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A 2020 Review - 7 Days to Die, Alpha v18 (PC, 2013)

Updated on March 3, 2020
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The Only Sin is Mediocrity. Have been playing games since 1989! Here to provide reviews and recommendations to the general public.

A few tag-words that come to mind are:

Fun

Potential

Exploration

Engrossing.

Quick Take:

My original review within the first 10 hours was scathing. I gave it an initial score of 4/10 because of how unpolished it is and because of that, I quickly wrote it off as a dismal attempt at a game in a very saturated genre. I was wrong. I found myself frequently recalling how much fun I had reviewing the game. Which led to me reinstalling and relaunching my little, hellish world appropriately called "EatMyShorts". Since writing that negative review, I've managed to play 72 additional hours within those two weeks. For me, that has NEVER happened. 7 Days to Die isn't a very pretty game. It has no plot or setting in a larger world. At a quick glance seems like a very average survival game. I personally made the mistake of jumping the gun and judging too harshly. But why should you play what still sounds like a pretty run-of-the-mill game? Because it is fun. Spectacularly fun. That is the #1 reason why I've decided to grade it an 8/10.

Pros:

-Every building is like its own dungeon or instance. Incredibly varied - full of secret rooms, traps, and sweet-sweet loot.

-Tight, chaotic combat that can go from 0-100 at any time. Zombie killing is a total blast. Can be dismembered and decapitated!

-Strong RPG qualities - leveling, unexpectedly large skill tree, character builds/classes, and a large variety of quests.

-Robust crafting system with an abundance of items, resources, and materials to create a vast amount of objects.

Cons:

-Graphics and physics are quite unpolished. The world is missing a lot of the "filler" objects that make a world look less bare and cookie-cutter. Appearances often look vague, blocky, and sometimes out of place.

-Leveling quickly becomes a grindy chore. Slow to progress, and for quests - difficulty scales with leveling, but rewards do not.

-Online servers are a dime a dozen. Most are empty/low-population yet entirely looted. PVP is awkward.

-Vehicle physics & controls are laughably bad.

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord"

Game Components

Concept:

Fully fleshed-out survival game. Strong RPG elements make for a more strategic and complex approach to gameplay. Survive and thrive in a world with zombies that are constantly evolving into stronger versions while also growing in numbers. Looters and dungeon explorers dreamland, which is incredibly important for keeping my attention and bringing back to find out "what's behind the next door".


Graphics:

Weak, but not awful. Has continually improved over time, but still needs a lot of polishing. A lot of objects, structures, and foliage look unnaturally places and all very similar looking. Cities are designed in the squarest fashion looking very fake. Much more polishing needed.


Sound:

Appropriate for a survival horror genre. Mostly ambient sounds like crickets and the wind. It really makes for a more bleak, lonely feeling within this existence. It also helps you hear approaching zombies or animals - also helps them hear you. Needs more variety for repetitive actions. Slamming a pickaxe against stone, or a sledgehammer against a wall/barrier becomes audibly fatiguing at some point.


Gameplay:

Roller-coaster of intensity, energy, and noise. Sometimes the game is calm, peaceful, and quiet - and in a flash can quickly become loud, violent chaos that has erupted out of nowhere (see Blood Moons). It makes for a thrilling, at-the-edge-of-your-seat experience. You become paranoid, expecting an enemy to pop-out and when it doesn't that makes you even more fearful of what angle you may have missed it coming from (often in mid-air falling down on you from the unchecked rafters).


Entertainment:

Very fun. Very rewarding. Enough variance for multiple character builds to try different approaches and skill focuses. Singleplayer brings a more paranoid, thriller of an experience. It's challenging, but also at your own pace. There is an incredible number of places to explore and secret, hidden-away places to find extraordinarily powerful loot. Playing with a few friends makes it even more compelling and entertaining of an experience. For as rough as a game, it sure is a lot of fun.


Replayability:

With the addition of leveling, skill tree and focuses, randomly generated worlds, and an ever-increasing difficulty of enemies and points of interest - there is much to come back to. Online, multiplayer servers are a big value-add for replayability. Easily hundreds of hours could be spent playing.


Cheats??:

Best that I've seen in a long while. Between the basic in-game available cheats like god mode, no clip, and flying - those alone may be enough. If not, the game boasts an incredibly powerful and detailed developer mode that can allow for spawning items, teleportation, instant leveling, invisibility, creative mode items (instant kill or super digging tools). Game can also be easily customized (via the menu) to permit more loot, player to AI damage, enemy speed, blood moon frequency,

  1. Enable check-box for "in-game cheats" within the world settings menu at launch.
  2. Press H to fly and quick move. Spacebar to fly upwards, and 'C' key fly downwards.
  3. Press F1. Type DM and press enter. This enabled developer mode.
  4. Press the' U' key to get the creative menu.
  5. Press the ESC key to see more options like changing day and time of day.
  6. Holding CTRL and right-clicking a place on the map will teleport you to that location.
  7. Giveselfxp X - gives player experience points. X equals the number of experience points.

Full Detailed Review

7 years into the development and early-release availability, the developers continue to put forth regular updates at an increasingly high level of quality. Since its early days, 7 Days to Die has suffered from a few incredibly bad decisions and a hint of bad luck. The decision to allow the porting of the game to console proved to a spectacularly bad call. The developers were overly ambitious and hasty in providing a license agreement for Telltale Games to hold the rights to the console ports of the game. The game was released to console in July 2016. Telltale Games abruptly laid off its staff and began liquidation in October 2018. Shortly thereafter, The Fun Pimps severed all ties and terminated its license agreement removing Telltale's rights to future updates or sequels. Because of this, the console versions were last patched in December 2017 - A15 rev. That is still the case as of today, three years later. This drug out into the courts with The Fun Pimps re-acquiring the rights via an auction for a very large sum of money, not including the very high cost of ongoing legal and auditing fees. Calling the release to console disastrous would be an understatement. In my opinion, this held back the game significantly; delaying what otherwise would have been much stronger progress, earlier on.


Today in February 2020, we have a very playable, very enjoyable version that has flown incredibly low under the radar as many game owners, or potential ones, have written this off as a loss. I have friends who have reported that they had the game marked as "ignore" or even notated as a "DO NOT BUY". Some had purchased it only to soon return it while Steam permitted them to. Why would anyone give this game another chance? I can't answer that, but what I can tell you are those people are missing out on a chaotic blast of a game. It's reminiscent of Rust but with a singleplayer option that is actually both fun and provides something to do. It's like DayZ, but actually competent in its delivery as well as not an utter heap of garbage. It's fun. Unpolished, and often jarringly ugly - but absolutely fun.


By far - the strongest component of the game lies within exploration, zombie hunting, and looting. With each map housing hundreds of buildings, structures, caves, and points of interest - each individually forming its own "instance like" dungeon to explore. It's mind-boggling how much time and effort must have gone into making this magic happen. Some buildings become unfortunately repetitive - but for the first hundred, or several hundred hours, should provide enough variety to keep you very entertained and curious. Finding secret rooms, basements, and loot stashes becomes a fun challenge to try to spot at each building or location. Some of the points of interest include (but not limited to): construction sites, megachurches, military bases, schools or stadiums, hospitals, apartment complex/towers, cemetery w/ crypt, oil refinery, junkyard, and skyscrapers.


Zombie hunting is very rewarding and an obvious strong point. Every structure will provide a variance of difficulty and volume of zombies present. Some will have dozens, upon dozens of zombies pour through its halls and rooms. Even spicier are the zombie dogs, zombie birds, and specialty zombies like the Demolisher (who can explode), Burn Victim (who can catch you on fire), the Screamer (which howls spawning in more zombie hordes from the surrounding area), and many more. Most do not drop loot, but every once in a while they will.

7 Days to Die provides an incredibly customizable server/world-building options. A huge win is that those options are all easily adjusted within the menu, and can be readjusted at every launch of the world/server. Randomly generated from seed phrase, difficulty, speed of zombies at day, speed of zombies at night, speed of zombies during Blood Moons, frequency of blood moons, difficulty of blood moons, daylight length, persistent profiles, loot abundance, loot re-spawn time, equipment drop on death, and the list goes on, and on. I personally prefer generating a world of the 8K size variety and leaving most options as default. Do be prepared for a long wait (~5 minutes) to generate the map.


The game is filled to the brim with possibilities that are close to perfection. One of these is the quests and treasure maps found throughout the game. The first two I obtained were hunting quests where I needed to kill a specified set of animals. The easiest sounding of the two was "kill 5 boars". This took several in-game days and hours of real-life time. Perhaps I just severely overlooked the potential or did not want to spend the so-slowly-earned skill points that I neglected to level up animal tracking skills to make this more achievable. The game also never provided guidance to do this. Ultimately I got all the way to 4/5 boars killed before giving up after spending an hour straight looking for the final boar while telling my wife "I swear it's just a single boar - as soon as I find it I'll be done playing for the night." This was not a good look for the Mediocre Boar Hunter that I so apparently am. Later on, quests seem to be equally drab, all providing pretty awful returns for the time and resources required to be used for completion. Quests DO scale with your level progression in terms of difficulty - but they do not scale their rewards making for a very unuseful, unbalanced option in the late game. These are all things that could be fixed with some adjustments and further refinement + expansion. Treasure hunts are very simple and provide a much easier way to obtain loot and goods. Do be prepared to run long distances for both. Just don't try using explosives to aid you in finding the buried treasure - it will effectively destroy the loot and fail the quest. Glad these option exist, they just need some TLC.


After ~80 hours of gameplay I can confidently say I prefer, and recommend, either playing solo on your own private server/world or playing with a handful of friends on a private server. Publicly joinable servers are often completely looted, over-developed, and frequently have oppressive and restrictive rules. Even more strange, is that most servers seem empty or have a very low population. My least favorite modification is blocking and prohibiting players from using pre-built structures like homes or bases. Many servers force players to build really crummy, and overly resource expensive bases instead of conquering, fortifying, and defending the in-game buildings. It doesn't make sense to me, and really kills my hopes for how I idealized online PVP to exist. Base building, in my opinion, is one of the most tedious and boring parts of the game, which this only further sours.


The social community surrounding the game is a refreshingly fun time. The Reddit-based community in particular is both a great source of knowledge and aid, but also provides a lot of laughs primarily in the form of memes. The Steam community is much the same, but a heavier emphasis on player artwork and forum announcements, insights, bug reporting, and knowledge-base/assistance. The existing modding community is quite active, with Nexusmods alone boasting over 600 different mods. I did not test or review any of these, but the options seemed vast.


Crafting is crazy expansive, and the materials library is equally if not more so. Because of the vastness, crafting becomes VERY time-consuming to get into the depths of what is possible. With enough time and community help (assuming you play online) it becomes much more achievable. I spent most of my time finding high quality items rather than trying to obtain the various required resources to make them. Much like Rust - salvaging, crafting, smelting, forging, etc. all take up a LOT of time. It becomes a manufacturing simulator if you're not careful. Plus - I think I have more fun with the explore and loot paths within the game, reserving crafting for immediate needs or when I really can't find something but could craft it (scopes and silencers, neither of which I ever saw drop). If you prefer it, you could get away with resource gathering and crafting rather than pure looting. Of course, you would need to get many of the schematics/recipes anyway - but many of those can be purchased from one of the NPC traders. Farming and mining are even less mature and are shallower in their offerings. At this time, I'd recommend not spending skill points on either farming nor mining.


Recent versions provide a small set of craftable or purchasable motor vehicles and one pedal bicycle. All of the motorized vehicles, while fast and powerful - are hilariously awkward and rough to control. I steered away from these except for the bicycle. Say what you will, but the pedal-bike is an ABSOLUTE charm to ride around. It's not particularly fast - but it's a joy to take a light ride through the juxtaposed, hellish city-scape with zombies hot on your tail. With upcoming patches and builds, I can only expect the vehicles to be improved on. [Challenge: Try landing the Gyrocopter on any of the towers. It makes for a great time!]


----


I'm happy to say I only experienced a very small amount of bugs or glitches, none of which were game-breaking or impacted my entertainment.
The Alpha 18 release (A18) of 7 Days to Die changed or introduced the following:

  • How experience points could be obtained by extending it beyond only zombie killing so that other builds/focuses could achieve XP, even if much less than combat-oriented builds.
  • Stamina usage, levels, and drainage have been better balanced.
  • Added over 100 new buildings/locations available to maps, including 30 new points of interest.
  • Adjusted zombie AI to be smarter.
  • Added back schematics.
  • Improved melee hit detection and glancing blows.
  • Combat animation and sounds were improved.
  • Added 16 new skill books/magazines.
  • Added ragdoll physics.
  • Added new animals and animals that flee when at low health.
  • Added in-fighting between animals and zombies.
  • Possibly best of all - spears, baseball bat, spiked knuckles, and the M60 were all added.


The A18 release by all appearances seems to be one of the best, most feature-rich builds released yet. Alpha release 19 has been announced, followed by a few teasers on the developer's official Twitter. This is DEFINITELY a game I will be following and updating my review for.

"Making my way downtown..."

Score: 8/10 - Definitely Not Mediocre. If it weren't for its unpolished nature - this game could easily be a 9/10 or dare I say - a 10/10. Survival thriller mee

4 stars for 7 Days to Die (A18 release, PC)

What's your take?

How would you score 7 Days to Die? Have more to say? Put it in the comments!

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640x480 resolution on minimum graphics might just be the most fun way to play. Looks like it could be on N64 or PS1.

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