7 Days to Die is a zombie survival game where, every 7 days, a huge horde of zombies will descend on your location and try to eat you. You are given a week to prepare to defend yourself against this horde by crafting weapons, ammo and defences for your location. But you’ll also be needing to monitor illness, hunger and thirst the whole time too. That’s the basic jist of it, but there’s a little more to it than that.
The game has a levelling up system with so many perks to choose from and ways in which to specialise your character. It’s an almost perfect levelling system that makes sure every perk you take makes a noticeable difference in your abilities, while also reminding you that you’re often choosing one skill at the expense of another. You could, for example, be really good at fighting but not know how to cook anything and constantly be on the verge of starvation. You could be really good at harvesting raw materials but struggle to find high tier loot from containers in cities and towns. You could be really tough but really slow. You could be able to jump fifteen feet in the air but be really flimsy. It’s the ultimate challenging but fair levelling where perk selection comes with rewards and consequences.
Well, at least if you play on regular levelling. If you want to, you can set XP gain at 300% and get upwards of 2000xp for a single zombie kill, if you like playing on easy mode. I find that is too easy, but I also find the default levelling too slow, so I play on 200% XP gain, personally. Even so, there are other ways to get experience other than killing things. You can harvest materials, upgrade things you build and complete quests for local traders. Most traders are assholes. They’ll tell you to leave them the hell alone, but still give you 5000 XP and sixty bullets for killing three zombies down the road. They also help level things out a little if you haven’t specialised in many combat perks; being a reliable source of early game ammo, guns and explosives. However, they also sell stuff for crafting and skill magazines if you’ve done things the other way around.
This game is also a little like Minecraft. You can smack trees, make wooden blocks and build elaborate cube-based structures with them. Normally I find a relatively defensible structure in the wilderness – a house, mansion or junkyard – and build defences around it. You can make barbed wire, wooden spikes, dig trenches, build walls, craft shotgun turrets, machine gun turrets, spot lights and all sorts.
Ultimately the world is a sandbox, the levelling presents interesting choices and drives compromise, and the difficulty of the zombies and their attacks scales well with the player. You never feel like the zombies are unfairly tough or pathetically weak. Well, unless you exploit their pathfinding over rough terrain or find yourself having not made and reliable defences by the time the horde comes for you.
So, what are the downsides? Well… It’s early access. Forever. This game has been early access for 7-8 years and is still in alpha, a long way from beta. There’s lots of bugs. Lots of placeholder text. Weird world and terrain generation that can break the zombies entirely.
The thing that doesn’t help is sometimes the developers have odd priorities. Should they put some actual text in place of those placeholders, or make a new zombie model? That’s not to say they don’t fix bugs – they certainly do! But it does mean sometimes they would rather make zombies with jiggly boobies first.
On the other hand this game’s team wasn’t as big as it is now since the start of it’s development. I still don’t think that warrants the game being in alpha. I think if they ironed out what was already there, they could get beta quite acceptably. Part of the problem is that, though the game mixes the RPG and survival genres well, it doesn’t seem as though there is an end goal in sight for which should be front and centre. I’d argue that the survival stuff should – again, coming from someone who doesn’t typically like survival – but the RPG stuff is so integral to how the game plays now that I can’t see it giving up much ground.
The only other reasons not to play this are inherent to the survival/crafting genre. If you hate micromanaging arbitrary hunger and thirst bars, it’s not going to be for you. Nor will it be if the tedious task of building defences isn’t surmounted by the pay-off they provide when done. I’ve always found this genre of game to be tediously boring – get resources to get more resources is a loop that often bores me. But the setting and other progression systems of 7 Days to Die is what keeps me around. And the whole gimmick of the game testing your skill and putting your build to the test every 7 days is unique within the genre.
So yes, I would recommend 7 Days to Die. That is if perpetual early access is a thing you’re okay with. I’d especially recommend it if you have friends to play with.