The second-most wishlisted game on Steam is right around the corner, and we still don't know much about it. With one impressive trailer and a logo that looks like it fell out of a popular PlayStation series, The Day Before has managed to garner as much interest on Steam as Starfield and Hogwarts Legacy. Here's what we do know: The Day Before is a survival MMO from the makers of asymmetrical horror game Propnight. It's got zombies, cars, loot, and the constant threat of other players.
It's been almost two years since The Day Before was shown in any substantial way, and now just a month ahead of release, Fntastic says it'll soon be ready to share some "raw gameplay footage." Ahead of that, let's talk about what Fntastic has said about its intriguing MMO, and what we can glean from the gameplay we've seen so far.
When is The Day Before coming out?
Fntastic announced last year that The Day Before will release on March 1, 2023 on Steam. The new date came after a nearly one-year delay in 2022. Developer Fntastic said the extra time would be used to transition The Day Before to Unreal Engine 5.
What kind of game is The Day Before?
Fntastic describes The Day Before as an open world survival MMO, but we're still not sure exactly what that means. It's a zombie game where players can be your friends or enemies, so think DayZ or Rust. Judging only by the gameplay that's already been shown (which isn't a lot), it looks like a lot of The Day Before is wandering around dilapidated cities or countryside looting food, ammo, and supplies. There's very clear The Last of Us inspiration here, too—everything about how players move, take cover, shoot, and craft supplies, heck, even the game's logo, looks like it was ripped straight out of a Naughty Dog game. That is to say, it looks pretty fun.
Other aspects seem a bit more like Escape From Tarkov, like extensive gun customization. We know there's a character customizer and an in-game economy. It looks like there's a fair bit of driving too—the longest gameplay video we've seen so far begins with two players trucking through muddy roads that reminded me a lot of Snowrunner.
It's not yet clear if The Day Before will have any other traditional MMO systems, like RPG progression or questlines. Is this just a prettier DayZ, or a next-gen The Division?
Where did The Day Before come from?
The Day Before is the latest project from Singapore studio Fntastic, the developer that also made prop hunt horror game Propnight and self-cannibalism survival game The Wild Eight. Fntastic has been working on The Day Before for over four years with, according to its website, around total 200 people working at the studio. Fntastic announced The Day Before in April 2021 with an impressive reveal trailer. In May 2022, it was delayed to March 2023.
Why are people so excited for The Day Before?
Ever since its announcement almost two years ago, The Day Before has consistently enjoyed a spot near the top of Steam's most-wishlisted games list, currently beating out big games like Starfield, Hollow Knight: Silksong, and Stalker 2. That's somewhat surprising for a game coming from an unknown developer.
The Day Before's unexpected hype can best be attributed to its impressive debut gameplay trailer, which sold players on the fantasy of an open world co-op survival shooter that looks and plays as well as The Last of Us. The trailer was (and still is) pretty striking—the piece of city the players are scavenging is beautiful and the sudden combat scenario that breaks out in a convenience store is evocative of a certain Naughty Dog E3 demo from 2012. The main difference, of course, is that all non-zombie combat will be with actual players.
Besides one other 10-minute gameplay video from last year showing off driving, that's pretty much all it took for The Day Before to become Steam's most-anticipated game. I think it speaks to the lasting popularity DayZ-style survival games that The Day Before got so popular so quickly. It's also worth considering that The Day Before appears to defy the indie survival game's reputation for jank. We tend to associate games like DayZ, Rust, and Ark with ambitious but imperfectly executed ideas honed over years of early access. I think The Day Before stands out because, on top of not officially releasing in early access, it appears to be putting care into its fundamentals—the little we've seen of combat, stealth, and driving give the impression of a big-budget "prestige" game made by a major publisher.
The gameplay we've seen so far
The announcement trailer (2021)
The Day Before's debut gameplay trailer is constructed like an E3 stage demo: gameplay happens seemingly organically while a detached voice narrates the action in a manner that suggests bigger possibilities. They also do the fake voice comm chatter thing that I remember cringing at when Ubisoft first showed The Division, except it sounds even cornier here. This video does a great job of showing off the basics of combat and stealth, but it doesn't shed any light on the larger goals of the game. Why are the players looting random drugstores? Is it for a quest, or just to fill a hunger meter?
IGN Fan Fest demo (2021)
About a month after the reveal trailer, Fntastic returned with another gameplay video for IGN's Fan Fest event. This one is only two minutes long and is largely just another shootout on a city street, but it does show one new thing—a player-controlled armored APC.
The "Countryside" demo (2021)
The best look we've gotten at The Day Before (10 whole minutes) is this April 2021 "Countryside" demo. This time, our survivors have left the concrete jungle behind for a scenic drive through a forest (with zombies). The driving here is really the highlight for me. I'm a big fan of the mud trucking simulator Snowrunner for the way it makes moving very slowly through snow, mud, and ice a legitimate thrill. If The Day Before can capture even a small piece of that action in its driving, it's scoring a lot of points with me.
Snippets from "Life at Fntastic" (2023)
Fntastic recently published a five-minute "Life at Fntastic" video that is mostly a medley of various developers working on The Day Before around the world, but Fntastic also snuck in a few new snippets of gameplay. Starting at around 3:15, we get our first look at character customization. The face options shown are pretty bare—it looks like you choose one of five head shapes, four hairstyles, three facial hair options, and 18 hair colors. We also see a brief glimpse at the gun customization interface, which looks a bit like Call of Duty's Gunsmith.
🚩The red flags
While I remain cautiously optimistic about The Day Before, I can't shake the feeling that something is up with this game. Fntastic is promising huge and actually saying very little. As we inch closer to launch, there are several legitimate reasons to doubt The Day Before:
- The developer: Fntastic doesn't have a perfect track record. Its last game, Propnight, is currently "Mixed" on Steam.
- Heavily orchestrated gameplay demos: Scripted demos are nothing new in videogame promotion, but it's a little strange that this is the only way we've seen The Day Before shown so far. We haven't yet seen what it's like to simply wander around the world and happen into adventures, which seems crucial for a survival MMO.
- Vague feature lists: The Day Before's official Discord has a "Commonly Asked Questions" section that isn't very good at answering questions. Basic questions like "Will there be quests?" and "Are there other types of vehicles" are all yet to be determined. Again, this game is out in March!
Fntastic has caught flak for its "volunteer" program
Last year, The Day Before developer Fntastic courted some controversy when it put out a call out for "volunteers" to help out on the game. Some followers of the game weren't thrilled to discover that a portion of Fntastic's workforce consisted of unpaid labor. The news prompted Fntastic's founders to write a longer blog post explaining its volunteer program, though some portions were more confusing than illuminating.
"We consider all team members, including employees, volunteers," Fntastic founders Eduard Gotovtsev and Aisen Gotovtsev wrote.
The post eventually goes on to explain that Fntastic is made up of over 100 internal, full-time paid employees (coders, designers, modelers making the game itself) and 40 unpaid "supporters" that help with testing, moderation, and localization. The studio also made use of volunteers for its prior game, Propnight, after it wasn't satisfied with the professional localization house it'd hired.
"Most of it had to be redone with the help of our enthusiastic volunteers (supporters). In Propnight, together with these supporters, we found bugs, dealt with cheaters, and even organized our Discord communities."