Tom Hooper aka Atomp
The story behind DayZ standalone is an interesting one. Started by Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall as a mod for ArmA2 centered around an open world multiplayer survival involving zombies and a harsh level of realism, it was then taken on board by ArmA2 developers Bohemia who gave Rocket the tools and money to create an optimized standalone version of the mod. This standalone, DayZ, is what I’ve been having a play with. I played the original mod for a while and luckily it was before it became the bandit/hack infested mess that it is now. I had an interesting time in the mod. It was a new and novel idea and whilst it was somewhat buggy and very clunky, having been crow-barred into the ArmA2 engine, it was fun. The standalone at this point is different yet probably as clunky as the mod. It is an early access release so this will change as development continues but in this preview I’m looking at it as it is now. It’s worth noting that DayZ SA has apparently hit 1 million sales in 4 weeks, not unlike the also early access Starbound. This whole early access business is very nicely pouring money into development, and that’s a pretty good thing.
The gameplay is much the same as the mod, consisting of a first person survival simulation. Thirst, temperature, hunger and health are measured and must be managed through various means. Thirst is an obvious one, although you’ll want it to be fresh water to avoid problems of illness, The same is true for food, as eating rotten food will give food poisoning. Temperature was modeled in the mod and I’m not sure it’s in SA yet, but expect it to be. Rather than having HUD elements, these are now monitored through text popups regarding how hungry, thirsty, etc. your character is. This is functional but is a tad annoying as the messages have a tendency to spam and I’d prefer to have the simple but functional icons from the mod. You’ll spend most of your time looting for supplies and the rest dodging players or zombies. One thing I have noticed is that there are less zombies than I experienced in the mod, although this could be due to the to servers I was playing on. The lack of zombies certainly changed the experience; previously I had some real trouble just staying alive in the face of the environmental dangers but in this case I came across very few. My biggest threat was a lack of loot and of course other players, who whilst they can be avoided will sometimes be sneaky little things. In my experience, sneaking up behind someone in a building and planting a hatchet in their back is not sporting in the slightest, but ah well that’s the nature of the game I suppose.
One of the big changes compared to the mod is the map, which now has a significant increase in the amount of interable buildings, and a change in loot spawning. This makes the game less about knowing exactly which buildings are interable but instead going house to house looking for anything and everything. This is one of the reasons I died that time with the hatchet i the back of my skull, but it also works to make the game much more interesting and spreads out the looting beyond simply using a map with spawn likelihoods marked on the specific locations. As it is, the current spawn system is somewhat harsh in that loot doesn’t respawn very quickly. This loot spawning means that getting to a lightly populated area is almost a must even to get basic loot. The coast is a lost cause, between things being looted already and the resulting desperate and angry recently spawned players looking for anything they can kill for.
In all though I’d say that DayZ SA is still very much in development. However, if you were to chose between it and the mod I’d say that it would be a good idea. I’m not sure what the pricing is likely to be as the game develops but if you enjoyed the mod then it’s probably not a bad idea to drop the money on the early access; the odds are high that you’ll get your monies worth out of it. It’ll remain in development for sometime. It’s planned for years but I’d imagine that, considering it’s current state, it will remain playable and get better throughout that time.
Aesthetically and sound wise the game is early access with much of it likely to change. It already runs and looks better than the mod and it can have its moments, that’s for certain. Much of the sound work has been pulled over from ArmA2, I believe, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Bohemia seem to be the masters of ambient sound; Operation Flashpoint still remains one of the most engrossing and ambient sounding games that I’ve ever played. The animations have been improved since the mod, and in general the military elements of the game’s origin have been filed down to less obvious levels. Performance wise it’s not quite as demanding as ArmA2 and it’s certainly easier on the hard drive space compared to having the entire ArmA2 catalogue installed. With all that said, you’re going to want a gaming rig for this as anything short of that won’t handle it.
The game is available through Steam Early Access for £19.99 (approx $32) and also through the BIS Store, although I’d recommend Steam. Keep in mind that this is Early Access and that whilst it’s mostly fairly stable, there is a chance of bugs, glitches and missing content. Overall I’d say if you’ve played the mod before and enjoyed it then go for it and buy into standalone. The fact is that if you played with and enjoyed the mod then you’re acclimatised to bugs and clunkiness, so standalone isn’t likely to phase you that much. If you’re interested in DayZ and don’t mind bugs and clunkiness, then consider buying in at this stage and if you’ve not played DayZ at all and can’t stand bugs then stay clear of this until it’s finished.
DayZ SA on Steam:
DayZ SA on BIS Store: