If you're sword and bored by the high fantasy setting of many action RPGs, or have wandered a post-apocalyptic wasteland a few too many times, maybe Seven: Days Long Gone should be on your radar. Combining stealth and action in an Orwellian/dystopian near future that is decidedly cyberpunk in tone, Seven is a shake-n-bake of RPG elements. Sometimes the recipe works, and sometimes it doesn't.
Players expecting a highly customizable avatar will be a bit disappointed right from the get-go, as Seven is written as the story of Teriel, an experienced thief who must sneak, steal, fight and climb his way around the prison island of Peh as part of an attempt to undermine and overthrow the Ventrall Empire. Seven's story -- which takes the world from a post-nuclear disaster to a rebuilt civilization on the brink of catastrophe -- feels relatively fleshed out and voiced with reasonable professionalism. While the backstory and world might have some complexity, from moment-to-moment the story and dialogue are not always interesting and Teriel himself is pretty bland in the center of the story.
Instead of a sprawling open world or a series of discrete mission areas, Seven is set on an island landmass and one, continuous map that may be freely explored. With a lot of verticality baked into the urban areas and more desolate regions, players are encouraged to make use of Teriel's skills at parkour and climbing, a gameplay element that is sometimes thwarted by an imprecise camera or lack of clear signposting as to what, exactly, is climbable. A certain amount of trial and error comes with the territory, but I experienced a few too many lethal falls that were less about a skill that needed to be learned and more about a bad camera angle or glitchy controls. Graphically, Seven has an art style that is reminiscent of Borderlands, with outlined, painterly images and a muted, desaturated palette.
The game's stealth is equally a mixture of pleasure and frustration, with enemy AI sometimes being wildly unpredictable and the game's environments sometime being hard to read. Basically, Seven divides the spaces into areas in which Teriel may travel unimpeded, and those in which he will be arrested or pursued, and through which he must sneak, dispatching enemies with backstabs and traps. Of course Teriel can avoid enemies altogether, at least some of the time; the majority of enemy encounters will be fought using various conventional and cyberpunkian firearms and other weapons.
While Seven is not as loot-heavy as some RPGs, there is a fair amount of stuff -- weapons, armor, special items, upgrades -- that can be lifted from enemies or found hidden in the environment, and unfortunately Teriel has a pretty limited number of inventory slots. There is a somewhat obtuse crafting system that allows players to break down and reuse components of their excess gear but no matter what weapon or special spell Teriel was using, the combat never really felt very fun or satisfying, and there was almost never the thrill of finding a mind-blowing piece of gear that just had to be tried out. Unlike some RPGs, Teriel himself does not develop or become more skilled, but instead accesses higher-level gear or more effective "spells."
Overall, while I really did enjoy the non-standard setting and story engine that drove Seven's gameplay, in the end it felt a little like a collection of promising elements, many of which were just a trifle undercooked. Setting aside the bugs, a poorly considered fast travel system (which spawns players in sometimes dangerous locations) and fairly tepid combat, what I most missed in Seven was any sense of personal identification or relationship with the main character. To me, this is at the heart of any successful RPG...the role-playing part, something almost entirely absent from Seven.