I’m a huge fan of sandbox building games in the vein of Minecraft. It’s just a lot of fun exploring, gathering resources, building, and – of course – surviving the monsters. 7 Days to Die takes that recipe and places it into the zombie genre we all love.
The first thing you need to know about 7 Days to Die is that it’s still in development. In fact, it’s still in the alpha stage of development, which is pretty early in the process. That means there are going to be bugs, crashes, and corrupted games. These are all frustrating aspects of early release games that you need to be aware of before you try it out. That said, the game functions incredibly well. When major issues develop – such as some regular crashes I experienced for a short period – the developers are quick to push out hot fixes. They also regularly release full updates, which add new features, tweak AI, and tons of other great stuff.
That disclaimer out of the way, 7 Days to Die is a lot of fun, and holds a lot of promise as it gets closer and closer to being finalized. So, how does it play?
Unlike games like Minecraft, where the focus is building and exploration, 7 Days to Die is all about survival. You do need to build and explore, but that’s only after you’ve seen to all your other needs.
The first thing you have to worry about is security. Zombies are a very real threat. You can encounter them in smaller groups, but occasionally a huge horde will roll through, destroying everything in its path. The horde element is cool for two reasons: first, it presents a major threat to your character’s safety. Second: they will destroy anything to get to you if they know you’re there, including whatever structures you’ve managed to construct so far. That presents you with a choice: do you bug in and try to go unnoticed, or run out and try to draw the horde away to protect everything else you need to survive?
On top of that, there are also zombie dogs and bees, which offer up their own challenges. The dogs are especially deadly, since they’re fast and tend to run in packs.
And the toughest enemy in 7 Days to Die? Grass. That’s right, tall grass will become your most hated foe, and you constantly hit it instead of the zombie when trying to defend yourself. I’ve died more times than I’d care to count because of grass. But again, this game is an alpha release, and issues like this will likely be tweaked as development continues.
Once you’ve got a handle on security, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got enough to eat and drink. That means securing a source of water and a way to purify it, which requires bottles, a campfire, and fuel. It means finding enough canned food, or hunting and cooking wild game. This is a huge challenge in the early game, but you will eventually get a pretty good handle on it.
A recent addition to the game are supply drops, which happen at a configurable rate. So once a day (or every couple of hours), a plane will fly overhead and drop a crate. You then have a choice: do you try to find the supply drop, or just ignore it? The drop doesn’t show on the map, and might require a lot of travel and danger to get to, but the supplies are also generally worth it. It’s a tough choice that really adds to the survival aspect of the game.
The other half of the game is building and crafting. It works much like other games in this mold. I quite like the crafting interface in 7 Days to Die. It doesn’t require building work benches of anything like that, but you need the raw materials. You start with all the basic recipes unlocked, but there are a lot of things that you need to find blueprints for, which calls for exploration.
Crafting is often a multiple-step process as well, which makes things interesting and more complex. Certain items require individual components be built before assembling the final product. Shotguns, for instance, require stocks, barrels, and pumps, and even that doesn’t give you anything to actually shoot.