Alpha as Fuck: Dispatches from DayZ Standalone

4 Jan

dayz vista

So it’s actually out, then?


Any good?


I’m pleased to see the mod’s brutal spirit remained intact, but there are also a handful of systemic improvements that make the whole thing feel suitably fresh.

Improvements? Like what?

There’s a much greater emphasis on pure survival. You die of thirst and hunger abnormally quickly and spawn with an empty stomach, so straight away there’s a sense of urgency – to find sustenance, not get in gunfights – which the mod was missing. And I love that this drives me to the smaller towns and villages – now that the vast majority of buildings can be entered and searched, I’m not forcibly funnelled towards the deathtraps of cities and military bases, even though I’m more desperate for supplies.

Combat is vastly improved, with improved zombie pathfinding and melee weapons that are actually worth a damn.

Combat is vastly improved, with less batshit zombie pathfinding and melee weapons that are actually worth a damn.

The new inventory, meanwhile, is weirdly pleasurable to use. It streamlines the actions that used to be fiddly busywork (you can now loot items just by hitting Tab while standing near them, and you can move things between bags and pockets by simply dragging and dropping) and makes the interesting ones more involving. Inserting individual bullets into a magazine, then sliding in the mag itself, is immensely satisfying – especially when dropping zombies with freshly hand-loaded rounds.

All that said, however, I still wouldn’t recommend it to most.

How come?

While the foundations of a great game are there, a lot of the balancing feels way off. As much as I’ve just extolled the virtues of needing constant feeding, you do need constant feeding; in one life, I made it about two in-game kilometres before the “I’m dying of starvation” messages began showing up. Even wolfing down a whole fresh banana bought me less than five extra minutes before I started passing out.

The new stamina system, which blurs and slightly desaturates your vision when you’re exhausted, is similarly skewwhiff. I can’t jog down a street without tripping out in wave-o-vision, and refilling stamina to max requires two minutes of literally sitting still.

I remember when all this was fields.

I remember when all this was fields.

The respawning system hasn’t been nailed down yet either. Zombies are almost non-existent; not only do they spawn in small numbers, but a single player can clear out a town, and it won’t be repopulated with zeds or loot until the server resets a few hours later. It would be a shame to miss this chance to make the undead scary again, but right now they’re only making cameo appearances.

Yikes. But you’re still having fun?

Absolutely. DayZ has never really been about munching scraps or awkward dustups with the walking dead; it’s a game of tense encounters with unpredictable humans, and the standalone has made these better than ever. Already I’ve been beaten within an inch of my life with a fire extinguisher, attempted to coax a potential ally out of hiding with offers of free bandages, and been gifted an entire set of late-game loot by a half-naked woman. This last one was particularly wonderful in its weirdness; having got my attention by shooting at me, she forced me to stand still, dropped all her stuff and stripped down to her underwear. “I’m sick. I’m blind. Good luck,” she said simply, before disappearing into the wind.

A few minutes of Internetting reveal even greater stories: hilarious hostage rescues, bandits handcuffing victims for the sole purpose of stealing their clothes and spontaneous outbreaks of wiggling. It’s these random acts of violence, kindness and moderate lunacy that DayZ does better than anything else, and the potential of being part of one is enough to sustain me through the long treks and mouthfuls of cold beans.

dayz river


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