DayZ Standalone Review

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By Teo Borconi – 17th December 2013
DayZ Standalone Review

The is finally out on , and old fans are already exploring the newly redone world of Chernarus. It’s time to take a look at what exactly the standalone version of the game brings to the table.

Before we begin, let’s make a couple of things clear. First, this is an alpha version, and everything in this DayZ Standalone will reflect that. As (Dean Hall, the lead developer behind the game) stated himself, the game is and will be riddled with for a long time to come. It will probably take at least several months until we have a decently polished game on our hands. It’s also hard to objectively the game as it is, as a lot of features have yet to be implemented. Lastly, I’ve been playing DayZ (the mod) for a long time, so I’m not getting into the standalone as a complete newbie, and after dealing with the various bugs of the mod, I’m not really surprised by any issues I’ve encountered so far. So, I will be trying to keep both an objective eye on what the game is right now and at the same time will be aiming to look at a project in the long scheme of things.

This looks like a bright new dawn

Let’s look on the bright-side of things first. The first impression I got when logging in was how much the game has evolved visually. Sure, the engine behind the game is still the older Arma 2 engine, which does not necessarily mean it’s bad, but it’s not as good looking as the more modern Arma 3 engine. That being said, a lot of work went into new character models, item textures, and general visual improvements. One thing that really stands out is the vegetation, which finally looks good. The grass and trees look amazing overall, and provide much better cover than in the mod. Trees actually load up from a distance now, so it will be a lot harder to detect a potential sniper hiding under the thick branches of a pine-tree. Bushes aren’t that detailed though, and could still use an upgrade.

DayZ 2013-12-17 13-24-17-65

As for performance, players have been reporting mixed FPS numbers. There are a few tweaks to be made to the config file of the game that will result in better overall performance. Optimization is a lot better, in the sense that zombies and items are now handled server-side, which lowers the strain on your own hardware. That being said, there’s still a lot to tweak. Even with a GTX 780, players still reported a maxed 30-35 FPS count in major urban areas. From my own perspective, I run an overclocked i3 540 CPU, with 8 GB of DDR 3 RAM clocked at 1600 MHZ and an AMD Radeon 6850 GPU. With this build and some tweaks, I have a constant 20-30 FPS with most details on high. Still, I do get some performance drops every now and again, lowering my FPS count to 15.

Even so, the game seems extremely fluid and is perfectly playable. Light effects are great, and one particular detail I really appreciated was the sunlight that can actually blind you at certain times. Night-time playing is a lot better as well, as flashlights actually are viable now as a source of light. However, the light from torches or flashlights still seems to go through walls, and it’s fairly easy to see a player looting a house from hundreds of meters away.

DayZ 2013-12-17 14-16-59-15

Moving on, there are huge improvements in animations also. The characters move much more fluidly and look well designed, and several animations have been introduced for various actions. I found myself to be pleasantly surprised when my character began peeling a banana or opening up a water bottle. Weapons can be switched while running now, and you can run around casually with an M4A1 in your hands, or you can sacrifice some speed and move with a baseball bat at the ready.

I need a bigger backpack!

Content-wise, I can only praise the work of the dev team. Given how small the team working on the mod was, I’m pleasantly surprised to find a huge number of new buildings that you can now access, some having multiple floors and rooms. While not every building in the game can be accessed yet, most of the old buildings on the map can now be explored, and there are several new buildings introduced as well. The most notable new buildings would be the huge apartment blocks around Chernogorsk.

As for items, there are so many new ones I lost track at some point. There is a vast variety of clothes to pick up, and the game often feels like a dress-up simulator. What you can expect to see:

  • Chest items – From regular t-shirts to striped ones,  from shirts with chest pockets to hoodies, from chest gun holsters to tactical vests, you have it! Not only do these items come in different styles and colors, they also each provide various advantages, from increased carrying capacity to stopping power.
  • Head gear – Beanies, caps, fisher hats, clown masks, motorcycle helmets; there’s certainly plenty to choose from. I have to admit, bumping into a player with a psycho clown-mask and a baseball bat during the night can provide with some epic laughs or scares, as the case may be. Head items also come with certain utility. There’s a head-mounted flashlight for night-time raiding, and some helmets such as the motorcycle helmet can actually redirect bullets. It took me several shots from my M4A1 to take down a player with a motorcycle helmet last night, as I had to hit the visor area to actually inflict damage.
  • Pants and shoes – Cargo pants, jeans, hunter pants, sneakers, trainers, boots; the more pockets your pants have, the more you can carry; whether you’re going for a fashionable look or full-out utility, variety isn’t lacking here either.
  • Backpacks – Backpacks come in different shapes, sizes and colors; as with most things in life, the bigger, the better; the most common backpacks can hold around 25 items, while bigger and rarer ones can carry up to 35 items; just make sure you aim for the head if you’re trying to kill a player for a backpack, as gear gets damaged by bullets, and backpacks seem to get destroyed easily; there’s also a way to craft your own using some wooden sticks and some other materials, but I haven’t gotten a chance to actually craft one myself yet.
  • Weapons – There’s a huge variety of things you can use as weapons now, especially in terms of melee weapons: baseball bats, screwdrivers, kitchen knives, hatchets, chain saws, wrenches and even your fists; ranged weapons are scarce though; variety is limited to the Mosin bolt-action rifle and the M4A1 for now, but each has a huge array of attachments to make up for it; there’s also a side-arm which can be carried in the chest holster, but I have yet to get my hands on that personally.

And then there are the other items which I haven’t mentioned yet, but all of which are highly important: apples, oranges, bananas, kiwis, cans of tuna or spaghetti, water bottles, soda cans, tools (such as tape or matches), can openers, medical supplies, navigation-assisting tools (such as a map and a compass), and many, many more. Only on a medical side of things, I’ve found more than a dozen distinct items, some of which I have no idea what to do with. I sometimes felt like I needed a medical degree to sort through things. I am however extremely glad to see a more realistic approach to the survival setup, and I’m sure there’s huge potential in the complexity of crafting, cooking and medical fields.

DayZ 2013-12-17 13-30-22-54

I heard you like backpacks, so I’ve put a backpack in your backpack!

So you can pack while you backpack! Yes, there are some weird bugs and inventory systems that can be quite a turnoff at the moment. I’ve noticed that you can insert a pair of pants into your currently equipped pants, thus somehow exploiting and carrying beyond your current capacity. I feel that these bugs could have and should have been removed a long time ago. And, while placing a backpack filled with stuff in another backpack and gaining some inventory space is not exactly game breaking, zombies are.

And here we’re going into the negative side of things. The zombies are terrible, for multiple reasons. First of all, on a populated server, you won’t see too many of them. They don’t seem to re-spawn once killed by players. You can easily make your way from building to building, looting at ease, without having to look over your shoulder too much.

In addition, zombies are so frustratingly bugged that they can and most likely will break your game. I’ve encountered invisible zombies that I could hear, that could hit me (and they did eventually kill me) without me being able to lose them or fight back. If they’re not invisible, then they can easily walk through walls, hit you through walls, sink into objects becoming immune to hits, and the list could go on. Last, but not least, it’s exceedingly difficult to lose one once it’s on your tail. I had to run around Kamenka for 15 minutes at some point, trying to ditch two zombies that simply would not lose sight. Considering how hard it is to get a weapon of any sort and how dangerous a zombie can be in the standalone, that can be quite a pain. Additionally, the melee system is so unpolished at its current state, that taking on more than one zombie while wielding a baseball bat is like playing Russian Roulette. More often than not, your melee weapon doesn’t connect, and when it does, it sometimes takes multiple (and when I say multiple, I mean 10-20) hits to take a zombie down. True, you have a chance to knock zombies down, but it’s hard to aim with a melee weapon when the contact area is inches away from the location of the crosshair.

DayZ 2013-12-17 16-24-57-75

Luckily, they seem to be so bugged that they sometimes tend to attack each-other as well, so I guess that’s a plus for now.And it’s not all bad either! There are finally female zombies out there, and in general, zombie animations are improved. It’s still difficult to enjoy these changes all things considered.

The UI

Or more like the lack of a UI! No, there’s not much in terms of a user interface. The inventory system has been redone, and it works a lot better than Arma 2′s tedious inventory. But, that’s about it. Other than that, you have no indication of your current status, health, blood level, thirst or hunger meters, nothing. All you’re getting are some messages like “Your head throbs” or “You feel like having a drink”, which are easy to miss and are also confusing, mainly because simply drinking doesn’t solve your problems most of the time. The game is designed on an energy system too, not just a thirst and hunger system. So it’s not enough to take a drink from a water bottle, you’ll also need to keep your sugar levels high in order to have energy. In other words, drinking a soda will give you a lot of energy, but won’t really fix your thirst problem, while drinking water will quench your thirst but will still leave you tired and feeling dizzy.

DayZ 2013-12-17 14-31-11-08

It’s complicated, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the lack of a UI or any sort of instructions on what you need to do can be confusing for even the more experience DayZ players. I can’t even imagine how hard the game must seem for completely new players.

Final Thoughts 

In its current state, I really can’t recommend the game for anyone new to the DayZ universe. It’s buggy, difficult and often frustrating. The survival aspect is brutally punishing, even more so when you’re not entirely sure what’s going on with your character. The standalone is no longer a rush to get great weapons and kill players with them, it’s more like a duel over a can of tuna between players wielding baseball bats and knives. Even well equipped players seem to be dying from hunger, thirst, a combination of both or factors not yet understandable.  The fact that it’s listed at €23.99 on Steam also doesn’t help, as for now, players will not be getting a lot for their money. At this point, this is more like a down-payment for a future game, not really a straight purchase.

If however, you’ve played and loved the DayZ mod, you’re probably already playing it regardless of any reviews out there. It’s a different game (in the good sense), with a more in-depth survival aspect, that still needs a heap of work. If you’re willing to submit bugs and support the devs in making the game the masterpiece it was always meant to become, then by all means, give it a go. Just expect some raging along the way. All that being said, as a previous fan of the mod, I simply can’t stay away from the DayZ Standalone. It’s excruciatingly buggy and frustrating at times, but the things that do work well more than make up for it.

DayZ 2013-12-17 17-18-37-84

Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot about what grade to give it, given my knowledge of the small dev team, my history with DayZ, and the fact that it’s still an early alpha version. It’s hard to be objective under these circumstances, so I’ll grade it separately for newcomers and fans. Once a more polished version of the game will be available, I will be re-writing my review and re-grading accordingly. For now, the game is a diamond that first needs to be mined, then polished…a lot!

PROs:

  • Huge changes to the map
  • A great amount of new items to find and use
  • Great inventory system
  • Improved visuals over Arma 2 and the mod
  • Endless potential for development

CONs:

  • Zombies are worse than ever
  • The lack of the UI makes surviving nearly impossible
  • The melee system fails on several levels
  • Brutally difficult for newcomers to the game
  • Still (obviously) riddled with bugs

Score for fans of the game: 8/10

Score for newcomers: 6/10

  • Guest

    You completely neglected to mention that this is an early access alpha, and the steam page clearly states “WARNING: THIS GAME IS EARLY ACCESS ALPHA. PLEASE DO NOT PURCHASE IT UNLESS YOU WANT TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME AND ARE PREPARED TO HANDLE WITH SERIOUS ISSUES AND POSSIBLE INTERRUPTIONS OF GAME FUNCTIONING.”

    You might mention this and go a little easier on it, considering it’s about a year or more away from entering beta, let alone gold.

    • http://eva-porate.blogspot.com evaporate

      he mentions it multiple times

      try reading the article

    • Teo Borconi

      “Before we begin, let’s make a couple of things clear. First, this is an alpha version, and everything in this DayZ Standalone review will reflect that. As Rocket (Dean Hall, the lead developer behind the game) stated himself, the game is and will be riddled with bugs for a long time to come.”

      Not sure how much clearer than that I could have possibly been.

    • Guest

      Are you high?

  • jhk655

    This review is pretty much absurd as the game just came out on steam’s early access. It is in Alpha. not even beta. Which means its a hollow shell of what the game will be. Judging this thing at this point is a complete waste of time.

    • Teo Borconi

      Perhaps, but then again people do have to hand out $33 dollars to play it. I figured it was fair that they should know what they’re spending money on. Don’t get me wrong, I bought it instantly when it came out, didn’t even blink or hesitate. But that may not be the case with people on the fence.

      • Brent_Angle

        This is exactly why I Googled DayZ Alpha review. As I mentioned above, I never played the previous game, so I was happy that this review was available to read. Now I know what I’ll be getting into as a new player if I decide to jump in.

        As Teo stated, this isn’t for people who bought without hesitation or for people who refuse to buy until a finalized version is available — this is a review for people who are debating purchasing the game in its Alpha state so that it’s clear what issues they’ll face instead of just a simple “THIS IS ALPHA!” warning.

        • jhk655

          You’re right, This is a good article if you are looking for cues on how far along it is in development before you spend money on it. But that’s not really the point of early access and I felt the article was framed in a way like it was critiquing the game as if I were a finished product. The point early access if to fund a project you believe in or because you are a fan, and give feedback like a beta tester. This article tries to read like a review for people who are considering buying a finished product and it feels weird to me.

          • Teo Borconi

            I’m not framing the game for anything, I am a fan myself. That being said, the game is currently the top selling item on Steam, so for those who are not up-to-date with the development stages, you really do need to highlight the pros and cons.

            Of course I am aware it’s an early alpha, but it’s not exactly a kickstarter project either.

      • jhk655

        Those people are idiots. If they spend 33 dollars and don’t understand what Early access is, that their funding an unfinished game, with he word ALPHA everywhere and it even warns you before you purchase that its a work in progress, then they deserve to lose their money. I feel like this article accomplishes nothing, its like critiquing a painting with half the canvass showing through or a movie when you’ve only seen 20 minutes of the beginning, middle, and end. Don’t worry about what people do their own money. No one is getting ripped off…

        • Tom Hartill

          Your wrong and your analogy is also way off. Everything which is designed, whether it is a piece of software or a material object like a car or piece of clothing is reviewed at every stage of design and development. This is merely a public’s view of how things are going.

          Regardless the mere fact that this game is for sale online should mean it needs a review.

          Also people like me and the many other 1000′s of people searching google want to read a review of it… why did you bother finding and reading it?

          Everyone knows its in alpha anyway and know to take anything with a pinch of salt.

  • Nick

    Why the hell are you putting up a review for a game that’s still in alpha? Page views? Just to be that guy?

    • Brent_Angle

      Because it’s for sale? While it’s already selling huge, there are people like me (who never played the other version) who want to read more about the game before purchasing it — especially in the Alpha stage.

      I keep reading that Beta is a year away, so the game likely won’t be finalized until 2015, give or take. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t people start reviewing the Alpha version so that those interested in making the purchase can find out what they’ll be getting into.

  • Tom Hartill

    Great review, i think you are spot on. DayZ was always a love hate relationship and right now the standalone is making me hate it but i cant stop playing!

    The game will be immense when finished, i just hope we don’t have to wait too long for updates.

    As for people saying this review is pointless because its alpha, that is a load of crap. If they wanna charge £20 for it then it most certainly should have a review. Besides he says he will re-review it anyway when finished.

  • jlcurtis

    Good review I’ve been wanting to play the mod but decided to wait for the standalone(still have to build a pc) and it looks like I’m wait a bit longer if I’m going to need a 780(I want good fps)

    • Teo Borconi

      Today’s patch seemed to have done wonders, people report much better FPS. My shitty old 6850 is getting 40-45 FPS constantly with most details on high, so it’s definitely improving. If that’s your only turn-off, then you should really pick it up, it runs MUCH smoother now.

      • Guest

        {}

      • jlcurtis

        Good to know, probly going to atleast wait till the first of the first of the year to build my rig so ill pick it up then

  • bob

    Really? 30 bucks for Wait for Host?

  • megatron

    This game is fantastic for an alpha.
    i played it, really enjoyed it. sure there’s glitches, and zombies are … stupid.
    but thats somethign they’ll fix. (i hope)

    i wouldnt call this a “review”, but more of a “critical feed back”.

  • Edward O’Connor

    I feel this should have been labeled a ‘state of the game’ rather than as a review, as a state of the game it is well written and appropriate.

    • Teo Borconi

      Thanks for the feedback. You are probably right in some aspects. Still, I reviewed the game as it is right now, in alpha. Like I said, I plan to review it again objectively when it’s a finished product, and based on what I’m seeing so far, I’m sure it will be one hell (no pun intended) of a game.

  • kinki

    So, taking into consideration that this is the top selling product on steam currently, some estimates say up to 172,000 copies in 24 hours. That is $5,676,000.

    Should we really have to wait another year for a beta even? I understand making a game is a complicated business, but that is a tone of money.

    I am tempted to get this game, really, I am. But admittedly, I have a hard time supporting a developer, that although having worked ruthlessly on this title for some time now, cannot fix zombie UI or create a decent user interface in a timely fashion with that kind of money at their disposal.

    Thant kind of money after only 24 hours.

    • Teo Borconi

      Those numbers mean great news for us actually. And the number have been rising, over 250.000 purchases on Steam up until now, with 40.000 players constantly online at peak times.

      That means that Rocket’s limited team now has the proper funding to expand, which will result in faster updates, more content at an increased pace. And honestly, Rocket really deserves this money, he’s been working for close to jack sh!t for years, and Bohemia wasn’t generous with funding even after the surprising success of the mod.

      Right now there’s a new patch landing every single day, I’m amazed how fast they are working, and with proper funding behind them, the sky’s the limit.

      • kinki

        Thank you for the response. It is a motivating factor to buy the game if his success is translating into more staff which it should be.

        Like you say, he deserves his success, though I always wonder what happens to developers when they experience this sort of success. Having never been there myself, but only on consumer end, I feel like there is a tendency to assume if it’s good enough to make me a couple mil then why stress about it!

        I don’t mean to say this is this developer. But, experience with games and money has left me jaded and ever suspicious on what to get into and what not.

        I am happy to hear that this is probably not the case for the standalone.

        • Jack Gifford

          Making a game takes along time and to be honest I’d rather be allowed access to the alpha then have to wait a year or so for a beta. Like Teo said he developed the DayZ mod for free and received little if any money for it. I guess I bought DayZ on steam just as a way of saying thanks, Rocket gave me one of the best and most compelling games I’ve ever played for free. Rocket and his team won’t give up on DayZ, he’s too well known and cares for his project to the point where he won’t abandon it. If he did he’d never work in video games again! But yeah extra money now means a better quality game, the more money he has the more money he can stick into the development, for example better recording of gun shots or better mo-cap, or perhaps extra content such as new maps or character models.

          But yes we will have to wait a least a year for a beta, download unity its quite a simple game engine but it will show you the kind of work that goes into a game, there’s a lot to get done!

    • emil winther

      stop being butthurt. if you dont want to support him, dont buy the game

      • kinki

        Why u gotta make this about my sexuality breh?

        • emil winther

          hahah best reply ever :)
          made my day better

    • Adam von Gaertner

      $5 million sounds like allot. But considering the fact that another free roaming epic, known as GTA5 cost an astounding $265 million to develop, it really isn’t that much. IF they had a budget like that, i’m sure the game would be on a completely different level, but GTAV for XBOX one, PC and PS4 is still in development even with more than 1 billion in sales. So as you can see sometimes money isn’t the only factor.

      • kinki

        I had no idea GTA5 cost that much… that’s pretty insane.

  • Addict

    I love Dayz but I’m surprised the Alpha stand alone is being released in this state. Why spend time allowing players to play dress up when the actual game play is so flawed? Does the invisable zombie eating your face care what your player model looks like? As for all this time spent not just eating and drinking but eating and drinking the RIGHT THINGS…. really?!!! Maybe in the FINISHED game there could be a calorie counter that detects that you’ve become obese and kills you with a heart attack, but that should be secondary to being able to hit a zombie in the face with an axe on the first or second attempt.
    Also, for 20 quid I’d like a graphics engine that works. No more laying in long grass that totally obscures my view but doesn’t appear for the guy blasting away at me from 100m away! If it isn’t working well after all these years it probably never will, perhaps the Arma3 engine would have been a better choice.

    Having had my rant I still hope that this game progresses into something truly awesome…. I may well still but it just as a thank you to Rocket for all the fun times I spent in the free version.

    • Adam von Gaertner

      Alpha releases are a great thing. Previously games where released months or longer after a useable alpha was created. During this time a limited number of game testers found bugs and reported them. Now we get an opportunity to participate in development and see the progress of the game in real time.
      Would you rather wait another 6 months or more for a stable release? I know I wouldn’t, I always hated seeing demos at E3 with great looking games that we wouldn’t see released for more than a year later. Now I can see what progress is being made, give input on what I would like to see, and the best part is, I don’t have to only see the game through screenshots..

  • emil winther

    Just a comment on one of the cons.
    “The lack of the UI makes surviving nearly impossible”

    I’ve only played this game for about 8 hours and haven’t played the mod and it really isn’t that difficult to survive. I think it’s great with minimalistic UI. It’s also more realistic when it’s difficult to survive.

    Also, just listen to what your survivor says. If he says “ooh i thirsty” you should probably go ahead and give him something to drink. If he says “I’m axtremely hungry” just give him something to eat. its not that hard.

    • Teo Borconi

      That issue has been patched since. Still no UI, but now you get status messages in your inventory screen, which makes it easier to keep track of what your character needs.
      In addition, the “Player uses modified data” messages are gone, so now you can actually notice those messages showing up. Lastly, the rate at which you have to eat and drink has been adjusted, it seems more realistic now.

      And yea, I agree, it’s not THAT impossible to survive if you know what you’re doing. I only lost my character to the Rocket wipe, and my second character has been alive for 3 days now, with insanely good gear. That being said, for someone entirely new to the game, it was initially very hard to keep track of everything. You get infected and sick so easily if you’re not careful, and the initial status messages caused players to die a lot. That was my point originally.

      • emil winther

        haha yeah i guess i was lucky on my first character :P
        I’ve died a bunch since i wrote the comment

  • foff

    Like us on Facebook popups? Are you effing serious?

  • Adam von Gaertner

    I wish they had used the ARMA 3 engine. Cherno in ARMA 3 looks amazing! Im sure the bugs will be fixed, but I hope they go back to more zombies that are easier to kill than they are now.

  • Grimwolf

    Its a very intersting concept but my big question is: What is the point? There is no goal. Everyone says its survival horror but the game feels like a savanger hunt with players trying to kill you. I find more rotten food then good food. IF I even find food. The town looks like it has been abandoned for years.

    The combat system SUCKS! A LOT! I have played game 10 years old that had better interactions than this one. Yes, I know its alpha but it feels like this game was made in the 80s.

    I pray it gets better. Would hate to know that my buddy bought this game for me for Christmas and wasted his money.

  • Sam Hildahl

    What is the appeal of this game if the zombies are all bugged out? Exploring a town while people shoot/stab you like any other shooter? The crappy zombies were pretty much the only thing that needed fixing in the mod. I was kinda hoping they would use a different engine with better bots that were built for melee. In the mod you couldn’t even tell if the zeds were hitting you, biting you, or trying to gently caress you.

  • Jose

    This is by far the best game I have played! I love that if you DIE its over no matter where you are in the game. You never know what is around that corner or over that hill. You may find a Friend or a foe. Will you find food in a House or not will you find water? if you do not find food and drink, You will DIE!!! So it’s back to the coast for you almost with nothing. You do get a flashlight!!! you should keep the flashlight. Night-time Games are very Dark!!! I LOVE THIS GAME AND HOW REAL IT FEELS.In Fact i love it so much that I bought it for my brother. Now we are a good team alongside my friend Tony we try to help new spawns. So you can be a good person or not it is totally up to you. Karma Is A . I RECOMMEND THAT IF YOU WANT A GAME THAT WILL TEST YOUR SKILLS YOU NEED TO GET THIS GAME EVEN IF IT IS ON ALPHA STAGE.

  • Rafael

    I’m a total rookie of the game, but I still love it! I’ll admit, my very first spawn was right next to a zombie, and since I did not know the controls very well, I lasted 15 seconds. However, after doing a little research, I’ve managed to survive for a total of 3 hours worth of game play. I agree with your post, even with the negative, but it’s still not enough to dissuade me from playing. Granted, I love a good challenge.