Over the last week or so I’ve been playing the absolute hell out of a, increasingly popular, Arma II mod. Chances are you’ve already heard about DayZ at this point, so this article isn’t going to really fall under a typical ‘News’ piece. Because the game is also not in a full release, there’s no point (yet) to providing the ‘game’ a full review. In lieu of those options not being available to me, and still wanting to talk about this game (for my own personal gratification), I’ve decided to pull one of my personal favorite segments out of retirement. This is Why You Should Care: DayZ.
What Is It?:
DayZ, as mentioned, is a mod for Arma II and its expansion pack ‘Operation Arrowhead’. Utilizing the game’s rather robust military fps/survival engine the creator of DayZ, Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall, has created the most extensive and realistic zombie-survival game to-date.
How realistic? Well your survival in the game will depend on if you can keep your player fed, healthy, hydrated, out of the sun for extended periods of time, sneak your way past zombies, or at least be able to tag them without alerting the rest of the horde, as well as your interaction with the other human players (DayZ is officially tagged as an MMO experience). What makes this different (and more realistic) to other games in the genre however, is the depth.
If you break a leg it will need to be mended. If you are wounded you’ll begin to lose blood, and need to bandage yourself to prevent from bleeding out. Everyone in the game has the ability to assist or hamper your progress, so human interaction becomes not only important, but mandatory. And what if you’re unable to fill this massive laundry-list of items for survival? You die, of course, but with a twist. Unlike most games where you have an option to respawn and pick up with your character from where to left off DayZ provides true consequence by forcing you to start over, from square one.
Why You Should Care:
The easiest way for me to explain why I, like thousands of others, have become so enamored with his game is simple: real consequence.
Unlike most games in this era, DayZ makes you carefully consider every action that you take in the game, because everything you’ve earned up until that point is on the line if you make the wrong call. You might have amassed a plethora of canned food, ammo, weapons, and first-aid gear but it can all be lost in the blink of an eye by a sniper who’s camped out a local supermarket, or a horde of flesh-eating zombies that caught wind of you because you decided to run through town rather that sneak around low-profile style.
Unfortunately, because the game’s still early into its development cycle (Alpha) there are plenty of problems with the game, and the controls can be a bit cumbersome. Players just jumping in will have to deal with one of the most crushing of learning curves ever experienced, and even when you get the hang of things you can be offed by something as ridiculous as the hand of god nudging you off the side of a building, leading you to fall to your death and lose all that carefully collected gear.
It’s frustrating, but with great frustration comes great reward. There is nothing as satisfying as repairing your first vehicle in-game, or setting up a legitimate camp-site complete with tent, barbed wire, camp-fire and defenses. It’s painstaking to get all of the necessities for survival, especially when the world around you wants you to fail, and it’s intense when you realize that all of your hard work can be lost in an instant.
[ Thanfully there's help available online]
There are plenty of videos that you can review online about how zany the game can get, thanks to the world and the players inhabiting it, but I wanted to quickly share one of my favorite personal experiences:
After getting used to the controls, and the concepts of the game, I made one of my first long-term runs at the game which included a loot-run through one of the game’s major cities (Elektro). For the uninitiated, there are two major cities on the 225km squared map that act as the game’s PVP hubs. Gearing before you head in to collect is a major party of the survival strategy.
I bumped into another survivor who had locked himself down, with a rifle, inside of a church. I did what I could to show him I was friendly (not knowing how to access chat yet, and without a mic at the time) by saluting. However, as you’ll find yourself if you begin playing, plenty of people are paranoid about outsiders (a natural progression of the game, once you’ve lost your gear to a couple of bandits you thought you could trust, you get wise).
A shoot-out began in the church, he at the front taking cover behind the podium and I stationed outside just beyond the doors. Back and forth we’d take pot-shots at one another while bobbing in and out of cover… until I realized, being by the entrance, I had control over the doors. Moving quickly the doors were closed and I took a knee and lined up a kill-shot with where the other player was hidden when I had closed the door, and then reopened. In a classic ‘surprise’ tactic I’d realigned myself out of his line-of-sight, while getting him directly in mine and popped a head-shot as the doors swung open.
Guaranteed that others out there have had similar or even more insane stand offs, one on one, out there in other video games… but when you know that your last three hours of looting are on the line and you might not get another rifle when you respawn for another couple of hours, well… there’s really no explaining how intense things get. My heart was pounding, my hands were sweating, and the victory was one of the sweetest I’d ever experienced.
DayZ brings back consequence for video games, and provides an outlet for player interaction I’ve not see outside of board-games for quite some time. In DayZ playing the players and knowing who you’re dealing with is as important, if not more-so, as playing with the game and its mechanics itself.
If you’re interested in joining me and some of my friends online, we’ve set up three Canadian DayZ servers which you’re more than welcome to check out.