Played on Windows.
Also available on Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
We come to the end of the Humble Monthly Bundle for November 2018. The last Early access game is 7 Days to Die, an Early access that has in Early Access since 2013. It’s a Zombie Survival, with an emphasis on Tower Defense and building rather than just scavenging. So the real question is, how is it?
I’ll be honest, this was not a game I would ever choose to pick up or review. The reason I’m reviewing it is due to the Humble Monthly Bundle of November 2018. I personally enjoy getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve enjoyed Amnesia, a horror game, though ran scared from it. I played Hearts of Iron earlier this year and found it rather entertaining though difficult. So I was hopeful with 7 Days to Die.
At the other end, there’s a red flag. This is an Early Access game. Unlike Exapunks which was mostly finished when it started Early Access and Blackwake which has been in early access for only about 18 months, 7 Days to Die was Kickstarted in 2013 and released the same year.
And the Kickstarter, too, is another flag. Looking at the original Kickstarter, it seems a lot of extra features were offered, and to be honest, getting an extra 50,000 dollars doesn’t go as far on some of the stretch goals being promised.
However, it’s been five years, which is the real basis of the warning. The first game I ever worked on Saints Row 2, took approximately 4 years from pre-production to launch, and had made vast improvements. Red Faction Armageddon, another title I worked on, took about 5 years, and a majority of that time was figuring out how the physics would work to deliver the promise of the game.
The point is five years is very long for any game to be in production, let alone early access, and it makes me wonder if this will be another game that never leaves Early Access. Again, this is one of the reasons I avoid Early Access games, as it’s hard to judge, as the theory is Early Access should be a state of flux. It doesn’t appear to be in Exapunks area, but in Blackwake, there are promises of a vastly different melee system. And more coming.
That flux is what keeps me from reviewing Early Access games more often, but at the same time if the game feels it’s ready to be in a Humble Monthly Bundle, I also feel that it should be at a quality level that is acceptable, and I’m judging 7 Days to Die based on the 16.4 build that I played and is available currently, not promises of the future.
Then again, the 16.4 build was released on October 26, 2017, I’m writing the review on October 26, 2018. That means the current build has been out for an entire year with out even a minor update, which is a bad sign as well.
Predesigned houses are one of the few things that photograph well.
So the first thing I noticed with the game is the graphics are rather weak. Admittedly this game was created in 2013 originally and graphical upgrades might not be critical. However, for 2013, the game still feels outdated. It doesn’t look particularly good, and unlike Minecraft or Staxel that get away with a stylized version of the world, here we have very drab designs and repetitive objects. Yes, you find a nice boulder that looks like every other boulder in the game.
However, this might be due to the game trying to trade off graphics for view distance. You can see quite a far distance, and adding in the ability to build things means objects can be seen far away. If someone builds a fort you’re going to want to see that from a distance. Minecraft admittedly has a limited draw distance as a tradeoff, and while it’s not a graphically impressive game, it’s style and design make up for quite a bit.
The game does have some amazing creations. The first outpost you’re sent to is rather weak, however when you find a town, hospital, gas station, even a tent, you’ll find an impressive building made out of the game’s graphics, and those buildings look good, I’ve actually seen a couple of designs on servers and they tend to look rather impressive as someone spent the time to build them.
The view distance is impressive, admittedly. But empty.
However, this is the same as someone building a very awesome looking object out of Legos. The designer is the one who should get the credit, and the graphics aren’t that good outside of it.
Still, there’s a high point in the zombies themselves. Every zombie I’ve seen looks different. I’m sure playing long enough or if I paid more attention to every single zombie, I’d see more repetition, but the fact is the zombie variety is good. Part of the reason is there’s a lot of different types of zombies, but there’s also a huge number of variants of each class of zombie.
At the same time, there are graphical flaws all over the place. The most obvious is when cutting down a tree, the tree falls over, and if you look in the bottom where you might expect either roots or a cut edge of the tree, you see through the tree. This is due to improper backface culling, and it’s just one of many pieces that maybe will be solved one day, but leaves a feeling the game lacks a lot of polish.
So the game is all about survival, but during the Kickstarter (add link) that’s still available on the site. There was a promise of a dynamic story. There’s not really a story here or even the quests. As you start the game you get a rather good tutorial (Conan Exiles could take note of that). But after 8 quick lessons, you get a mission to find a trader’s outpost. Get there, and that’s the end. There are a few other quests that can pop up, but there’s no story, there’s no reason to play the game. This is a survival game that promised a story and clearly didn’t follow through.
Traders say almost nothing important and I was excited to meet them the first time before I realized this. Instead, they trade goods for their own version of dollars, but that’s about it. Everything costs a lot so you’ll have to gather a long time to get these items. But I’m not sure how critical they are, as many the crafting seems more important.
The game does push scavenging for blueprints though. If you want to learn how to make a gas can, for instance, you either have to find one (And then get that one) or get a schematic for it. Some of this has been moved to the Perk system, but I never found a schematic to see how this works. The skills and perks, on the other hand, were earned. Though looking to buy a few, I had analysis paralysis when looking at the massive list. I didn’t know what to spend the points on as most of them are generic. Concrete Mixing versus Treasure Hunting, versus Quicker Crafting. Which sounds the best? I’m not sure and that’s kind of the problem. This isn’t a tree system necessarily, there are levels for the perks but overall I didn’t see anything I felt that I needed to buy so my points didn’t get spent.
Here’s the graphical glitch, inside the tree log
The thing is, 7 Days to Die is about survival, which means scavenging is the point of the game. There are zombies walking around but that’s about it, and you can easily avoid them as you play the game, and scavenge. Sadly it’s hard to find stuff to scavenge, as sometimes loot boxes are hard to find. In my first look, I had a lot of trouble trying to find a bird’s nest and probably walked by a few of them. In later games, I found them often because I knew what to look for. Trash piles work, but there are backpacks and purses that are hard to find.
The problem happens with the buildings as well, eventually, you’ll find a small shack or a town and some objects are searchable, like a cupboard. This doesn’t look like it opens but it does. Whereas the bathrooms tend to have nothing in them, except a toilet and a sink to look at.
As you search through, most objects don’t have anything worth your time. That’s the point of scavenging, to make you feel better when you do get a great item, but when I find 7.62 mm bullets, that sounds great, except I don’t have guns so I either leave valuable ammo or waste a slot with it. Brass doorknobs, broken cans, cloth fragments, papers. If you need one of these for something, you’re going to want to have it. So you never know what is true junk and what isn’t.
The idea is to build a base and develop it. Why should the player if the zombies are so passive? Well, apparently every 7 days the “horde” appears and attacks. This is the real pull of the game, deadly zombies come to attack you, and I’ve seen a few videos of this, and it looks interesting.
I found this zombie and aggroed him on purpose. This is what they look like.
The problem I ran into is getting bored. 7 days takes about 7 hours, You can change the length of a day but the default time is between 40 minutes to an hour. I kept restarting after death, and on one game I ended up getting the sense of 7 days to die, and I played about 2 hours straight of that game, and then quit. Not because I was done for the day, but because I was so bored I couldn’t find anything I wanted to do. I didn’t even know about the horde, I actually looked online for “why should I play” and that’s the big pull apparently.
So I had a choice, wait 5 hours in game to see this horde or review the game that I already saw. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t waiting for 5 hours, but instead I jumped online, to see how the multiplayer was. I found a server on day 6, some servers were in the hundreds if not 300 days in the game, but I found one that recently rebooted, so I played for another hour, talking to the people there, seeing the requests for loot.
In my experience, it wasn’t perfect. I often found looted items next to untouched buildings. There were no indicators at a distance that one thing was empty or not. That is more of a player decision. In a real apocalypse, people would tag buildings to say if they’re empty already, but here, it’s disheartening to find something new and run towards it but find someone else already was there and took anything of value. Communication is going to be essential if you intend to play online, and people talk but there are only limited pieces you can share.
I played for an hour, getting a few items, building the generic tools everyone has, and then the 7th night came around. I got ready for rampaging enemies, and instead found two very passive zombies around me. I was able to actually run away from the zombie for most of the night before I got bored.
Now, admittedly I was on a server with many other people but everyone reported a weak horde that night claiming it wasn’t the norm. That’s fine, but I would be lying if I found the idea of a strong rampaging horde that interesting. The inability to really direct scavenging or build better weapons hurt the experience for me. I know people online have found and built guns and more, and I didn’t dive deep into the perk system. But even so, I was so bored foraging I didn’t want to continue.
Trader locations so you can exchange goods
I’m sure someone out there will want to defend this game and say that I’m just not a fan of survival games, and that’s true. But I still enjoy Minecraft, I played a lot of Staxel until I realized I had seen almost all of it, and Fallout games are still very fun searching for loot. The problem here is I wasn’t finding loot or anything that was interesting nor given a reason to. The impending zombie hordes didn’t interest me as a gamer as I had no reason to try to survive. There’s no “come back on day 8 and I’ll tell you more story.” Just “survive”.
I didn’t even have a build I cared about. If I wanted a home, I’d rather just take one of the homes already built, which I did in one game. If on the other hand, I wanted to build a base, I would actually start with the trader’s locations most likely as they’re already developed.
Combat in this game has some weak decisions. Melee combat is awful, whereas the bow and arrow that the game has you create were weak against Zombies. I believe it’s intended for animals but even when I hit animals in the head, or with melee, they still ran away and looked horrible doing it. Guns might have been interesting if I could have found one but ammo is so scarce I don’t know if I’d have done much with it.
In addition, combat is combined with the fact that healing in the game is hard to do. It’s based on food, and if you eat, you heal some points of damage. Good idea, but not entertaining in the least. It pretty much teaches you not to get into combat, and if so… again, why play? Sneak around zombies, but that’s not that interesting either.
Food is scarce, and looking online people have said this is a somewhat recent change. In the past, people could find good supplies of food, and when you’re starving or need healing that’d be a good thing, but in the current build it’s a slow process to find food, and even when you do, you only get enough for a few points of damage. Cooking and such could be done but you usually require quite a lot of food to make a small meal that will last. Water, on the other hand, is all about finding a container (usually a jar) collecting water and boiling it to avoid disease. Not an awful experience, but again not compelling.
The thing is as I played 7 Days to Die I started to realize something. The reason Minecraft was popular was not because of the mechanics of Minecraft. Block-based building systems aren’t actually that fun. It’s more that Minecraft allows you to create and it was also playing with Legos.
Here’s the trader screen itself. Most items sell for 5 for 1 dollar, so 1154 dollars is a lot for a “Challenge”
But it’s more than that. Minecraft was inventive. That block-based system was new at the time and the fact is there was nothing like Minecraft. We’re here almost a decade after Minecraft’s launch and 7 Days to Die as well as Staxel and about every other game that is Minecraft-like sounds interesting but they each show that the only want to appear like Minecraft or get the same money. The problem is, Minecraft was unique when it was launched and it’s why it gained so much attention. The quality level was high and that’s good as well, but trying to do a similar game with adding in Zombies isn’t that inventive. It’s similar to Stardew Valley. They found a hole that wasn’t being filled (admittedly left by Harvest Moon) And released a really high-quality product to fill it.
7 Days to Die, is just a survival game, with zombies, with some building. The fact is that actually exists in many of these games already. 7 Days to die lacks two important things. A major feature to interest the player, or keep them playing, and polish. Admittedly it’s in Early access, but it’s also been there for five years, so while I’ll accept a weaker game, I think the major mechanics of the game really need to be in place already, and the fact they aren’t tells me that they may never be.
Overall, I admit, I don’t like survival, foraging, or zombies as a topic for games most of the time. Yet, if that was the only thing holding me back in this game, I could find a way to give it a score for people who are fans.
However, everything about this game feels weak. The graphics are underwhelming, even judging it based on 5 years ago. There’s no story, the gameplay is about scavenging that doesn’t feel interesting, the real reason to play the game happens once every seven hours, and didn’t feel that dangerous, and ultimately… it’s not a very interesting game. I struggle to find something to talk about with it because it’s not very good
I give 7 Days to Die a
That’s worse than just a game I don’t like, I find this game heavily flawed. It’s not completely broken and that’s why it doesn’t get a 1, but that’s all I can really say about it. I would skip this one if you’re considering it.
Final thoughts: A very poor game, not just something I dislike, but something I hate. If you must play a scavenging game with zombies and base building go for it, otherwise skip it.
Stats: 6 hours played 8/43 achievement earned.