7 Days To Die – Alpha Hands On Preview
The game industry is flooded with zombie games at the moment. It seems as though every developer wants to get in on the action, though not many titles are original or decently made. While there is still room for more decent zombie games, the developers will need to have their own unique spin on a zombie game, or at least bring some interesting ideas to the sub-genre.
‘7 Days to Die’ from The Fun Pimps is yet another zombie survival game, but where other developers simply copy-paste gameplay from other games, The Fun Pimps have combined the crafting mechanics from Minecraft and other games with a huge open-world that’s ripe for scavenging. Throw in loot drops, traps, mutants and a fun but challenging difficulty and you’ve got the makings of a future hit. I’ve played an alpha build of the game and here are my thoughts.
7 Days to Die is currently in a very early build of the game, so knowing what to do right from the start might escape new players. There isn’t a story or even a backstory to speak of, you’re simply trying to survive. Normally when you spawn, there will be some loot in front of you. Trash bags, dilapidated cars, piles of garbage and other things may be able to provide crafting ingredients, a weapon or a tool that will help you survive the first night (and hopefully the next).
After getting your bearings, it’s imperative to come up with a survival plan as soon as possible. This isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish in single player, but a few players working together can get geared up and find shelter together. In my multiplayer sessions, I worked towards finding aloe for making medicated bandages while my friend exterminated the zombies approaching our shelter. I unfortunately died multiple times during the night but as I appreciate a challenge I was having a ball.
Like other survival titles, 7 Days to Die sees players having to monitor numerous aspects of their character to survive. There are four meters in the lower left of the screen, each representing a different need. There’s health, energy, hunger and thirst. Your health can be damaged from fighting, being afflicted by poison, starving, being dehydrated and other factors.
Energy represents how many actions you can take, as well as your sprint duration. Suffering from dehydration and extreme hunger will mean a definitive lack of energy, which is crucial for fighting and outrunning enemies.
Thirst and hunger should seem pretty obvious, though they aren’t as easy to manage as one might think. Eating canned foods and drinking bottled water is fine, though you don’t come across those very often. Most of the time, you can gather food and water by hunting and scavenging, though the food and water will usually need cooking or filtering, lest you get food poisoning or diarrhea, which will only make matters worse over time. I drank as much water as I could the first time I crossed the desert and found a lake. I made some herbal tea and then got diarrhea, which made me hungry and dehydrated quite rapidly.
Aside from the survival needs, there is of course, crafting. This is much more detailed than Minecraft’s wooden axes and wooden pickaxes though, as players will be able to make crossbows, gun moulds, land mines, filtered water, medicated bandages, sleeping bags, housing frames and more. In fact, the thing that hooked me about 7 Days’ trailer was a time lapse sequence of two players creating a house from wooden planks. They made the house frame, then shingles and a roof, then dug a moat and filled it with wooden spikes. At present, there are only wooden spikes but I’m hoping more lethal traps will be developed before the final release of the game. For what it’s worth, there is a staggering amount of crafting already in the game, even in its alpha! Sometimes an item can be used for a number of things, and with the sun setting I found myself having to make tough decisions about what exactly to make with some rarer ingredients.
As one would expect from a modern survival fantasy game, there are zombies. Not just zombies though, there are also mutated animals like wasps and dogs. The zombies themselves all behave pretty similarly, with the majority of them wandering about until they sense the player and attempt to track them down. Should they discover the player or see them, they will shamble over and attack. On higher difficulties though, the zombies will sprint at the player during the day, and not just at night. If I’m being honest, while the zombies provide a challenge (especially when you’re attempting to build and repair a shelter) there isn’t a great deal of variety in the tactics needed by the player or by the zombies yet. You can spend a great deal of time crafting wooden spikes and surrounding your shelter only to have zombies casually stroll right through them. The spikes are pretty fragile and hardly seem worth it, though I’m sure this has already been brought to The Fun Pimps attention and will probably get patched before entering beta or the game’s final build.
One aspect I’m yet to mention is that human element of the game. Much like Day Z, players can form alliances, hunt each other down or betray each other. It feels like 7 Days to Die has the makings for better multiplayer though, as players might have a fortress you want, or the last part to creating a gun. Hell, they might have medicine or a pickaxe you want, and they’re unlucky enough to be in the way.
Overall the game feels more like Minecraft than Day Z as the gameplay is much more simple and focused on a variety of aspects instead of simply looting, hiking and killing other players. The crafting really adds to the game and despite being a little rough around the edges, the game looks decent and plays problem-free. I’m yet to encounter bugs or exploits and I’m confident that the game is going to be a hit when it enters beta and even more so when the final build is upon us. If you want more out of a crafting game then herding sheep, or you want more out of a multiplayer survival game then hiking around the countryside, give 7 Days to Die a go, it’s definitely worth it.