Posted: April 14
Early Access Review
This is the only voxel game that I like outside of Minecraft, and I like this more than Dead Island and State of Decay, and those are the only "pure" zombie games I really enjoyed. I missed the Kickstarter, and have only started playing with the 7.9 Alpha patch. I have been watching the game on Steam since it made Early Access in December. I bought it when I caught it on sale for $20.
First let me say what it is that I do NOT like about the game, so that any notion of fanboy-ism can be dismissed:
1) Getting others into you game can be tricky. Hosting a game isn't an issue, rather, the problems arise when friends try to even FIND my game on the server. Regardless of physical distance or ping, even friends that have my game favorited cannot always find my game and connect. While in game, some friends do not receive invites to Steam Chat, but can when they exit. I don't know if the issues are related, but they happen at the same time.
2) Sometimes, when the server load is high (and at random), my computer will freeze while hosting, usually just after friends join. I have to do a hard reboot, and when I load my game, any alterations to the environment and containers are saved, but my inventory is reverted to the state it was in at the end of my previous session. Moving precious tungsten from chest to my inventory and having it lost to a freeze is very annoying.
3) Zombies are a little too aware at times. If I can't see what is atop my tower, how can they? As for being sensed, I don't carry food with a smell radius, and the sound radius created by various actions isn't large enough to carry through my walls AND over the trench, but zombies hear/smell me. AI pathing needs work. Nightly hordes will run through my base and stand on the corner of my wall and do nothing. A freshly spawned zombie can sense me, causing it to arbitrarily attack the hardest section (and most costly to replace), instead of running into the opening a few blocks away and into my sledgehammer. Spawning is poor. When just loading into the game, zombies tend to spawn way too close, which means they are in my base. This isn't an issue when first starting the game (as you are in the open, unprotected), but hunting the crawler zombie that keeps clipping into my walls for the first 15 minutes of a session gets old. Zombies sometimes spawn stuck in blocks. I then have to dig them out to kill them so that they don't alert and attract other zombies.
4) Lighting doesn't always have the intended effect. I can see better when I am near, but torches do not always stay lit when far from players. I can still see them, as they are rendered (my base isn't THAT large), but without the light being "on", zombies have no problems spawning at night right in my base. I have had issues where zombies IN the light when it IS on will still behave like they are in the dark. This means that the one or two zombies that managed to get in my base (or more likely spawned there) will still be a large threat inside, even when the sun has come up.
5) Gathering materials can be a pain. Killing zombies and having them fall into grass often means you have to destroy the grass, or walk around it, to loot the zombie - same goes for picking up items near grass. Corpses de-spawn too quick. I appreciate the game cleaning itself up, but I don't like missing the opportunity to loot every corpse (part of the game IS scavenging). A horde of ten zombies often results in half the bodies de-spawning before I can kill them all. Sometimes, the body will even disappear while I have the loot screen up. When mining or digging, if you are not quick to grab all the voxels, they can be gone before you realize it. To add to that frustration, anything on the ground (not placed) have collision. This means that when you hold the key to pick up all the dirt or wood you just worked for, it has to travel to the player with each unit bumping into itself and the environment. When breaking down anything, you have to work from the top down, or risk everything crumbling under gravity from removing the support (think sand in Minecraft). Though this may mean getting materials quicker (chopping a tree down at the base), the falling blocks can destroy themselves and de-spawn, often hurting the player in the process. I don't mind getting hurt, but I shouldn't lose all my materials because of one misstep. Some blocks, crafted or found, drop nothing upon being broken. This is really frustrating for items made out of metal. A tungsten door or iron bars broken by zombies (or needing to be moved by a player) will leave not even a piece of scrap, much less the some of its whole. It is too easy to accidentally throw something out of the inventory. Placing something on the grid instead of in a slot means the item is now on the ground, and might de-spawn before you realize it.
6) Crafting can be ambiguous and cause a lot of wasted effort. Example, a crossbow: you need sticks and plant fiber. With these materials in the required amount, the recipe shows up in the list in white. When clicked, the 5x5 grid will highlight the squares that you are supposed to place these materials in. But the game does not say how MANY of each item is needed, nor WHERE they go in the grid. Once you make the crossbow, the recipe then turns green in the list, and when you click on it, it automatically places the items in the grid. You can even queue up multiple to made (you don't have to leave the crafting menu open for it to finish). This does make it easier than the initial attempt, but what if you completely forget what a crossbow is made of, or are one stick short? Then the recipe will not be in the list at all. You cannot preview item stats before creation: how am I supposed to know that a rusty iron door is better than a scrap metal door?
Now, let me say what it is that I LIKE so much about this game that I have convinced several friends to buy it:
1) The construction is amazing. There are several materials, each with varying degrees of durability, structural integrity, and acquisition difficulty. Anything that can be placed can be rotated. Turn a ramp piece upside down for the lip of a wall (to stop those pesky spider zombies). Turn wooden planks vertical into a fence. Lay a ladder horizontally to make a walkway. The construction lends to creativity. How a block looks and where it will line up can be seen in a transparent overlay before you place it.
2) The game looks good for its current development. I don't need 4K textures, but for a voxel game in Alpha, I am impressed. Some textures repeat more than others, but in most cases you would have to make a 2x2 section of blocks before the texture completely repeats.
3) Zombies are a THREAT. Even in the day when they are slow, letting one get close can result in not only health loss, but infection and bleed-out. At night they have increased spawns, run, and do more damage. Zombies vary visually and have different behaviors, loot, stats, and sounds.
4) There are a LOT of settings to choose from each time a game is created or continued. There is a cheat option for the lazy or new player, but it can be used to test weapons and materials, or to gain back anything lost in error or glitch. Multiplayer supports up to 16 players. The standard game is survival, but players can choose horde or deathmatch for shorter sessions.
5) Heatlh, fullness, hydration, and stamina all make sense. Decreased stamina means decreased effectiveness in work and combat. Lower fullness/hydration means less stamina.
6) Weapons/tools degrade and do less damage to entities and blocks. They can be repaired, or more can be crafted (ammo too) or found. Blocks can be repaired and reinforced with siding.
7) Farming, hunting, and scavenging are all viable, and sustainable, gameplay options. Players can settle or be nomadic.
8) The updates are regular.
TL;DR This is the zombie game I have always wanted: buy it.