Friday, 8 September 2017

7 Days to Die - The game I've Been Looking For!

First off, a bit of an update about Milgeek (again). Quite simply, when I was in full employment in my last big crappy job I used to Blog a lot because I had lunch-hours with not much else to do. But since I packed that job in and was ill for a long period I didn't have the same incentive to blog on a regular basis. In short, I have been spending my time over the last year (when I've been well enough) to actually do things instead of just blogging about doing things!

This little lot has kept me occupied over the last year!
Computer Gaming Update
That said, I'm now in a happier spot where I feel more relaxed about my free time and how to spend it. I have a more settled weekly schedule and things are getting back to normal, so I have decided the time is right to wire (semi-regularly) again...

The big news regarding my leisure schedule is that I have finally found a computer game that has me really immersed and committed. World of Tanks was always really a concession to my fellow BIG clan friends, I played it (mostly) because they played it so when BIG clan ceased to exist the incentive to continue with WoT just wasn't there.

Playing WoT with a clan became a constant grind for the latest biggest tank.
Not so interesting for me as I actually prefer the mid-tier tanks.

Having a lot of time with my feet up over the past year did mean that I began to watch a lot of YouTube though and I started to look at what games were popular in the zombie/survival genre. I'd never really got into the whole Day-Z and RUST thing, but I did enjoy watching several YouTubers' game-vlogs on them. And Sony's H1Z1 was an unmitigated lemon as far as I was concerned.

Still, I retained an interest in the genre and a Kickstarter project called 'Survive the Nights' piqued my interest, partly because one of the lead developers is from Hull! (So has a lot of experience dealing with zombies!)

Unfortunately, STN has had a -> L...O...N...G  <- development period and it's only now about to be released in a limited Alpha form, so I have been bereft of a favoured game for quite some time...

Then I started watching a couple of game-vlogs by Starsnipe and Kage848 and their adventures with a game called '7 Days to Die' and I started to take an interest.

7 Days To Die - Minecraft for Grown-ups?
The above title fairly much says it all, 7D2D reminds me of Minecraft but with 'realistic' graphics (in relative terms). Having said that, 7D2D is not a new game and, in fact, it is quite a few years old. I remember looking at it when it first came out but the feedback was so negative then that I passed it by, but over the proceeding years the developers have stuck with it and eventually they have produced a very decent game in terms of game play.

You do have to consider its age and the game engine it uses when you look at the quality of graphics, but the do the job.

My first couple of attempts at the game were unsatisfying and short, due mainly
to my not understanding the basic game settings nor how the game world was
generated...My pitiful attempt to survive in a winter environment was mercifully
short. As in real life, it's sorta all about location!
I've been tentatively tinkering with the game for a couple of weeks now (convinced by Starsnipe's videos that the game is fun) and after a few aborted attempts, I have started my first serious play-through (albeit on an easier setting due to my learning the controls and crafting system).

Caveat: I set the game to an easier level while I learnt and opted not to 'hard core' it and have died and respawned several times. Accepting the respawn turned out to be the right decision as I seem to die through silly reasons, not because of the zombies so much. Once I fell off a roof and another time - after a mega fight with a zombie and a dog which I just survived - I died when I backed onto a cactus! I also activated the 'cheat mode', just so I could fly around taking some screenshots.

OK, Let's Not Die...Oh, I'm Dead!
My first serious playthrough actually started quite well and I was very lucky with my spawn as I materialised near a very nice log cabin in a woodland area which - importantly - was near a town...

Early on wood is your best friend (snigger)! Seriously, every tool, weapon and building will be made essentially of wood, plant fibre or small stones. But, you will soon want to move on.

In my case, I got the first Blood Moon horde out the way (Day 7) in my reinforced log cabin before I felt I had enough strength and skills and equipment to even attempt building a base in a town. For all that there was some nice sturdy brick building in the town - which I scouted out - I knew I would have to do some preparation and defensive reinforcement before I took the plunge and moved in permanently.

'You Were Only Supposed to Blow the Bloody Doors Off!'
The best-laid plans of mice and men... By the time I moved into my new abode I thought I had prepped well. Ha ha ha ha, how naive.

I made sure my defences were all in place in time for the Day 14 horde and I was lucky with my air drops and got a very nice pistol and a decent amount of 9mm ammo. What I didn't know, however, was that building a wrecked car into your spiked post perimeter as a makeshift obstacle is a very bad idea, as the following picture illustrates...

The huge crater and decimated defences were the results of a couple of zombies taking it upon themselves to disassemble the abandoned car just outside my front door! Nobody told me that zombies attacking a car could make the car explode! Bye bye defences, though bye bye zombies too.

And so went my comedy of errors. Though I did manage to survive the subsequent horde nights (Day 21, Day 28, Day, Day 35, Day 42, and so on), always by the skin of my teeth but it was hugely enjoyable and challenging.

A Balancing Act...With the Undead
7 Days to Die is a very nice combination of resource management, exploration and tower defence games. In the six days between hordes, you must restock resources, repair defences, explore and scavenge, upgrade your skills AND not get eaten. (Watch out for the packs of zombie dogs!)

Get it right and you will be prepared for the next horde, but skimp on your resource grinding and Sod's Law dictates that the zombies will exploit the weakness in your perimeter. That's just the way it is.

The AI is just OK (during the day - 4am-10pm - the zombies are the classic slow shambler, but between 10pm and 4am they become the World War Z sprinters) though at times it's spooky how the zombies seem to know exactly where you do not want them to attack or they come from exactly the wrong direction that you had prepared for. Progressively the waves get bigger and more aggressive and dangerous types of zombies will appear.

Unfortunately, due to either a corrupted file or as the results of an update bug my game progression seemed to have flat lined after Day 21 and I may be forced to manually up the game difficulty level to compensate. This video of my defence on Day 49 illustrates my point, it seemed a little easier than I would have expected at this stage in the game...

Having said that I am really enjoying this game, more than I have any other game for a long, long time. It has its quirks and the graphics aren't spectacular but I keep going back for more - in fact, I am already planning my next base having discovered my first big city...

Gaining the skill and tools to be able to craft the mini bike really opens up the
game in so many ways. Exploring becomes a less risky and far more rewarding
proposition. You never have to worry about making it home on time!
Having learned the principals of the game with this first play-through I'll be ready to try a restart with a higher difficulty level, with the additional challenge of trying not to die as much. But, in the meantime, I'll be continuing with my current adventure and build my city base before trying a restart.

The foundation of my latest base and I'm putting a bit of planning into it from
the bottom up, instead of the rather ad-hoc and organic reinforcement of existing
buildings that I have done so far. I'm also using advanced materials, like re-
enforced concrete and steel and I'll even be trying out electrical gadgets!
I'll stay in my current base for the Day 56 horde and then work to move into the new city base in time for the Day 63 Blood Moon. I'm hoping I have planned and prepared enough and that the new materials I am using for my latest build will save me from the horde...

It's an addictive recipe - looting, crafting, up-skilling, base building and defending - and one that has me gripped. It's nice to feel that way about a game again and when I do tire of 7D2D there is always 'Survive the Nights' to look forward to, with it's even better graphics and novel psychological aspects which should make surviving the z-pocalypse even more challenging.

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