How to DayZ

29 Jul

By someone who’s pretty terrible at DayZ

After five or six hours (thereabouts), I still don’t know what to make of zombie apocalypse sim DayZ. It’s so bleak, unforgiving and buggy that I don’t feel compelled to be constantly loading it up, yet once I do it’s tense and atmospheric enough that I don’t want to play anything else. I already have enough stories of desperation, drama and outright weirdness to fill a dozen blog posts, but these moments – playing cat and mouse with a better-equipped bandit through abandoned city streets or escaping a horde of walkers on a rusty bicycle – can sometimes seem unattainable while your bleeding, chronically unarmed character is being brutalised by an uncaring loot drop system and dodgy combat. So, rather than fill the internet with even more war stories, here’s a list of tips for the rookie survivor from someone with considerable experience in dying horribly.

Hit the cities first. A higher concentration of both zombies and bandits might make this seem counter-intuitive, but buildings like fire stations, supermarkets, apartment blocks and churches are the best places to stock up on guns and supplies; out in the sticks, you’ll be lucky to find some pistol rounds and a can of Pepsi. Moreover, wonky pathfinding means zombies can be easily lost by weaving through alleys and buildings with multiple entrances – get caught without a weapon in a field and they’ll be chasing you until the next barn. Load up, then head into the forests if you don’t fancy deathmatching other players. Speaking of…

Avoid, don’t engage, bandits. Partly because this robs them of the very purpose of their spiteful, appallingly self-interested existence, but mostly because it’s just not worth the risk. These are people who know a) the hours of progress lost upon death and b) the excruciating length of time it takes to respawn and still hunt their fellow humans for sport; psychopaths, basically. They’ll be more comfortable with ArmA II’s wobbly shooting and will almost certainly have better gear than you (I’ve only ever outgunned a single bandit, because the shotgun he fired on me with wasn’t effective at the range he chose to be a massive twat) so it’s usually best to peg it. With that in mind…

If you know how to get back to your corpse, go loot it. Thanks to small inventories and bandits’ tendency to hold all the biggest firearms, it’s possible – likely, even – for your gunned-down body to keep hold of your gear even after your murderer has had his pick. If you know the way, forget the dregs on the coast, march right back in and reclaim what’s yours. Don’t worry too much about getting killed again, either – unless they’ve set up a sniper perch on a rooftop, these murderous thieves don’t stay in one place for long.

Day and night cycles are real-time, but don’t always reflect the actual time. I didn’t realise this until I picked up a watch, but it’s true: join a server where the in-game time is midnight and it’s won’t get light for another five hours in real-time. Thankfully, most servers reflect their time period in the browser listing (“GMT-8”, for instance) so you’ll rarely unwittingly join a lobby where everything is pitch fucking black and will be for another two meal times. It goes without saying that, thanks to a flashlight that’s immediately available but useless unless standing still, late-night excursions are recommended only for the most masochistic of horror addicts.

If you find a bike, cherish it. Most vehicles require a few hours’ maintainance before they get running again. Not the humble bicycle. Quick, agile and offering a smaller target than vans and buses, bikes are a force to be reckoned with.

 

Sadly, for all its many and varied strengths, bikes are both delicate and impossible to fix. Treat it as you would a close friend, in the sense that you shouldn’t send it head-on into a tree at high speeds to try using it as a zombie battering ram.

Reload your hatchet. DayZ’s axe is hilariously stupid. To actually equip it, you need to select it in the inventory, click ‘Remove from toolbelt’, then hit the reload button, at which point your character will slide a fresh magazine of thin air into the hatchet’s handle. I have no idea why this is necessary, or why picking one up while unarmed doesn’t automatically assign it as your primary weapon, but there you go. It’s actually a fairly essential piece of kit, not just for making firewood (campfires are needed to cook the meat of slain animals, a crude but safe alternative to sifting through abandoned shops) but for cutting down zombies before you get your first gun. Just remember to reload. Apparently.

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