Two years ago, developers Fntastic debuted their "open world survival MMO" The Day Before with a fairly lengthy trailer (which has since been scrubbed from their official YouTube channel, but it's been preserved by IGN and Gamespot). It shows a couple of players scavenging a post-pandemic American city slick with detailed lighting effects and reactive zombie hordes. There's crafting, cracked glass, and even a horror tease as a player peers around a corridor with a torch. It was an MMO that promised a mixture of The Last Of Us and The Division, and it quickly became the most wishlisted game on Steam.
Now, days after releasing into early access, developers Fntastic have shut down and you can't purchase the game anymore. Does it come as a surprise? Not really, considering the final product wasn't what they promised - not even close. Instead of an MMO, it was barely an extraction shooter. Consider my words below a record of a rancid time had across its short-lived early access release, then. A time when I would've rather handed a stinging nettle £40 to line my socks than spend another minute in this empty husk.
Booting up The Day Before on release, it felt heavy - the sort of leaden feeling where your tabs weren't clickable for a while as it clunked to life (and that's putting it generously). Often it opened at a lower resolution than my monitor's default, appearing as a bloated black screen with a pixelated bar running across its top. Once you got in, there was a character creator with some basic bits: hair, eyes, voices that didn't really change. Then the game asked you to select a server from a list. Most MMOs like World Of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV will order its lists by popularity, with clearly posted numbers or at least a colour-coded phrase outlining whether you're going to join a busy or quiet server. The Day Before just listed a bunch of states like Danworth, Smokeshill, and Woodtown all marked by a "High" population, because every server had players practically spilling out of their sides apparently.
If you managed to get into a server on the first try, you'd have borne witness to a miracle. It never happened for me, instead giving me error code after error code. I like imagine this was because the server infrastructure was wired to a potato in someone's drawer and as it sprouted, the two clips latched to the skin got shunted out of the way. To get in, you could spend a few minutes just clicking on servers and hoping you didn't get served another dreaded error.
Once you did, finally, make it through the barrage of errors, you awoke on a doctor's table in some resistance camp. Then after a swift introduction, you were encouraged to speak to everyone one after the other. The ammo person. The barman. The lady who looked after your stash. On and on and on it went. Speak to this person, that person. All of the inane chats eating into, at the time, your 30-minute refund window. Eventually you're forced to visit your "land plot", a separate instance away from the city and the camp that you could upgrade with furniture. The idea being that you'd come back here after your excursions, then spend money to make your house pretty and... not much else.
After the tired introduction to your camp, you were to pull up your tablet and see what tasks you'd been assigned. They were all fetch quests, like grab Chris a plumbing kit, a soldering kit, and some sealant (always three items) before it marked a vague zone on the map for you to maybe find them. A map that was small by MMO standards and, unhelpfully, couldn't be zoomed out.
Set foot in New Fortune City and you'd quickly realise the game didn't even hit the bare minimum for it to qualify as an MMO: a world you'd share with hundreds or thousands of other players. Instead, it was barely an extraction shooter where your aim was to loot stuff, then escape without being killed by other players. Imagine the rhythm of Hunt Showdown, only stripped down to a point where you'd encounter maybe one or two other players, as opposed to multiple teams (this is a very generous comparison). The only hint of The Day Before's MMO cred lay in, maybe, seeing a few other folks sliding around the hub area or glitched above others. On the rare occasion you spotted someone else running about in the city, they'd shoot you on sight.
But even as an extraction shooter it was a tragedy, as all you'd do was run around a largely empty city filled with largely empty buildings. If, by chance, you found a building you could actually enter, you'd hold down F to search backpacks and shelves, then pop single items into your backpack. Rarely, if ever, were they the plumbing kits and soldering kits you'd need to fetch for Chris.
I think I fired a total of five bullets in my entire time with The Day Before. Mainly because I'd encounter two or three zombies at most who'd chase you with as much threat as a tissue carried by a gentle wind. I remember letting one get close enough to hit me, and it took them a few swings to actually connect as most of their character model just clipped straight through mine. I put them out of their misery with my rifle - melee wasn't an option - and even that took longer than I'd anticipated, as the bullets took a few seconds to actually register.
Perhaps the only thing I was mildly impressed by was New Fortune City itself. Ignoring everything else, it didn't actually look half bad and genuinely did give off a semblance of, "Hey, I am wandering through a slice of an abandoned American city". Reality would then kick in, however, as servers would often announce they'd shut down in one hour or thirty minutes or even five depending on when you'd joined. I haven't ever known a game so eager to boot you out.
Just four days after it launched, Fntastic have since announced their closure, and their publisher Mytona have gone on to apologise for the game's failings, opening up refunds for anyone who purchased the game regardless of playtime. Going by the several thousand "Overwhelmingly Negative" Steam reviews, I'm certain most are unsurprised by the news.
Time will hopefully grant us concrete evidence as to whether Fntastic genuinely tried to make The Day Before into anything like the survival MMO shown off in the reveal trailer (or subsequent devlog that's been preserved here), or whether it was always destined for the garbage bin. Either way, I'm glad you can't buy it now and I hope people get their refunds. What a tiring mess.
This review was based on a retail build of the game provided by developers Fntastic.