You are dead.
Those are words you will see a lot playing DayZ. What is DayZ? It’s the game that is eternally in early access. To be a bit more specific, it’s an open world survival game with zombies (I think they’re technically not zombies, but they sure act like it). In DayZ, you must survive a never ending cycle of thirst, hunger, zombies, and other players.
Yes, other players are your biggest enemy. Sure the ever present zombies will cause you issues, but if you know what you’re doing then they won’t really be much of a threat. The thing about players is, unlike zombies, they’re completely unpredictable. One second they may ask “friendly?”, and the next second they’re blasting your face with bullets. Many lives have been lost to people who disregard the value of human life in favour of killing anything that moves.
Although other players can and will kill you, sometimes in frustratingly high numbers, they still play an important part in DayZ. I hate being killed, especially when I’ve spent hours collecting all my fancy gear only to be gunned down in cold blood, but it keeps things interesting. Part of the fun in DayZ is interacting with other players and not knowing what to expect, constantly staying on edge. With players who kill you for fun, it makes every encounter tense, whether or not you end up in a fight. Of course, having a player befriend you and travelling with you for hours, gaining your trust before shooting you in the back seems like a bit much…
When you’re not geared up and are but a little bambi (DayZ term for new player / freshspawn), your biggest challenge will be finding food and water. Now, the entire east and south cost is full of water, just not the very drinkable kind. This leads to the question, do you take a chance with pond/sea water, or do you hold out to find a fountain? If you’re experienced in the game, you will know that most villages and cities contain a fountain or two, so the choice is obvious. However, if you’re in the middle of a forest, it’s easy to be tempted to take the risk. Getting sick is never fun, especially when it’s entirely avoidable, but sometimes you do have to get hydrated through less satisfactory means.
The issue of food is more difficult than water. While you get dehydrated faster than you get hungry, it’s also much easier to find water. For food, you have to search all over a village, sometimes not even getting a can of food. Add to this with the fact that you spawn hungry, and you can be in deep trouble. Of course, finding food doesn’t actually guarantee you won’t go hungry. What do you reach for when trying to open a can of baked beans? That’s right, a can opener. In DayZ, you aren’t even given that luxury when you spawn. So not only do you have to find food, but you have to find a way to open the can of food. Whether you use a can opener or just take a screwdriver and spill some is up to you, but a can opener is preferable. Of course, you can always get lucky and find food that doesn’t require a sharp object to open, such as a box of cereal or a bag of rice. Rice is the best, as it fills you right up, easily satisfying your needs (seriously, how do you eat a whole bag of rice in one go without emptying the contents of your stomach?).
For a ‘zombie survival game’, DayZ doesn’t do a very good job of making the zombies much of a threat. That’s not to say they can’t kill your or seriously harm you, because they will if you’re not careful, but in general the zombies are more of an annoyance. The zombies can form a small horde, usually as a result of someone shooting a gun in the middle of a city, attracting every zombie in the vicinity to them. Shooting them won’t help, as it will only attract even more zombies. However, this is where you can be smart and just choose NOT to use your guns while in cities. A good swing or two with an axe is sufficient to bring down a zombie, while being much quieter. As an added benefit to doing this, other players won’t hear you doing this as easily.
After filling your stomach up with food and water, the next choice you must make is what to do. It’s an open ended game, so you can choose to stay in the big coastal cities and avoid the zombies (who are in larger numbers in the bigger cities by the way), or you can head north and inland to the big military bases.
Military bases provide an obvious benefit, they spawn military gear. Who doesn’t want to play dress up and pretend to be a soldier? Ignoring the dress up possibilities (which I am guilty of doing), military gear holds more than standard civilian clothes, and also provides more protection. If you like hoarding, the mountain backpack is a clear choice, offering 35 slots for items. However, this means you can’t look over your shoulder as it blocks your view (in first person mode anyways). If you’re willing to drop 3 slots, you can take the new assault backpack, which has the added benefit giving you a lower profile. Military shirts and pants hold 6 slots vs the 4 slots that regular civilian clothes can hold (although some civilian clothes hold less, while there are a few military shirts that hold 8 slots). My personal favourite is the TTsKO jacket and pants, with the nice looking camouflage. The camouflage from military clothes (or just being green) also serves to make it more difficult for other players to spot you, which you can see from near the beginning is generally a bad thing. The one thing that the military has that civilians don’t have is vests, which hold additional items (press vest not included, as that thing doesn’t hold anything). Vests hold 8, 10, 12, or 16 items, depending on the vest. The vests that hold 10 and 16 items are modular (10 for the plate carrier and 16 for the Smersh vest with 2 Smersh backpacks attached), but I find they’re too hard to get a hold of them and their attachments. The other benefit to military bases is their ability to give you military grade weapons. I’m talking AKM’s, AK-74’s, AK-101’s. Get a hold of one of these, and you’re a killing machine.
Assuming you want the really high end gear, you need to go the helicopter crash sites. Now on the 0.60 patch for DayZ, some of the stuff spawns in regular military bases, but this won’t always be the case. My personal favourite weapons are from the Russian crash sites instead of the American ones. This is due to the Russian ones spawning SVD’s and the VSS Vintorez, both very good sniper rifles. Now, why do you need a sniper rifle, as you don’t need to kill zombies hundreds of metres away? The answer is once again, other players.
There are also other parts of the game that are fun. Setting up your own base with tents and barrels, getting a working car or truck to drive around, crafting a ghillie suit (now that’s just overkill. You only need that for killing other players). With the map being 15km by 15km, a car is pretty useful. However, it can be difficult to get one running, so you will mostly be running from place to place. You could always choose to hunt for other people’s bases to steal their stuff, but that can be dangerous if someone is watching for looters.
I personally recommend playing this game with a friend, as it is so much more enjoyable being able to work with someone else (True for most games). If you don’t have any friends, this game is still enjoyable. In fact, it is even tenser without a friend, as you don’t have someone you can rely on.
Do I recommend this game? No, not in its current state. As fun as it is, it still has a long ways to go, as well as still being poorly optimised and buggy. If you’re not sure about it, you may as well just wait until it hits beta or is fully released before buying it. Although I personally enjoy it, not everyone is willing to put up with a game still in alpha. Unless you’re a hardcore survival fan, it’s not going to kill you to wait. If you really want to try it out, you can always try out the DayZ mods on Arma 2 or Arma 3. DayZ and the Arma series are both made by Bohemia, so the controls and fell of the games are similar. The mods are much more polished currently, with a lot more features, so I’d recommend those instead. Once DayZ is released, I may change that recommendation.