We’ve posted about DayZ before because of some of the twisted things that go on in its world, but we haven’t really talked about what it is and why it’s successful. DayZ became renowned for being a mod of a military simulator that’s easily surpassed the popularity of the original game it’s built on top of.
Even though DayZ is only in alpha stage, the experience that has been found by a million players is incredible and the only one of its kind currently. Gamers need to try this game and here’s why….
George Romero Would Be Proud
DayZ succeeds where every other zombie game has failed. I’ve found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was an open-world zombie survival game?” too many times to count. There have been a few attempts, such as last year’s Dead Island and Capcom’s Dead Rising, but they were never fully realized or embodied the terror that people should feel in the midst of the an infection that could annihilate the human race.
DayZ shows towns devoid of the living, houses wide open and empty, and garbage and destroyed cars lining the streets. Of course, there are zombies shambling around aimlessly until the moment they hear or spot a survivor sprinting by. Aside from the Eastern European setting, it’s a perfect representation of the society that no longer exists.
Games have frequently pulled off widespread desolation successfully in the past, but why DayZ works is not because of the sheer magnitude of its destruction. It strikes fear into hearts with its minimalistic environments and low zombie groans that hum throughout the towns. There is terror in the unknown, especially when you know there’s something that is waiting just around a corner to kill you.
As players spawn randomly spot onto the coast, they’ll soon realize that they are all alone and unarmed. While players used to be given a weapon previously, players are forced to venture into the zombies’ territory to forage for something to defend themselves. Even when you finally find that handgun to fight off the swarms, finding food, water, medical supplies and ammo are just as big an issue. And then there’s other survivors…
The biggest threat to survival isn’t usually the undead that freely roam. The true threat are other survivors that are hunting for tools to carry on living. Most people think that the human race would be able to work together after the crap hits the fan. I am now a firm believer that no matter the advantage that teamwork provides, people will remain paranoid of all others and do whatever it takes to live another day, including killing other human beings.
Playing DayZ has been a big learning experience for me in more ways than just the mechanics. There’s no simple slap on the wrist here; dying in DayZ means starting from scratch all over from the beginning. I’m usually the type of gamer that searches in every nook and cranny to find the best items, but in DayZ, the best items are found populated with the most zombies and survivors, which are particularly ready and willing to take another survivor’s life strictly for entertainment. It’s incredibly nerve-racking to walk into a military hangar and scan the corners with the thought in the back of your head about the number of hours, or even days, that could be lost from one stray zombie swipe or a sniper lurking in the distance. The elements of risk and reward possibly play the biggest role in any game I’ve ever played.
They Should’ve Stayed Under The Ground
Being only in the alpha stage, there are considerable drawbacks to the experience thus far.
DayZ has considerable issues with glitches that can ruin playing. There are a couple that add some hilarity, like chemlights and flares killing people, but most of them are not too much fun. I’ve seen more glitches in DayZ than any other game I’ve ever played, such as average problems like texture pop-in and clipping.
But I’ve seen some very serious issues, such as items in my inventory disappearing, severe latency issues (resulting in teleporting survivors and zombies), zombies passing through walls and doors to smack me to death, walls of fire that span for miles, and textures that don’t load properly, which, at its worst, ends up making the game an unplayable mess.
Then there are the hackers and, my god, there are A LOT. I already despised hackers because of their incessant need to ruin my multiplayer experiences in games like Call of Duty and Borderlands, but in DayZ they take it to a new level. I’ve seen, and experienced, some terrible deeds at their hands like:
- Being teleported to open sea, miles off the coast
- Being teleported to an open field with every other survivor in the server, which causes everyone to shoot one another and cause a horrible bloodbath
- Being teleported to an actual battle arena with every other survivor in a battle to the death
- MOABs being dropped onto survivors from nowhere
I’m sure there are plenty more shenanigans that hackers are pulling off, but when you experience any one of these things, it will really piss you off because you know you’ve lost all your progress and are going to die. If there’s one thing to take out of this mess it’s that developers should not release their product, even if it is free, until there’s a bare minimum of protection against these cheaters.
It’s Your Fear That Gives Me Strength
Yet, despite all these problems, I find myself being forced by an uncontrollable urge to go back and play the game. It’s literally the most heart-racing game I’ve ever played. I’ve felt my heart pounding in my chest when I’ve spotted a couple of survivors lurking the streets, guns raised in anticipation for the next threat. Like I said earlier, it’s awful to lose progress. Experiencing the hostility of other survivors firsthand as you fight for your own surviva, will prove that better than I ever could explain in words.
And this is what DayZ has over every other zombie game that’s ever been created. Dead Space and the older Resident Evil games worked because of the absence of supplies for the player. DayZ has found nearly the perfect storm of factors to create scares by placing players into a foreign place with no instructions and hand-holding. Just like in a real zombie apocalypse, you’re on your own and your wits will keep you alive.
We don’t want to be sent on missions to find random quest items of no importance. We don’t want to go and help some stupid survivor who should’ve died from incompetence a very long time ago. We don’t want to waste time building items that will become broken garbage in five minutes. Zombie games have creativity, but far from interesting execution.
Developers are beginning to understand that a successful zombie (and/or survival-horror) game doesn’t need a gripping story or the most ghastly looking creatures. It just needs a little bit of faith in the players that are buying the game to be able to embrace the unknown beyond and venture forth towards an adventure they can create for themselves.
People want to be scared. They just need the right tool to do it.