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Games in Alpha: 7 Days to Die

I’m done. 28 hours in, and I have fear-quit this game… for now.

7 Days to Die is another quality horror survival currently in alpha on Steam created by The Fun Pimps (I would argue ‘The Sadistic Why-Won’t-You-Let-Me-Be-Safe Pimps). Set in the traditional Northern American zombie apocalypse you are stranded semi-naked and have to survive. The mechanics a fairly simply once you realise you can punch the environment to get resources. I wouldn’t recommend running up to a zombie and punching them. Even on the easiest setting you can’t take many hits before you’re an infected bleeding mess.

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There are many chilling features which make this game super realistic despite the so-so graphics (if you crank the graphics settings it does get pretty good and as the game is still in alpha the textures are improving all the time). Your character status goes into a lot of detail. You can see your level, stamina, health, hunger, thirst, temperature, and many more stats. These are all things you need to manage if you are going to survive. Items that you can equip have a quality rating and a condition bar. Weapons have ratings which show types of damage it can deal and your skill in that weapon class. The standard map you can play is call Navezgane. You can also create random maps. Most maps will contain a variety of biomes including arctic tundra, forest, burnt forest, desert and more. When you are exploring the environment you have to keep in mind a good many things if you want to stay safe. Zombies can detect you by sight, sound and smell. You can see if you are currently being detected by crouching. A stealth eye symbol appears on the screen and you will either receive text saying ‘not detected’, ‘sensed’ or ‘hunted’, the eye widens for the last two as you realise your fate. Also at night the zombies can run, I haven’t tested if your player character can run faster or not, but I do know that they won’t run out of stamina, but you definitely will.

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The crafting table is so enormous you can easily be overwhelmed to start with (literally, if you spend too long in the crafting menu you will be overwhelmed by zombies). But once you have the basic tools you can pretty much handle things as long as you find yourself a good base and enough food to not starve to death. You have to craft everything you need to survive down to trousers and sexy cloth booties. The crafting options taunt you with the possibilities of wonderfully high powered items like a rocket launcher and a minibike! But not only do you need rare resources to build such items, you also need to read a book to figure out how it works. While strangely realistic that you can’t just assume that you know how to craft guns from random pieces you find up a zombies ass, I found the hunt for books one of the most frustrating parts of this game. Scouting out buildings that ‘might’ contain a book requires planning, weapons and courage, not to mention time you could be spending working on the defences of your base. So say you spend your days hiking about, hunting down the good loot, you may have a few snacky magnum barrels which you can’t assemble yet because that’s the only book you didn’t find yet, but you’ve been searching so hard for 6 and a half days now and you feel like you have some good kit. You are still screwed. Look up. What’s the title of the game again? Oh yeh…. 7 Days to Die. Shit. Every 7th day there is a blood moon. It’s a fairly common occurrence in zombie games to have a feature like this, but I have never come across one that has left me in such a quivering mess before. If you try to hide the stealth symbol stays on ‘hunted’, they know where you are. The standard night time is 8 in game hours, 8 hours when every damn zombie on the map knows where you are and an enormous horde spawns on your doorstep. You can change the settings to have a 6 hour night which I did so I’d have more time in which to do things. Huddling inside during the night can get a bit dull after a while. I got quite lucky during my first blood moon. I exited the game halfway through the night while I could still hear them gnawing at the door, but when I reloaded the horde had vanished. Lucky bug! I could tell that my defences wouldn’t have held so I spent the next 7 days building high concrete walls surrounded by more spikes than is decent and an elaborate system involving jumping a lot for me to be able to get in and out without killing myself. I was so proud. “They can try” I thought as I pictured hundreds of zombies helplessly bashing an my impenetrable walls all the while taking damage from the thousands of spikes.

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I could not have been more wrong. I don’t even know how they managed to get over the wall but it didn’t take them long at all. I couldn’t see what was happening as I had blocked myself up in a raised platform as I thought ‘safe and sound’. But the next thing that happened was cracks started appearing in the floor beneath me. I brought out my torch to peer over the edge to see how bad it was… then… Nope. Nope nope nope. For the first time in my life I have ‘fear quit’ a game. The shame! Maybe one day if I feel like punishing myself I will load it up again. Maybe if they let you turn off the blood moon, but that is sort of missing the point. If I wanted a survival game with no danger of attack I should go back to playing The Long Dark on Pilgrim mode.

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I have completely left out the multiplayer function of this game. You can play with up to 16 players who you can either work with or against. The PvP choice in this game leaves it up to the player and there are a few features which allow players to decide if they are willing to trust each other or not. You can tag players as allies and leave map markers so they can easily find your safe house. You can also leave your loot chests unlocked, locked or assign a pin code so only friends can access your stash. In MP games every player spawns with a land claim block. This can be used to lay claim to a certain area or building and increases the strength of defences for enemy players trying to get in. This is used to balance defence vs deconstruction of your own structures otherwise it would take an age to make adjustments to your buildings.

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7 Days to Die has enormous scope for an indie game in alpha. With regular updates there is no issue with this game being still in early access and it is fully playable right now. If you have the courage to have a go single player, I wish you luck and hope you survive longer than I did. However, I reckon the true fun is to be had in multiplayer. You and a band of friends surviving the end of days ‘Walking Dead’ style, what more could you want?

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