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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
Multitude of difficulty settings
Expansive crafting system
Farm, craft weapons, and build bases
Fun sandbox gameplay
Somewhat broken AI
Leveling takes time
While there are some flaws in 7 Days to Die, it’s an early access zombie sandbox we have a soft spot for due to its expansive crafting system and fun sandbox gameplay.
Everyone loves zombies, but there are so many zombie shooters, it can be hard to tell them apart. But when we played 7 Days to Die, we jumped for joy and grabbed our digital cricket bats, fully prepared to go full Shaun of the Dead on hordes of the undead. A game loosely based around a nuclear fallout that ends with the fall of civilization and the spawning of undead, hungry friends sounds like a good time. Racking up over 500 hours on the game, we’ve tested it across four major alpha updates, taking note of gameplay, plot, ease of use, and price. Read on to find out our thoughts.
7 Days to Die for PC can be located on Steam, making it easy to set up. It takes a little while to download, but once it boots up, you’re in. You’ll press the “New Game” button and you’ll need to create a new character, which is easy if you choose one of the preset characters from the list. If you’d like to make a unique character, it’s easy with a creation system similar to Skyrim. Everything, down to the very arch on the eyebrows, is customizable.
One of the nicest aspects about 7 Days is that when you boot up a game, and even after, you have a plethora of options to customize gameplay. Do you want Scavenger (easiest setting) or do you want to play on the hardest settings in which the game actually tells you, “You’re one bad mother!”? Do you want the 24-hour cycle to span 30 minutes or two hours of real time? Do you want zombies to sprint at night? How many zombies do you want in your day 7 horde? These are all great options for creating unique and challenging gameplay.
When you first begin gameplay, it takes about 20 seconds for it to boot up, and then you’re gasping, holding your bare hands out before you, drinking in the landscape of one of five biomes: snow, forest, desert, wasteland, and burnt.
A prompt flashes onto the screen, beginning a brief tutorial on how to address the basics of the game. This tutorial will take you through basic crafting, helping you to craft axes, plant fiber clothing, and wooden weapons like clubs and bows. It also helps direct you to the nearest Traitor Joe’s general store, where you can buy vital supplies and weapons—but sorry, no overnight stays. After you’ve finished the tutorial, you get some skill points to spend on your skills page, we’ll cover that in more detail below.
You need water and you need to hunt, forage, and scavenge to survive. You will feel the effects of heat as the desert raises your temperature, and you will starve as the snow biome depletes your caloric intake.
Once you complete the tutorial, it’s an open sandbox sprinkled with horror and survival elements. The game loosely hints of nuclear fallout, but what matters is civilization has recently fallen and you’re the only person alive. Other than that, the world is yours for the conquering. Alpha 17 does have some smaller quests from Traitor Joe’s, like clearing out zombies in a location, or digging up instructions in a marked spot on the map, but overall the goal is survival. Now, this may seem like an easy feat. After all, zombies are shambling, drooling monsters, but 7 Days to Die may surprise you (more on that later).
The other, titular part of the plot: every seven days, a zombie horde descends upon you. They know your location. They will find you and claw their way to you, and you have to fend yourself and your base from them. As the 7 days pass, they get harder to defeat. Our understanding is that the end goal of 7 Days is to add a story, but right now they’re focused on honing in general gameplay. We hope that the story will be optional since as a survival horror sandbox, it works very well.
7 Days to Die boasts two playable maps: Navezgane, which is a massive square map consisting of five biomes in which you can use the sandbox world to your advantage; and random map generation, which is a map that randomly spawns cities and biomes. The latter is for players who want a greater challenge, as no random map is the same. The former, however, has fun elements like a school, complete with charging football zombies, and a strip club. From these two kinds of maps alone, gameplay can last for hours (as we said, we’ve clocked in 500 hours at this point).
Zombies are supposed to be shambling, drooling monsters with a penchant for brains. However, in 7 Days, Alpha 17 updated it so that these zombies are intelligent. They know when you’ve crafted and set any traps—and they maneuver around them with ease.
As we previously mentioned, zombies are supposed to be shambling, drooling monsters with a penchant for brains. However, Alpha 17 updated the game so that these zombies are intelligent. They know when you’ve crafted and set any traps—and they maneuver around them with ease. It’s mildly frustrating when you’re trying to protect your base from them and the developers have amped it up so high that you really struggle to defend your base.
However, if you like that sort of challenge, then, by all means, club and shoot your way through the horde and have a blast. That said, 7 Days also boasts some really cool zombies which make gameplay unpredictable and unique. These include: screamer zombies, which alert and spawn hordes with a banshee-like shriek; spider zombies, which can climb through your windows for an unexpected evening soiree; and policeman zombies, who are a solid combination reminiscent of the Spitter and Boomer from the Left 4 Dead franchise.
There’s also a skill tree that grants you improved abilities as you go along. We feel this skill tree is mildly flawed, as they want you to slowly build up levels and restrict important aspects—like the forge and bikes—until level 20. In order to do this, you have to grind your way through hordes, as slaying zombies is the most effective way to gain experience and level up. If this is your preference, then you’ll have a blast with this game. If you prefer building and crafting, then we recommend opting for something like Minecraft or Terraria. One quick note—because this is a work in progress game, Alpha 18 has promised to restructure this, so this could change when the new update drops.
One more huge perk is that each building in the game is like a mini dungeon. Filled with traps, sleeping zombies, and lots of loot, it’s a great addition to a game that needed a little extra effort to make the game fun and playable. For example, in one home we raided on multiplayer, one of us fell through a weak floorboard and ended up in a room full of zombies. However, the loot in the house—a hunting rifle, with a couple weapons modifications to make stronger weapons—made it fun, unpredictable, and worth the scares.
Every seven days, a zombie horde descends upon you. They know your location. They will find you and claw their way to you, and you have to fend yourself and your base from them.
For the most part, the controls are really easily manageable on the PC, consisting of the basic, fairly universal WASD keyboard controls. If you don’t like the WASD controls, it’s also very easy to go in and alter them. We liked the ease of use, as we were able to jump into the two maps the game boasts without a rough start. We also liked that because of the easy controls, it was easy to attack zombies with melee and ranged weapons.
For a game that was released in 2013 originally, the graphics could be a little better, even if you play on optimal settings. Back in the day, we played on lower settings rather than splurge on a fancy graphics card. If you play on the lower settings, it’s cringeworthy, though not as cringeworthy as the Witcher 3’s lowest settings.
7 Days has a decent 3D graphics system that they’ve definitely improved as the alpha updates have been released. As a consequence, the minimum requirements have also increased. Those who play on minimum settings may want to take note of that. While we hope they’ll improve these over the next alpha updates, we are taking the graphics as they are at the time of this review, and right now, while they’re detailed on optimal settings, they could be better.
Because the graphics are a rather mixed bag, the frames per second (fps) can vary dramatically. We experienced drops as low as 18 fps when playing. When surrounded by a horde, that can mean life and death.
7 Days to Die runs on many platforms: PC, PS4, and Xbox 360. We played 7 Days on PC, and at the time of writing, they released a teaser for the Alpha 18 update which would roll out to the PC version of the game.
Last time we checked, the company that owned all console rights, Telltale, went bust, and The Fun Pimps (the developer) were in legal limbo trying to reacquire their own rights. There’s a good chance that there will not be an update in the console versions of the game anytime soon as this issue makes its way through the courts. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you purchase the PC version if you decide this is a game you might like to try.
At around $25, 7 Days isn’t the most expensive zombie game on the market. However, it is the most expensive alpha zombie game out there. Because you can purchase it on Steam or Humble Bumble, we recommend waiting for a Steam sale and getting it for a discount, especially since it’s still in progress. This way, if you decide you don’t like it in the future, you aren’t out the full price.
It’s hard to compare 7 Days to other sandboxes out there because of the significant focus on crafting and building. Minecraft has expansive crafting and arguably good graphics with its classic blocky appearance. Terraria also boasts zombies and crafting and building capabilities, though they’re 2D instead of 3D like in 7 Days. And all of them can guarantee hours of gameplay with fun twists and turns.
If anything can set these games apart, it’s the sheer realism of 7 Days. You need water and you need to hunt, forage, and scavenge to survive. You will feel the effects of heat as the desert raises your temperature, and you will starve as the snow biome depletes your caloric intake. And that’s all before we’ve mentioned the wolves and zombie bears (yes, they exist, and no, they are not easy to take down) in 7 Days. If you like a sense of realism in your zombie games, then 7 Days is for you. If not, we suggest taking a look at Minecraft or Terraria.
If you love smart zombies, you’ll love this game.
Despite flaws in graphics, there’s a lot to love about 7 Days to Die. The challenging skill tree system and dangerous intelligent zombies add an element that’s not typically found in zombie shooters. If you want a game to commit to for hours on end, building bases and exploring dungeon-like homes while slaying zombie cheerleaders, then 7 Days to Die could be a fun way to ease some stress after a long day of work.