You find yourself in a field. You look around but see nothing of note. Trees in the distance; tall grass and berry bushes dot the landscape. You stop and listen: crickets, wind, and a lone wolf howls far in the distance (you hope). You’re unarmed with only the clothes on your back and a few bandages in your pocket. What now? Wait, what’s that in the distance? It looks human but it’s moving oddly, like it’s limping. He must be hurt. You call out but there’s no response. Wait, there’s something wrong here. Shit, what is that thing? It’s not human at all and now it knows you’re here! Better make a break for the trees. You can surely outrun whatever this thing is.
This is how your journey begins in H1Z1, a Zombie survival game by Sony Online Entertainment Daybreak Game Company. H1Z1 is an early access game developed by SOE, henceforth known as Daybreak Games. The game is currently available on Steam for $19.99 but will eventually be free to play and available on the PS4 in addition to the PC. Buying H1Z1 now gives you the opportunity to play early and partake in the games development. Beware though; you are buying a very early product. As such there will be problems, hackers, complaints, and changes. Hell.. the game might not even work on your computer. If you’re not up for this you’ll be better served waiting for a finished product. However, despite H1Z1’s early stage of development, the game is surprisingly functional and polished. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work to be done BUT the game is very playable. Trust me; the ProGameReviews staff has invested many hours in game already.
As previously mentioned, H1Z1 is a zombie survival game. What does that mean you ask? Well it means you need to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies run rampant and human civilization has been fragmented and pushed to the limit. It means the world is a hostile one in which everything and everyone is out to kill you. In fact, even the limits of the human body will conspire to kill you. Hunger and thirst are constant enemies; scarce resources a constant inhibitor. There are no on screen maps to help guide you through the world; no grouping tools to help form parties. Think other players are here to help? Think again. People, more often than not, prove to be the most lethal enemy in the game. If you die, and you will, you loose everything you worked so hard to collect. You re-spawn in one of several areas on the map and begin your journey again.
The game can be broken down into several different mechanics: resource acquisition, resource management, crafting and finally survival. Essentially, you spawn into the game, gather loot and resources, manage your characters needs such as thirst and hunger, and decide how best to survive. There are many different ways to accomplish each of these tasks and each player will go about it a different way. I, for example, tend to favor a slightly more cautious approach however you may not. So enough of the intro, lets get into the game and our thoughts.
Graphics and Controls:
The graphics are OK. Yes, this is a very middle of the road description and it’s that way for a reason. The graphics are good but not great… they’re OK. On the plus side, this also means they’re not terrible. Colors are muted and somewhat flat. Dynamic lighting effects could be far better. Object models are detailed enough but again, nothing that will wow you. The bottom line is the graphics at this point work but could use some polish. The good news is that they WILL receive the needed polish because this IS an early access game. As a matter of fact, as I started writing this I read a post about upcoming changes to the graphics engine. Here are some of the examples Daybreak Games used to illustrate the upcoming changes:
This is one of the better features of the game to me. For an early access game, the crafting in H1Z1 is very functional and well though out. In H1Z1 you are able to collect a wide array of resources and craft objects from them. For example, one of the very first things you should do in the game is to make a bow and arrows. How can you do this? Well, by gathering resources and trying to combine different items in the discovery window you’ll learn how to craft different objects. A bow happens to be a very easy item to craft and is absolutely essential to your survival. As you find more things in the world you’ll learn how to combine them and craft tools, consumables, and even items to make a structure (base) for yourself. Again, there are bugs in the system, some of which are pretty bad (I’m looking at you base building). But again, these will be addressed and the system refined. As it stands now, crafting it is a very functional system.
Gameplay and Everything Else:
H1Z1 is an online game of survival. With that comes all manner of things to do from the mundane task of eating to tense encounters with other players. It’s a somewhat complex combination of game controlled variables and human interactions. Since this is a MMO much of what drives the experience is other players. At the moment, H1Z1 is not a very friendly place, but this is to be expected. More often than not, if you run into another player it means trouble. But although this is the norm it doesn’t mean it happens all the time. Occasionally you’ll run into players that want to mind their own business, help, or will give you a good laugh. It’s that very uncertainty that drives these types of games. It causes some very tense situations that can really get your blood pumping and is one of the reasons I love AND hate the game.
Looting and crafting will keep you occupied while simultaneously forcing you into contact with Zombies and other players. Aside from looting and basic survival there are a handful of other things to do such as finding and completing the occasional quest or calling in airdrops.
Another ProGameReviews staffer, Kraez, had this to say about quests: Quests.. yes they do exist in the form of a letter which is a super rare drop that you can get from killing a zombie. Once you get this quest item you have to run to one of several locations across the map that have a “chest” or loot container. Once you place the quest item inside it then a bunch of items will appear. You could get shotguns, ammo, food, cool looking gear, etc. However there is one item that stands aside from the rest and that is a backpack that holds 2000 units of space. This of course is much higher than the 1200 units of space from the craft-able backpack. Most of the locations I have found are camped by players who are looking to get your stuff. Once you get it and run out.. Bam head-shot… your dead. This is the kind of stuff that would make you want to unplug your hard-line and throw your PC out the window. So the quests in the game are very anti-climatic in a way.
What about airdrops you ask? Well you can PURCHASE airdrop events in which a crate is dropped out of a plane “near” your current location. The thing is, the plane makes a lot of noise and the crate is equipped with flashing lights to let you and EVERYONE ELSE in the vicinity see it as it falls to earth. Once its here it’s time to fight off the masses and attempt to collect your reward, that you paid for.
One problem I’m starting to run into now is a lack of things to do. The game is beginning to have a wash, rinse, repeat feel. To liven things up I’m starting to go out and look for trouble, and I’m usually not the looking for trouble kind of guy.
What Needs Improvement
H1Z1 is an alpha; a game in an extremely early stage of the development life cycle. Because of this there’s a healthy amount of bugs to squash. This also means there will also be a healthy amount of changes made and assets added. Below are a few of the standouts as of now:
Base building is broken in its current form
I love the base building aspect of this game BUT hate it in its current form. The fact that you have the ability to construct structures and fortify them (to a small extent) adds a needed layer of complexity to the game. No longer does all your hard earned loot have to disappear after every death… if you can make it back to base and stash your goods. No longer do you have to worry about food and water if you stock pile enough. No longer do you have to fear someone sneaking up on you while crafting or eating. For my play style, base building is part of what keeps me coming back to the game. I really enjoy going out on raids to collect resources and coming back to base to maintain my character and hang out with the rest of the ProGameReviews staff. I’m genuinely interested in what the developers have in store for us.
But as it stands now, base building is broken. It is entirely too easy for people to destroy your base and loot everything. There are also far too many bugs that allow access to bases without even raising a weapon. This, quite frankly, sucks. It’s PAINFUL to lose all the items you’ve managed to scavenge over the course of an hour or two. It’s DEVASTATING to lose everything you’ve spent days to collect and protect. Rest assured, no matter how great you think you’ve hidden your base, IT WILL BE FOUND and looted. Hopefully these issues are fixed, and soon.
If you read the H1Z1 subreddit at this point it appears that hacking is completely out of control. I personally have only seen a few examples of this BUT that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There are a few outrageous, in your face hacks that will make you want to reach through the screen and strangle the FU@K3R that just killed you. Then there are the more subtle hacks (ESP) that once you realize are being used will make you want to reach through the screen and strangle the FU@K3R that killed you or looted all your items. Either way, it needs to stop. I can appreciate this is not necessarily an easy task. I can also understand it will divert developers time from adding features to thwarting cheaters… but I’m good with that and I’m not alone in that sentiment.
Hunger and thirst
Your characters hunger and thirst deplete way too quickly. I understand this is a survival game but you shouldn’t have to stop to eat berries, ONE AT A TIME, every 10 minutes just to keep from starving. As time goes on i have no doubt the developers will refine this system.
The community is not forgiving
Yeah yeah, stop being a wimp Krampus. I know, I know, grow a set already right? Look, this isn’t a deal breaker for me and I understand there’s next to noting developers can do about the countless douches people playing the game. I just wanted to put this here for a warning. The community is tough. It seems to me that 70% of people in this game just Kill On Site (KOS). It is what it is. This is the zombie apocalypse after all and people can be ruthless. In reality, this adds much of the suspense and danger to the game. I don’t fear zombies at all, I fear other players… which is another issue.
This is a zombie game right?
If this is a zombie survival game why is it that I can care less about the zombies? This is a big problem to me. You see, the zombies pose almost no threat at all. Shit, bears and wolves give me more of an issue than the zombies. I’ve never been killed by a zombie but I have by super aggressive wolves. If this is how zombies behave, well the apocalypse won’t be all that bad after all. I see this as a big opportunity for developers to improve and innovate. I’ve seen some great ideas from the Reddit community I’d love to see implemented. Lets see what happens.
Pay to win?
At this point no, and hopefully it remains that way. H1Z1 is however slated to be free to play so the threat is ever present. From reading the interwebs it appears that purchases will be for Battle Royal entrance, cosmetic items, and air drops. The way air drops work now keep them out of the pay to win discussion but we’ll see what happens. After all, they have to pay the bills somehow.
Yup, H1Z1’s got em. There are floating arrows, scarecrow zombies, glitching graphics, a veritable cornucopia of base building related bugs, and tons more. The thing is, THIS IS AN ALPHA GAME; so this is to be expected. Yell and scream at the game when one of the bugs rears its hideous mug and then move on confident in the fact that it will be squashed one day soon (we hope).
The Bottom Line:
Simply put, I’ve really enjoyed my time with the game so far. I’ve explored almost the entire map, I’ve teamed up with friends and I’ve mooshed zombies in the face. I’ve also experienced some genuinely tense moments interacting with other players. The game has made me ponder throwing my mouse across the room in anger and it’s made me gleefully dance over the remains of a player that tried to kill me but failed to accomplish the feat. All this said, there’s still a lot to be done and this is what makes me the most skeptical. This isn’t my first rodeo and I’ve seen first hand what can and does befall promising early access games. Development studios “right size”, players burn out, and the hype fizzles out. Thus far in its early life, H1Z1 developers seem to be very active and interested. I hope this momentum continues and the game continues to evolve.
At this point I’d recommend buying the game. With that recommendation comes a warning though. This is an always on type of game. There’s little to no peaceful game play where you can let your guard down and take your time. I also MIGHT wait until base building is fixed and keep a close eye on what is done with hacking though. The choice remains yours to make but if you decide to get involved I don’t think you’ll regret it.