Creating an open world game where players must survive against the harsh world that they are placed in has become a very popular genre in recent years. Many of these games implement a crafting system of sorts as well as enemies that will be constantly threatening their lives. 7 Days to Die has been in early access for PC since late 2013 but now that the title has been released on consoles, is it worth checking out?
Before beginning the game players will have the option of selecting between the “campaign” map of Navezgane or in a randomly generated map. The only difference here is that the Navezgane map is always the same as there is no actual story present in this game in any form. Regardless of what option you choose, players will be started with a brief tutorial disguised as a message from a non-existent survivor that introduces the basic mechanics in the game such as harvesting ingredients, crafting items, securing a base, and laying down a place to sleep.
It is then entirely up to players as to what they want to do next as they come face to face with the various obstacles that stand in the way of their survival. While the zombies, special zombies, zombified animals, and threatening wasps all pose a danger to your well-being, so do the basic requirements of living. I’m speaking of course about eating, drinking, and staying warm all while trying to avoid dying of some horrible disease you might have caught thanks to desperately drinking dirty water or eating rotten food.
You see, players will have to consistently monitor their hunger and hydration levels and while being full to a certain point does slowly recover health, falling into dangerous levels of hunger and hydration will begin to kill the player. This is especially true when it comes to the temperature gauge as players will need to dress warmly by examining clothing insulation when navigating through cold conditions or if they find themselves wet in the middle of the night. The opposite can come into play as well since navigating a desert or burned forest will easily cause the player to overheat and suffer from heatstroke, causing fast dehydration and loss of health if they don’t strip down or aren’t wearing items to keep themselves cool.
Clothing can be found from various objects and even trash piles in the game but players can opt to simply craft clothing from plants if they are desperate though most of the fancier crafting recipes require the player to find books before unlocking the recipe. Players will always need to be on the lookout for things that they need to survive and ingredients that they will need to craft items for protection or that will help them out in the long run. Practically everything in the game can be broken down and used for ingredients and even mundane items can be scrapped for lead, iron, and brass.
That being said, as you advance and eventually unlock the ability to smelt metals and craft certain tools, players will find that using the proper tools to break down items, such as a wrench with a damaged car, will reward the player with bonus items rather than simply smacking it with an axe. This type of scavenging for survival also plays a major role in how players survive from hunger and thirst as hunting animals and cooking meat properly while also making sure that you always have something to drink plays a vital role in survival and with only so much inventory space at any given moment, there will be plenty of times that players might need to leave something good behind simply to ensure that they will have more water or risk dehydration in an effort to obtain something you need.
Thanks to the fact that, at least in normal settings, night time turns most normal shuffling zombies into running monstrosities, players will regularly need to find shelter to hide from the undead. Players can opt to build up a hut of their very own through a wide range of customization options that eventually allow for better defense or simply set themselves up in a ramshackle house and work on reinforcing any damage it might have already suffered by boarding up windows and reinforcing doors. It is worth noting that thanks to the fact that 7 Days to Die relies on a grid based building style, that real customization isn’t entirely possible and trying to craft something elaborate is generally way more of a hassle than it ever should be thanks to iffy placement systems and laggy menu interfaces though preparing various traps such as spike pits and the like still work rather well.
It is inevitable that players will run into zombies that they simply have to eliminate in order to survive. Whether it is a zombie blocking a path or something that has stumbled upon your house and is persistently trying to break down a wall, they must be dealt with. While many zombie games put a lot of effort into making sure the combat system is tightly handled to make sure that players can stand a chance, 7 Days to Die is almost the exact opposite of that for a few reasons.
When facing off against zombies players can make use of either long range weaponry such as guns, though these are limited and can draw more undead to the area, or a bow and arrow set or resort to melee. The problem with almost every single one of these options comes down to the fact that there is no impact to anything players do in combat and thanks to floaty controls and terrible frame rate, attempting to take down even a single zombie in melee combat is a risky move.
Arrows shot from a bow immediately disappear when they hit any object, the basic wooden club feels the same as wielding a sledgehammer in melee combat with only the chainsaw or auger providing any significant impact but considering the game has a terrible habit of dropping to impressive zero frame freezes for a couple of seconds, a zombie you may have had the drop on has likely already stunned you and is currently draining your health after zipping forward when the game resumes. With this style of combat focusing solely on the unresponsive controls and terrible frame rate, players will fear taking on more than one zombie for more reasons than simply being overrun.
This constant freezing and lag persists throughout every aspect of the game even while walking through a barren field, but thankfully the actual multiplayer aspect of the game isn’t affected by the lag. Sure players will still encounter slowdown, but the actual multiplayer connection when playing with friends or even dropping into a random world and trying to survive with other hostile players makes for a great time, with some of the best moments happening when trying to survive a night when a horde of zombies comes knocking while you and two of your friends try to hold them off.
7 Days to Die is a customizable experience in more than just crafting, as every time the player goes to enter a world they will have the option to adjust a variety of parameters. This includes how long daytime lasts, the frequency of supply drops, whether zombies run at all, how much loot is dropped when killed, and even the amount of loot you can find in objects. This does allow for players to help get a feel for the game and then steadily ramp up the difficulty simply by returning back to the main menu and increasing the zombie spawn rate or even turn it off entirely and create a game that is about surviving a dilapidated world with nothing around.
This brings us to another problem with 7 Days to Die’s design. While playing with others and surviving for a certain amount of time on your own is quite a fun experience, the game lacks any real drive outside of simply living. Players are given no incentives to gather certain materials other than being able to build mansions and even the game itself mentions how players can craft furniture but that it won’t really provide anything and is a waste. This lack of direction does lead to a game that is deprived of any end-game mechanics since even the designing aspects of crafting a mansion to spite the undead are fairly standard with what is currently offered.
Visuals & Audio
I mentioned earlier that 7 Days to Die suffered from numerous moments of extreme frame drops to the point that when the game isn’t slowing down immensely it flat out freezes for a couple of seconds and looking at the game’s presentation, there really is no excuse for this issue. The worlds generated in this game are incredibly ugly and almost completely lifeless. The map is split into different biomes ranging from snowy areas and desert areas to plains and even forests and forests that have been burned. The various character models that players can choose from and the zombie models are incredibly mundane looking and while this isn’t too much of an actual detriment to the game, the fact that it still suffers from such slowdown and freezes is laughable.
As far as the game’s sounds are concerned, the various zombie noises and small noise notifications to let players know when they have been spotted work well enough but anytime that it starts to rain in the game be prepared for a lot of annoying repetitive thunder. No matter what happens, whether it is entering the in-game menu or pausing the game, the game will repeat a loud crashing thunder sound to the point that simply muting the game and being caught off guard by a zombie is preferable.
7 Days to Die is a game that borrows a lot of its mechanics from similar games and for the most part it works well enough to deliver a satisfying survival experience based on crafting and scavenging. Unfortunately it never moves beyond that point. While the real-time menu systems do raise the tension of crafting in a hurry and the difficulty can be ramped up to offer a challenge, the boring worlds, harsh technical problems, and unsatisfying combat system drag down the experience to the point that you’ll be fighting the game’s issues more than the zombies.
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