Seven: The Days Long Gone is game that I had a lot of hopes for. The development team at Fool’s Theory is made of AAA industry veterans from CD Projekt RED — you know, the guys behind the critically acclaimed RPG The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. The studio’s debut game is a departure from The Witcher, thematically speaking. While Seven still has RPG elements in its open world, it boasts a larger focus on stealth. The prison island of Peh — painted by a weird mix between the Dark Ages and a cyberpunk aesthetic — is ravaged by rising tensions between its two largest factions, the Biomancers and the Technomagi. Fool’s Theory and IMGN.PRO developed a game where the protagonist, Teriel, and the daemon in his head, Artanak, are on a quest to save the Vetrall Empire. But unfortunately, it seems like little consideration went into saving Seven from being a frustrating game.
After a quick tutorial and some scene setting, Seven drops you right into Peh with minimal hand holding. You’re free to do whatever you want, however you want to. You can scrounge up enough cash to buy weapons, or perhaps dig through all the random containers in the world for some sweet loot. You feel as well equipped in the first hour as you will in the tenth hour, for the most part. The isometric camera angle can be a bit jarring at first, but it complements the stealth action very well. It’s easy enough to see what’s up ahead and around the corner, so you can plot your next move, sneak behind an enemy, and quietly deal with them. The game also begs you to explore your vertical options, with parkour and climbing being major mechanics in the game’s movement. If you can’t sneak through an alley, maybe climb up a building and jump across it. However, the camera is pretty unforgiving when it comes to giving you information about what’s above. Any space above you tends to stop existing for the sake of the camera. While it’s helpful for the current floor, more often than not you'll be seen by a guard above looking right at the ledge you're climbing.
Once your enemies are on high alert, you might as well embrace the sweet release of the game over screen. Combat is simple to a fault, and whenever you’re outnumbered, it’s guaranteed that every action you take will be interrupted by a guard’s attack. There’s a myriad of weapons to choose from, but it’ll never feel like you’re doing enough damage unless you can land a critical hit or backstab. Teriel can also equip different active abilities that cost him energy, but they aren’t easy to find. Above all, their usefulness is very hit or miss; a short-range blink almost always feels like a waste of energy, while creating a black hole that guarantees a backstab opportunity makes small fights trivial. Despite some skills possibly breaking the difficulty curve of the game, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s too easy to be overwhelmed by enemies. Stealth truly is an important part of the game, being the only method for staying out of harm’s way.
So why, then, would Seven have forced combat segments? At different points in the story, you’re thrown into fights without any opportunity to score a cheeky, stealthy ambush. It goes against what the rest of the game conditions you to learn, making these moments unnecessarily difficult (until you get the more powerful, game-breaking skills).
Sneaking around Peh is a rewarding experience in theory. The large prison island is broken into seven zones (it’s pretty on the nose), and they’re all littered with security checkpoints that require a visa that corresponds to the zone number. You could buy each visa, which comes in the form of a pill that grafts some data to your DNA, but they tend to be expensive. You could loot a bunch of money and save up for them, but each checkpoint is built in a way that allows you to sneak through for the low price of zero dosh. You’ll probably be going through these checkpoints countless times, especially if you do a lot of the side quests, so it’s up to you to decide if the convenience is worth the price. It’s an effective way to allow people to play the game how they want to.
In practice, though, traveling around Peh just gets exhausting. Moving Teriel around feels sluggish at best, and while he clings to ledges to make climbing a little easier, the autopilot can sometimes go overboard and bring you to a ledge you weren’t expecting. He moves pretty slowly, even when sprinting, which can make long treks a pain. The verticality of the world also makes you factor in how to get around different cliffs and hills without dying to fall damage, which can happen very easily. If you run into a heavily guarded fortress along the way, you have to stop freerunning and slowly consider the best way to get through without dying. Seven lives up to the idea of being a master thief in a hostile world, but it’s almost to a fault at times.
If you think the solution is to become a killing machine so you can just mow through every enemy that stands in your way, good luck with that. Looting and bartering can only get you so much gear, and at some point, you’ll already have the strongest blade and the toughest armor. They won’t be of much help when you’re surrounded, though. There’s a crafting system that offers you a chance to make armor and weapon upgrades, but it’s so obtuse that it doesn’t feel worth the effort. Crafting stations exist all around Peh, and the mods worth making can only be unlocked after upgrading the station to level 2 or 3. The problem is, upgrading takes an absurd number of resources, the same ones used to make armor and weapon mods.
Having to gather so many resources wouldn’t be an issue if looting didn’t feel like a chore. Seven has a system that freezes time when you open any container, like many other RPGs. However, once you decide on an item to take, some time passes depending on the size, value, and quantity of the selection. If you want to loot everything in the container, it factors the time in for each individual item. At first, I found it pretty clever; you couldn’t just sneak around a guard and steal an entire crate’s worth of loot before he circles back to see you. However, this system is in effect even when there are no guards around. Freely looting boxes in public spaces is a slow affair that plays dangerously close to the edge of your patience. Having a fairly limited carrying capacity doesn’t make looting any easier. The only way to upgrade your capacity? Craft some armor mods that give you more pockets. The entire crafting gameplay loop felt unrewarding and doesn’t do much to benefit your experience as a master thief.
Actually, unrewarding is a word that defines a lot of what this game is about. For example, to fast travel in the game, you have to unlock different stops along a cargo train path. To unlock a set of stops, you have to hack overseer panels, which are scattered around the island. Each one is heavily guarded with powerful soldiers and many locked doors, but after all that effort, you can conveniently warp across different sectors of the island. Fast travel isn’t just handed to you in this game, and I commend the developers’ efforts to make you work for such a commodity. However, some places will still remain guarded, even after you hack your way into the network. You hit the button to warp across the map, and you might be met with an ambush of guards wondering how a thief suddenly appeared out of thin air. You’ll probably need to reload to your last save after dying, weighing the decision between running for your life after warping or betting on another cargo stop entirely.
The game is frustrating at almost every turn, from its wonky parkour to its weak combat to its obtuse crafting. The painful gameplay paints this awful red streak across any semblance of narrative the game tries to give you. There’s this overarching plot of a possible civil war breaking out between the Technomagi, who love finding ancient technology, and the Biomancers, who want to slowly phase out ancient technology. Teriel’s daemon pal Artanak has given the master thief a quest that will change the Vetrall Empire, allegedly for the better. The daemon, who is one of the smartest entities in the world, remains cryptic up until the final moments of the main story, making him a fairly unsatisfying tour guide through Peh. I want to remain spoiler free, but I will say that Seven gives you a dramatic choice at the finale that will decide your ending. One feels like a premature, unearned cap to the story, while the other puts you through a grueling platforming sequence that leads to an aggressively disappointing resolution.
Seven: The Days Long Gone is a game that could have been amazing. At its core, we’re looking at a very ambitious open-world stealth game in an interesting world. The lore that IMGN.PRO and Fool’s Theory have created is fairly rich and deep, but it’s cut off at the knees by weak gameplay that doesn’t motivate players to explore it. Playing through the game is likely to be a frustrating experience that will teach you to save frequently. It’s hard to recommend the game as is, and there are other stealth-focused games that deserve more attention than this debut project from ex-Witcher developers.
There was a lot of potential, but it all feels wasted behind unnecessarily difficult systems. Seven: The Days Long Gone could have a very successful sequel that fixes all the problems with the first, but this isn't a strong debut for Fool's Theory.
- Interesting Environment
- Surprisingly Deep Lore
- Great Thievery Simulator
- Combat is Often Suicidal
- Crafting is too Obtuse
- Parkour isn't Reliable