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DayZ – What have I become?
Before jumping too deep into this review, let me explain briefly what happened to me and my characters within my first 8 hours of gameplay with DayZ.
Survivor 1 – Excited and enthusiastic about the future, I jumped into my first character with bright eye’s and a starry smile. I had done a bit of research on the game already to prepare me for the mechanics. I knew that the primary gameplay features were survival. Not just from the hordes of zombies, but from other player characters known as Bandits as well. I vowed to hunt bandits, defend the innocent, and try to become a hero. After spawning in on the coast line, I progressed into the nearest city. Knowing almost nothing about how sneaking worked, I quickly attracted the attention of a small horde of zombies. After I had run out of ammo, they overwhelmed me and I was eaten.
Survivor 2 – Alright, a little rough on that first run but I knew that my lack of skill was going to get me killed. This time I was going to be more careful. My second survivor spawned near to where I spawned the first time. One of the largest cities in the game was just a few miles down the road, so while staying off the beaten path I made my way into town. Crouching and walking slowly I snuck from building to building, retrieving some good new items that according to my friend who was experienced were rare to find so quickly. Feeling proud, I continued forward and eventually found myself in the center of the city. But alas, I wasn’t able to carry everything. So deciding not to push my luck I started for the outskirts of town. But one wrong move later and I was suddenly being chased again by a horde of zombies. I sought shelter on a nearby rooftop, holding off the attackers for a good 10 minutes before it seemed that it was all clear. Suddenly a gunshot rang in the distance, and my characters brains became the target for a sniper rifle. I was killed by a bandit, who wanted nothing more than my loot and my undying contempt.
Survivor 3 – Well that sucked, but you win some you lose some. Now with this new life I thought to experiment with the global chat a bit. Entering a large warehouse near my spawning point, a message suddenly popped up that read “Saw somebody enter warehouse, I’m out of ammo, want to team up?” Well two heads are better than one, and maybe my chances will increase if I have somebody to watch my back. Responding with a “Sure”, within a few minutes another person made his way into this warehouse with me. Putting my weapon up, and saluting to him as is the custom for the DayZ ‘Hail’ the other person reloaded his pistol, and killed me.
Survivor 4 – I convinced my friend to get online and help me. We spent 20 minutes finding each other, and decided to search a nearby power-plant for epic lootz. Entering from the rooftop, gunshots rang somewhere off in the distance and my friend hit the ground. He was dead before he realized what had happened. I ran, missing the ladder completely. A five story fall and some broken legs later, I was the lunch for the undead power plant employees. All of this because some dude thought it would be funny kill some newbies.
Survivor 5 – Spawn, find a supermarket, shot in the back while trying to rearrange my inventory in the bathroom. He didn’t even take what I had on me.
Survivor 6 – This time I made a straight line for the inner hills and mountains of the game map. Staying on the coast line was suicide, I knew that now. Two of my friends and I met up, and finally began to really make some progress in the game. Over the next several hours we raided multiple small towns. Slowly but surely I collected more and better items than I had when playing Survivor 2. But as the quality of by gear rose, so too did my paranoia. I avoided running across hills. I stopped every half kilometer to scan my surrounding for any other signs of survivors. I trusted nobody, save for the people I was on Skype with. Then I came to the barn. According to my map, the barn of a nearby town frequently spawned some high level gear. So me and my two teammates made our way towards the building. Seeing it off in the distance soon enough, we crouched and moved forward. I was the first in the door. Having watched Aliens earlier that day, my scope instantly fell to each corner of the room. There he was, a survivor crouched on the upper loft looking down at me. His rifle was raised, trained on my skull. Suddenly, everything that had happened to Survivors 1 – 4 flashed through my mind. All the anger for those other players, all that hard work I had done. I didn’t want to do it again. God knows I didn’t want to go through all that again. Crying “SURVIVOR” in Skype, my 6 shot revolver suddenly pierced the afternoon air. He fell instantly. But his friend hiding behind the stairs didn’t. A Lee Enfield rifle returned fire, I was dead before I had even seen him. My friend shot him, but died all the same from the confusion and poor accuracy. My third friend managed to avenge the both of us, but soon followed us into that dark place as the furry of the horde fell down upon the barn.
When I managed to calm down, and my two friends were still silent in shock, I realized something more terrifying than the zombie infested landscape I was voluntarily traversing. I don’t remember, honestly, if that guy on the loft had been aiming his rifle at me. I mean I think that he was! But maybe I was just so scared by the presence of another that I convinced myself in a brief instant that if I didn’t kill him first, he would kill me.
To enjoy DayZ, you have to be able to do two things well. First, you need to be able to invent your own motivations. People who play a lot of opened world games are pretty good at this. They are the sort who create full backstories for their character, and actually roleplay them out accordingly in every decision. DayZ when boiled down is a game where you just walk around a lot. The focus is on survival, collecting food, water and ammo over and over again to just see how long you can keep the reaper at bay. The atmosphere never allows the player to feel safe and secure at any point, which in turn creates stress. This brings up the second thing you need to enjoy this game. You have to like being challenged, and not take it personally if you are punished for either a small mistake or no good reason at all.
But at the end of the day, DayZ is by far the best survival horror I’ve ever laid eye’s on. Honestly I had never even known what true survival horror was until I got my hands on this game. Mostly the ‘survival’ part of the name just means surviving from the attacks of whatever enemies come your way. Not true survival where your character can freeze to death if he finds himself too far north too late at night. In less then eight hours DayZ brought me to my knees, forcing out the baser instincts of my person to where nothing else mattered but being able to walk away. Even if that meant that somebody else wasn’t going too by my hand. I feel like this is the zombie game we have been waiting for, and amongst the ocean of zombie bad or average zombie titles we have finally found the coast of Chernarus.
DayZ is only in Alpha right now, and still has a lot of bugs. But for 30 dollars to by Arma II and it’s expansion, plus a mod download, it’s worth the price. But as I said before, this game is not for everybody. I recommend doing some research on it’s mechanics and read up on a few forums with other reviews before making a full decision.