Strong videogame protagonists are abundant. They are able to draw in players with their emphatic personalities, insatiable charisma and their unshakable resilience. In Horizon: Zero Dawn, Aloy is a capable female lead who rises up and proves others wrong, and showing courage whilst taming robotic leviathans. The Last of Us showed us how the sturdy bond between Joel and Ellie allowed for players to care and become emotionally invested in what’s going on. Heck, Kratos, a formerly angry and vengeful slap-head, got an impactful evolution in God of War (2018).
In Days Gone, however, Deacon is constantly battling against members of his own camp, failing to be decisive and knowing what he wants. Deacon is the victim of poor writing and dialogue because it is hard to know what he truly stands for. We know that Deacon wants to find Sarah, but he is hamstrung by his own dispositions. As a result, he is a fairly weak protagonist.
Indecisions! Indecisions! Indecisions!
Although you are get to decide which camps to send straggling survivors to once you rescue them from Ripper enemies and bandits, Deacon doesn’t receive much choice throughout Days Gone. As you listen to his communications over the walkie-talkie, it usually seems like he is disgruntled and bothered about performing missions.
At a few points during the story, Deacon is pulled into performing jobs that he straight-up doesn’t want to do and yet he just goes along for the ride. Anything to find Sarah, right? Time and again Deacon ropes himself into doing others’ bidding that he becomes a hired gun with no authority—this is not indicative of how a tattooed biker should do business.
Okay, so Deacon has to prove himself at these outpost camps so he can make progress towards his goal, but we the players are left with the busywork. Maybe Deacon is representative of the passiveness of today’s culture, or he’s resembling rebellious casualness all the while conforming to what his leaders want him to do. Either way, Deacon is not a great leader of our experiences of Days Gone.
Cuss I Said So
Time and again you will hear relentless cussing from Deacon and other characters. This shows how little care or consideration went into the dialogue of the game. So many “S” and “F” bombs bombard you and you will soon lose yourself in the mess. You may grow tired with the constant swearing and roll your eyes in a flabbergasted daze.
Indeed this problem is more inherent in the general flaws of the game rather than Deacon himself. The unbothered nonchalance Deacon gives off doesn’t scream empowering. The way he conveys his thoughts makes him more like everybody else in the game and less like the guy we want to control in it.
Another big quibble I have with Deacon is he doesn’t tell his superiors what he really thinks of them. Numerous times Deacon will blurt out a tirade after listening to a broadcast by Mark Copeland—one of the camp-leaders. Mark spreads his version of the truth regarding the post-apocalyptic situation he and all survivors are enduring. The airwaves of the Pacific Northwest are dense with Mark’s opinions and stances. He talks like an outspoken commentator or a politician but ultimately says nothing important.
Deacon detests and disagrees with Mark vehemently. You will hear him verbally rage about it to himself after each broadcast. Yet when Mark and Deacon come face-to-face, Deacon is obedient and will do exactly as Mark says.
Airing out grievances by shouting when nobody is around is a good way to release anger. However, as the gamer you should be able to confront Mark and make your presence known. A great protagonist will stand up for what he or she believes in but Deacon does not do this.
Instead, you the gamer are performing the chores and the busywork whilst Mark continues to spread untruths. Upon hearing Mark you may have thought he would be a loudmouth considering how many lies he spreads. Yet he behaves with a mildness that’s unbecoming of a bozo who speaks his mind.
Beneath The Grizzled Surface
The upswing to Deacon’s rather unemphatic presence is that he has an unwavering love and compassion for women. Several instances in Days Gone show Deacon’s disdain for those who mistreat women. Bandits and raiders who hold them hostage and kidnap them mercilessly. This mentality may explain how much he misses Sarah and how the game’s motif forefronts the concepts of masculinity.
A few disturbing cutscenes grimly portray Deacon’s undying loyalty to women. Deacon always wants to save women from the perils of the evils that lurk out in Days Gone‘s sprawling wilderness. These moments not only make Deacon more relatable, but show how powerful the game can be when it’s at its best.
Another wonderful stroke to Days Gone‘s story are the flashback sections. These provide a lovely offset to the bleakness of the rest of the game. We get to know about Deacon and Sarah’s relationship, including how much of a renegade Deacon can be at times. It is a shame there aren’t more of these sections considering how relatable they can be. Unfortunately, the second part of the game tears away much of what was wrought here.
Pros and Deacons
Generally speaking, Deacon St. John is a protagonist who kvetches persistently and doesn’t possess conviction within the lips where his words sputter out from. Deacon does have a heart and does show moments of compassion and a care for those he surrounds himself with.
At times, Deacon along with Days Gone as a videogame show themselves as far more competent and engaging. Whether it’s the flashbacks with Sarah or the poignant moments where Deacon tries to save those he cares about, there are markers of strength rippling throughout Days Gone.
Sadly these moments don’t get enough attention or room to breathe. However, more often than not Deacon is silly, lacking the audacity of the pantheon of greatest videogame heroes. The dialogue doesn’t help matters as it consistently muddles the tone and gravity of what’s going on in the game.
Sometimes it’s as if Deacon is detached from the situations the game is trying to convey within the story. Deacon is never the proverbial sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to reading the context of what’s unfolding right in front of him. This exposes Days Gone‘s flaws when it comes to emotional storytelling despite some of the highs it does reach in this regard. Ultimately, Deacon is a character that possesses a strong moral backbone, but too often the character is compromised by a messy and confused tone.
Deacon is there for those who need him which is an admirable characteristic and his loyalty is unquestionable. However, he often behaves like a teenager who doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and he is docile compared to the best videogame protagonists.
You shouldn’t hate Deacon but given the moments where he shows the best side of himself, the character deserves better consistency and a far more assured personality.