TL;DR – A game of two halves whose disconnect should not work, but I keep coming back.
Review – As part of the consequences of 2020 (and one of the few that are not bad) is that I have been playing a lot more multiplayer games with my group of friends. While the go-to games of Civilization and Divinity are there, we have also been branching out into new games, one of which is today’s review, 7 Days to Die. Now, I should preface this review with the fact that this game is still in alpha, which means that it is not feature complete. However, given the first release was in 2013, I think there has been enough time to get a good sense of the game.
So to set the scene, 7 Days to Die is a survival horror game set in a post-World War 3 Arizona where the dead now outnumber the living. The survival part of the genre means that you have to build bases, craft new items, upgrade your stuff so you can access new areas, and then rinse and repeat. The horror part of the title comes from the fact that your central adversary in this game is the walking dead, old bitey, or as you may know them by zombies.
To begin with, we need to start with the bad, because I think it is important that you get fair warning before diving in. This is an ugly game, and I don’t mean that in a tone or narrative sense, I mean that in a visual sense. The graphics are not this-generation or frankly even last-generation. The ground feels like a terrain map that someone slapped a texture on like spreading butter on a piece of toast, most of the plant life is 2d sprites that stand out like an eyesore, and the water looks nice until anything happens to it and then you go ew. The world itself also does not feel like a real place, with harsh, unrealistic lines between the biomes, roads that would never be built in real life etc. The UI (User Interface) is clunky to say the best and out right frustrating at times. It is also a glitchy game, I have had issues with trader missions not working, death backpacks disappearing, and the physics engine is janky, to say the least.
However, while there is a lot of 7 Days to Die that feels like a relic of the past, my friends and I keep coming back to it. The reason for that is, that while the presentation might not be up to current video game standards, the underlying game mechanics/drive is sound. The first of these is the sheer breadth of things you can make in the game, from stone shovels to gyro-copters and everything in-between. You soon learn that just about everything you find out there in the wilds can be useful in some way, even if it is only to scrap and move on.
Also, while the map as a whole does not work, individual locations can be works of art. Walking into buildings and having the floor fall out underneath me, landing me in a basement full of zombies that you have to fight your way out of or die. It is events like these that lead to moments of real drama and story that you will be talking about in the weeks to come. These can be a big factory that you have to work slowly through, clearing each room at a time till you finally work your way up to the loot at the top. Yes, you could just pillar up to the top and bypass it all, but that feels like obfuscation of the game. Or the innocuous mansion on the top of the hill that contains a secret military research base underneath, there are a wealth of locations to discover.
Where the game shines is in its narrative design that focuses all your attention on a coming dilemma. The title of the game is a reference to the Blood Moon event that happens in-game on the seventh night. Here you are attacked by swarms and swarms of zombies hell-bent on taking you down and destroying anything that gets in their way. This event gives the game a similar focus as a narrative would because it shifts the way you play the game. The days in-between are spent doing trader missions, gathering crafting materials, and setting up your bunker (pro-tip, don’t wait out the night in the same place you store your stuff because that just leads to sadness). Me and my friends eventually went with a battle bunker made out of concrete, but it was not until the day 49 that we could make it through the night, and even now it can be hit and miss. Every week things get harder and harder with new enemies added to the game, like the screamer that can jog on thank you very much. Also, as soon as you can craft yourself a bike because you will want all the storage you can get and trust me take a wrench to all those car bodies you see everywhere and yes those palates that look like cement are cement, take a shovel to them fam.
In the end, do we recommend 7 Days to Die? Yes, but with some important caveats. I am not sure this is a game to play by yourself but instead, go into this as a group. It is in those shared experiences that you will find the most fun in this game. Also, if graphics are a big sticking point, this is not the game for you. However, I have found myself having a lot of fun here, and once you get into that loop, it can make the game something special.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the staff of 7 Days to Die
Game Founders – Richard Huenink, Joel Huenink & Christian Lang
Developer – The Fun Pimps
Publisher – The Fun Pimps