Navezgane Cliffnotes #1

The Fun Pimps’ 7 Days to Die is coming to consoles on June 28th, and writing up a news post on the topic the other day gave me fresh inspiration to give the game another go. I’ve jumped in and out of the game as a few big version numbers ticked by, and to say the least my thoughts on the game have fluctuated in a number of ways – sometimes I’d jump in and have a great time, others I’d end up quickly dying a fair few times in the space of a few minutes and find myself quitting. With the new version bringing a lot of fixes and improvements to the Early Access zombie sandbox survival title, I thought it might be time to have another look at it. So, to welcome our new console survivor brethren and future PC players alike, here’s my part critique, part early game guide to the survival horde crafting game 7 Days to Die as of version Alpha 14.6.

First of all, I wouldn’t recommend fighting the zombies early on unless you absolutely have to.

Make no mistake, 7 Days to Die is unforgiving as hell. Especially early on even a single zombie can take you down and fighting more than one really isn’t a good idea if you don’t want a very real chance of an untimely death. They’re tough, too – as you roam the environment and scavenge there’s every chance that you might come across some decent melee weapons and gun parts, but early on you’re probably going to have to deal out a lot of punishment to drop a zombie. Headshots are key!

What makes fighting the zombies so difficult? The fact that their hits will often slap you with the “Stunned” status effect. While stunned your movement speed is greatly reduced, opening you up to further hits in a similar manner to Left 4 Dead. Unlike in Left 4 Dead though, every hit from a zombie deals a lot of damage and you don’t have any sort of quick melee attack useful for pushing zombies back, meaning that getting stunned can very quickly turn into a death sentence, especially if a subsequent hit re-applies the effect. Thank goodness the new version has really improved the death animations, with your character ragdolling and all the zombies swarming in to munch on your corpse, because chances are you’ll be seeing it a lot on your first few attempts at the game.

Navezgane Cliffnotes #2

On a side note, earlier Alpha versions gave you the option of adjusting how much damage you dealt out and how much you received, a removed feature I’d personally love to see make a return. You can reduce the number of zombies roaming about if you’re having a particularly tough time, make it so that they always walk (or always run!) and increase the loot abundance, but no matter what you do if you get stunned multiple times you’re probably dead.

That said, I’d be lying if I said the power of the zombies in 7 Days to Die didn’t lead to some brilliantly terrifying moments – because every block making up every building in the game can be destroyed, few other games capture the terror of having a big group of zombies bearing down on you quite like this one. I think this is best summarized by an experience I had yesterday – I decided to lead a number of zombies surrounding a small supermarket away only to end up accidentally trapping myself in a bathroom during my looting. Watching cracks appear in the chunky voxel walls and seeing the door I’d shut myself behind get ripped away as the zombies smacked it about gave me a distinct sense of impending doom – I was going to die, it was going to be really hard to get my backpack back once I respawned because the supermarket was filled with zombies now, and it was all my fault. I’ll take the odd death to those horrifically annoying zombie dogs if I means I can have moments like that!

Second, the regular zombies aren’t usually worth looting – aim for the uniques and those in uniform.

Another reason why it might not be a great idea to take on most of the zombies early on is that they don’t carry much loot – if you get anything at all they’ll usually only have something like scrap, paper or cloth fragments on them. The zombies you’ll want to target are the unique zombies or those in uniform, which are rarer but often yield greater rewards. For example, you’ll probably encounter a zombie nurse most commonly and killing them has a chance to grant some vital medical supplies, whilst the fat, Boomer-esque police officer zombies will often drop weapons if they are taken out before they self-destruct.

Third, stick at it – things will (eventually) get easier.

7 Days to Die has RPG elements, which in this case means that each character has a plethora of skills that can be individually levelled up by performing certain tasks, allowing you do do those tasks more efficiently. For example, if you keep using blunt weapons like the Wooden Club, your character will gradually get better with those kinds of weapons and you’ll gradually start to see an increase in damage output.

This same principle applies to the rest of 7 Days to Die’s gameplay, with most player actions having some sort of skill associated with them – keep scavenging long enough and eventually you’ll start finding better loot, keep crafting and repairing tools or weapons and they’ll keep getting more effective.

These skills are all tied to your character and not your current “life”, so even if you end up dying over and over again you’ll still find yourself getting better at the various tasks the game throws at you. In the absolute worst case scenario, you’ll probably end up with a really good athletics skill just from running away from the zombies.

Navezgane Cliffnotes #4

Fourth, don’t expect to get guns any time soon.

When I first played 7 Days to Die a number of versions ago, it wasn’t too uncommon to find a pistol or a hunting rifle within the first hour of gameplay. I remember a friend and I musing that it might actually be a bit too easy to get guns and effectively defend yourself, especially once you found yourself a shelter. Needless to say it was as if the Fun Pimps had heard us – pre-assembled guns are very rare in the newer versions of the game. Instead, if you want to get yourself a ranged weapon, more often than not you’ll need to scavenge the individual parts, of which there are usually four or five for each type of weapon, and find a book that will teach you the recipe to craft it.

As much as this big change admittedly irked me initially, it does make getting a gun a lot more of an event and makes you treat your ranged weapons with a lot more care – you don’t know how long it will be until you get another one!

Fifth, avoid the cities until you get yourself some good weapons.

As one might imagine, the main cities in Navezgane (the game’s default world) tend to have a number of things – lots of locked doors, (usually decent) loot behind those doors and a lot of zombies, including some unique specimens like the projectile vomiting zombie police officers and the incredibly tough feral zombies. Whilst it’s definitely possible to dash in and dash out, unless you have a specific plan of what building you’d like to try and raid, the right tools to break through (or around) the doors quickly and happen to be very good at sneaking past the zombies chances are you’ll end up getting chased by a multitude of foul creatures before long.

This is why I’d only recommend raiding a city once you’ve got some ordinance – if things happen to get a bit real it definitely helps to have some firepower to hand to help you fight your way out of there.

Navezgane Cliffnotes #3

Finally, make sure you’re stocked up and secure on every seventh day. The game’s title definitely has some in-game meaning.

Aside from those particular tips, I’d dare say that the rest of the game is best left to be experienced for yourself. Whilst I definitely have some gripes with 7 Days to Die – it can definitely be unforgiving to a fault at times in my opinion – for my money I’d dare say there’s not that many games that pull off player versus environment survival gameplay quite like it. Here’s hoping the game can find an even bigger audience on console and that some of its more quirky points can be ironed out as it makes its way to a full release.

7 Days to Die can be purchased from Steam. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game are due to be released on June 28th.

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