy process. This certainly marks it out as different from most other isometric action games and adds to the strategic options open to the player in their approach to the mission and obstacles.
Platforms and obstacles above the player become transparent, enabling the player to not lose focus of Teriel. This creates its own problems as it can be very tricky to work out how to ascend to higher levels in unfamiliar areas. You can zoom the camera in and out easily enough, although I found it never quite zoomed out far enough for my liking. Teriel has a ‘focus’ ability which highlights interactable objects and allows a small amount of camera scrolling, but it always feels like a fight to get the view you need to carry out any planning outside of Teriel’s direct vicinity.
There is a fast travel system that involves unlocking overseer nodes to enable access to travel in that region, but stations are so far apart a great deal of travel still occurs on foot. This can be a frustrating chore in unfamiliar regions as the player stumbles upon an uncrossable valley or insurmountable cliff face, forcing a trek to find your way around with no guarantee that you’re heading in the right direction.
Good with the bad
The scope of the game is ambitious and laudable; The approach to stealth, pickpocketing and general larceny often feels satisfying, especially once you procure an appropriate disguise. Combat is usually fluid and once suitably geared and powered, fights against multiple opponents become a whirling dervish of blades, dodging, Dishonored-esque blinking and other spectacular powers being deployed. Once you gain familiarity it becomes highly satisfying to take on enemies and defeat them, just as it’s equally joyous to slowly sneak around dispatching enemies one by one with well timed backstabs.
There is also an adequate but unspectacular crafting system and there is no shortage of junk to loot across the island. The only issue is how rapidly Teriel becomes encumbered with all the stuff to be found.
Seven: The Days Long Gone is a curious beast. At times it’s incredibly frustrating and clunky. It’s also packed with unexpected difficult spikes that have the player tearing their hair out. Then moments later everything clicks into the place and Teriel is the badass, dextrous and acrobatic character he should be. And then he falls off a ledge and dies.
The game launched with a number of gameplay and technical issues and Fool’s Teory have been very fast to address these. Two hotfixes were deployed within the first 24 hours after launch and an incredible five meaty patches in the first seven days addressing concerns and feedback from the community. For example adding indicators to the backstab ability changes this crucial skill from pure guesswork to a precise and definite action. The devs are certainly showing excellent commitment to the future of the game so far. There are framerate issues and audio stuttering in the bigger town and city hubs, which may be expected given the sheer number of NPC’s lurking in these areas. Otherwise the game runs great on modest hardware, the Unreal engine proving to be the ever-reliable beast that it is.
The Score – 79
Scoring 7:DLG is a very tricky thing. There are times when it feels shonky, messy and overly complicated, to the point of wanting to give up the game. But just as often there are fantastic moments when every system clicks together and everything becomes crisply satisfying. A risky and ambitious game like this would never have been made by a Triple A dev. The trade off is that not everything succeeds as well as it could have. Ultimately its scope, originality and the sheer balls it takes to produce such a title deserves recognition and praise.