I’ve been playing DayZ long enough now that I feel confident weighing in with my impressions. First, for those who haven’t been informed, DayZ is a mod for Arma 2. The setting is a huge zombie infected post-apocalyptic post-soviet state open-world. The goal of the game is to survive. What you choose to do in order to survive is what fuels the gameplay of DayZ for you and other players.
DayZ is played on servers like a first-person shooter with a limit averaging around 50. When you join a server, you load your character that you’ve played on any other server — that’s right, there’s persistent character progress. You can take that character to any server and log in right where you logged off.
In order to survive, you must eat, drink, stay warm, and remain healthy. The catch is, zombies will seek you out to attack you, infect you, and eat your body. That’s not all. Players will also be seeking you out to kill you and take your stuff to help them survive. Whether or not you choose to engage in banditry is entirely up to you, but chances are you’re going to be forced into it from the moment you start playing.
That launches me into one of my biggest gripes about DayZ. Players do not have any incentive to be friendly or hospitable to random players. There is a *huge* benefit to playing with others, but I’ve never met anyone, other than my own friends, who won’t shoot you at the first opportunity. See my experience I recorded below.
What I love about DayZ is the feeling I get when I play. I love the concept of survival, working against the odds, and how dynamic my experience is every time I play. Despite being the same world, nothing is ever the same day to day or server to server. There’s a constant on-the-edge-of-my-seat feeling because I never know when some sniper is going to kill me, or when a player may be hiding around a corner.
DayZ presents a decent realism. Eating and drinking dynamics add pressure to do more than shoot stuff with guns. Ammunition restricts how aggressive you are with your firearms. Sound and visibility make you care about what type of surface you’re on or whether or not you crouch or prone through areas. There’s a level of depth to DayZ that immerses the player quickly. It’s not perfect, but it works.
Where DayZ suffers greatly is the engine. Arma 2 sucks. The engine sucks. The polish sucks. It’s akin to what I call the Darkfall Effect. You have a good idea, but the way you execute it makes it hard for players to enjoy. It sucks running around town with jittery controls that are unresponsive. Glitchy zombie and player movements distract from the enjoyment.
Hackers are also a concern. There are simply too many people abusing scripts. Two days ago I watched a group of players driving down the road each in a big black SUV. The day before that everyone on the server was instantly teleported to the same location.
Is DayZ worth the full price of Arma 2: CO? No. Is it worth the $17.99 I payed for it during the Steam sale? Yes. I look forward to the future when this idea is improved upon by the current developer (given the game is only in Alpha…) via the potential standalone or even ripped off and improved upon (War Z). I will continue to play for one reason only: There’s nothing else quite like it available on the market. However, my experience tells me the popularity of DayZ and overwhelming interest will ultimately be a passing fad.