7 Days To Die: Alpha 1 Impressions
After playing around with 7D2D for the last few days, I feel ready to give some initial feedback. It is very important to note, however, that this is just an alpha, meaning that several features are subject to change. This doesn’t mean I will be “pulling any punches” and will address concerns I have, but it would be a big mistake to write off the game (or even individual elements at this point) this early in development based on incomplete data. The alpha exists as “a proof of concept” rather than a finished product. I will also assume that everyone knows the basic idea of the game: Survive in an open-world, sandbox environment that is overrun with zombies.
With that said, here are my thoughts.
Crafting makes up a large portion of the experience, and even at this stage of development, it is very enjoyable. The system is very intuitive without holding your hand, meaning that trial and error is needed to discover certain recipes, but it’s never overwhelming or frustrating. Over time, it becomes second nature in terms of figuring out recipes and keeping track of which supplies you will need for later.
Even without a tutorial, I had no trouble crafting various tools, weapons, and building enhancements. The world is almost fully destructible, with different strength ratings given to the various materials the game world has to offer. Just about any block in the game can be destroyed and harvested for more materials. This portion of the game is very promising.
At this point, exploration is a mixed bag. It is imperative to scavenge around for materials, and different areas of the map will have different materials based on factors such as geography, plant life, climate, etc. For example, the desert portion of the map will not have much in the way of trees, making it difficult to find wood. It will, however, have a decent amount of sand and stone under the surface, which are valuable resources for making sturdy buildings out of concrete. This is a really nice touch and shows promise for making each area of the map feel like it serves a unique purpose, as well as differentiating the experience of playing in the lush forest regions vs. barren desert.
There are unique buildings, but the loot is somewhat randomized and doesn’t always make sense. For example, I seem to find weapons in cars and desks more often than any other place, and it would be nice to have buildings that serve more of a “believable” purpose, such as a grocery store for food, hardware store for tools and building materials, etc. In short, I hope that in the future the game world will be fleshed out more to give that all-important sense of place and immersion, making the world feel “alive” and making exploration more meaningful.
There is potential here as well, and some of that is already realized within the different climates and the natural resources found in these different areas. It’s a good sign that the developers have already considered diversity in the game world and making regions feel different from one another.
Hordes and day/night cycles.
This is my biggest complaint with the game so far, and also my biggest cause for concern for the future. In a nutshell, zombies aren’t much of a threat during the day, but at night they are very dangerous, with the ability to sprint and deal massive damage (not to mention attempting to rip down any structure that stands between you and them – and they are quite effective at this, I might add).
The above is fine, but herein lies the problem: Regardless of where you are on the map or if you’ve cleared an area of zombies, it is currently guaranteed that a zombie horde will spawn when the sun goes down and hone in your location like heat-seeking missiles.
This is the biggest drawback I have encountered so far, as it has a negative impact on several things, starting with the pacing. Because the days are too short for a methodical player like myself to effectively set-up adequate defenses and explore, I am forced to play at a rather hectic pace; methodical gameplay or taking your time to fully explore a region is not an option here. It also ruins the atmosphere, as it takes you completely out of any sort of immersion that might exist – a horde appearing out of nowhere and homing in on your position feels far too “game-y” and is a lazy method of ensuring difficulty.
The last negative impact of heat-seeking missile zombies (trademark pending) is that it removes any tension from the survival experience. It’s kind of hard to fear a zombie horde showing up on your doorstep when you know exactly when and where this will occur, as it is a guaranteed event. The tension would be much greater if the player was given the choice of exploring the world at night at the risk of possibly being detected by a dangerous group of zombies. Or, if you’ve holed up in the safety of a home somewhere, you have no idea if or when a horde would appear. If I’ve learned anything from Thief: Deadly Shadows’ infamous “The Cradle” level, it’s that the tension caused by what doesn’t happen is more effective at creating fear than what actually does occur. When an event finally does happen, it’s the build-up that makes it exciting and satisfying.
Make no mistake, I am all for the idea of being in constant danger, and there needs to be an ever-present feeling of danger in a game of this nature to prevent the experience form being boring. But when the danger is so predictable and lacks dynamic implementation, it is a cop-out method of creating difficulty. Hopefully this is addressed by the developers in future builds.
The Good stuff
7D2D is at its best for this initial alpha release when played co-op with a friend. This allows you to multi-task more efficiently and set-up better defenses for when the inevitable angry hordes of zombies appear to tear it all down. It’s very rewarding when your defenses manage to hold on throughout the night, and I’ve seen some very creative defenses being built by the early adopters of the project. There’s an addictive cycle of “what else can I build to keep out the hordes at night?” when daybreak gives you a respite from the hordes. Creativity is not hampered very often by the already excellent crafting system, and when I’m not playing the game, I find myself constantly thinking about new designs to build.
The future: open-world survival/exploration game or Left 4 Dead?
So the big question is: which game is 7D2D going to be? Is it going to be a repetitive co-op shoot-em-up with crafting elements, or a more thoughtful survival game meant to be played at a methodical pace? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is completely unknown at this point, as it is unclear what the developer’s overall vision is beyond the core mechanics in place at the moment.
As I mentioned in the intro paragraph, this game is far too early in development to cast final judgment. The public alpha is a “proof of concept,” and many aspects are place-holders subject to change. With that said, there are some concerns I have in the alpha, and I cannot be certain if these are simply placeholder features meant to be changed and improved as development continues, or conscience design choices. Until I know for certain, I would place 7D2D in the “wait and see” folder for now. If this is going to be indicative of the final product, then I would not recommend it. However, if these concerns are addressed, then it would become a very entertaining, highly addictive open-world survival game.
Keep an eye out for updates as the game continues its development. The above observations might sound a bit negative, but I overwhelmingly feel that 7D2D has a lot of potential to be a very unique sandbox survival experience. Important decisions that have yet to be made will ultimately make or break this project; hopefully the developers have the vision to take this project to the next level and fulfill its vast potential.
Thanks for the impression Nerevarine. I can't wait till he adds the npc's to the game. Going by what was promised though it wont be till after the games release.
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