Call me paranoid, but it certainly feels like someone over at Fool’s Theory is in my head here with Seven: The Days Long Gone. This is a heavily thematic game that casts the player as a thief setting about his shadowy task on the prison island of Peh, conscripted by the demonic agent of a god-king in a ruined cyberpunk setting. There are few things that sound like they could be more absolutely up my alley than that, unless the protagonist was a sad robot ruminating on ideas of existence. I clearly have a type. It’s a shame, then, that Seven uses all of these hooks to keep breaking my heart.
I can practically hear the design meetings where ambitious young designers meet with CD Projekt Red alumni and talk about setting and world building. An isometric RPG with the heart of old Thief games (Not that dreadful reboot from 2014) and the soul of Diablo. Maybe you could throw in beautiful landscapes with a focus on verticality, where there’s almost always a way to go around or over possible obstacles. Throw in a moody atmospheric soundtrack with heavy slide guitar that perfectly catches the mood. There’s certainly no way any of that could lead to a deeply flawed game.
Then you play the thing, and it’s a buggy mess with poor controls and pointless combat. I’m usually pretty forgiving when it comes to glitches and whatnot, but this is just a bridge too far. Graphical bugs crawl all over the world here, cluttering the player’s view with broken textures and seemingly random misplaced sprites or tiles. That paired with the aforementioned vertical level design, go a long way to confuse the eye, make the whole thing look unwieldy. Worse than that are those exciting occasions where the game just quits to the desktop, citing a fatal error. The developers have worked hard at patching this beast, but don’t expect a smooth, seamless experience by any means.
The controls feel loose, which is not what I look for in my steely, stealthy forays into the night. Teriel (The gruff protagonist) feels like his heist preparations involve soaking in a wine cask before running out to lift some purses. Fights follow suit, devolving into clumsy clickfests with little to no actual strategy. If you end up confronting more than one opponent, turn tail and run, because that’s not a fight you’re going to win. Luckily, those enemies will forget all about you soon enough, because the enemy AI is as dumb as a box of rocks. Stealth really is the best option, with frequent quick saving. Expect to get spotted often, since there is no onscreen indication as to how hidden you may or may not be. No, you need to rely on your gut for that.
The story is interesting at least, but don’t expect any surprises. Teriel, a thief too brazen for the local cutpurse organization (Yes, it’s a Thief’s Guild) signs on for the big score. He then scores said score (which is fairly large) and is apprehended. While being transported to the island of Peh, he learns that it was all a test and the emperor want him to steal something for him on the prison island. Like I said, it won’t win any awards, but it functions largely as an excuse to experience the world. While the characters feel boilerplate and the story can be generic, the world that they inhabit is thrilling and a joy to discover.
Seven: The Days Long Gone could have been a fantastic game. I know it sounds like I have been overwhelmingly negative, but there is some good to be had as you scope out the various nooks and crannies. However, once past the initial thrill, you become a bit of a thief yourself as you plumb through the darkness to find the highlights of the game that Seven could be hidden here and there, guarded by glitches and shoddy combat. A fun game if you have the patience for all of this, but others need not apply.