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H1Z1 is Daybreak Game Company’s (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) take on a survival sandbox zombie MMORPG. Admittedly inspired by the phenomenal success of DayZ and trying to appeal to fans of the popular The Walking Dead TV series and games, H1Z1 (in early access alpha at the time of this video) lets you scavenge, craft, fight, drive and a whole lot more in a world that will be huge and offers an exciting degree of freedom. H1Z1 focuses on PvP despite having a world infested with NPC zombies. I say ‘despite’ because the zombie nuisance is really nothing more than an annoyance from the start to the end. The interaction between player and environment comes at a high with being able to cut down trees and craft up entire bases but truly the game shines with its tense PvP component which is really more about hide and seek rather than real gun play and melee mechanics.
It’s a game all about scavenging: for food, for bag space, for weapons, for vehicles. Luckily there is crafting which helps to alleviate and abbreviate the low level experience which is so dreaded in the genre. Crafting works similar to Guild Wars 2 where you take ingredients and must first discover the recipe before you can craft. These recipes persist through servers unless the server elected not to. You can create small campfire, dew collectors, small sheds, entire fortresses, but still remember that despite all your time and effort you are still mortal and mistrusting one person can end it all. Though, it is very unlikely that a zombie will be your demise.
Zombies range from dumb to plank. Some seem to be able to sprint while others will just sit there and let you play piñata. Aggro range is seemingly random and often the zeeks will just walk away or even sometimes run away. Honestly, for a zombie survival game, I was hoping for more zombies. Not only are they dumb, which can be fine, but there is a scarcity of our brain loving friends at the time of the alpha that makes the game world feel somewhat boring.
The only redeeming factor to the gameplay is the fear of running into a player killer, something which creates a tense atmosphere, or vice-versa, chasing players for the thrill of the kill. Sure, we have a lot of interesting crafting options and I agree that the scavenging is less a slow paced venture than others in the genre, but in the end the actual gameplay and presentation of H1Z1 is a little less than desired at the time.
If you are interested in the cash shop, know that it isn’t pay-to-win. Players can purchase skins, which is usual but what is very exciting to me is the fact that players can actually purchase events for the server. Players can spawn an airdrop that will deliver goods and weapons, also drawing the attention of a few zombies in the process, and everyone on the server has an equal chance at the loot as the buying player. I am disappointed by the lack of base customization in the game but maybe later we will get more of this in later stages of development.
I like that the environment includes animals like deer and dogs which can be hunted and as long as we keep getting more PvE content, the game will flourish because right now it is more of a glorified deathmatch.
So far most of my complaints come from the game being on early access and also very fresh. It is a game that takes many hours to get good at or even acclimated to the environment but truthfully the first hours of gameplay are probably the most memorable. Our first player kill, our first death, these things stick with us in this kind of game. It might not be perfect, but luckily as a free to play it has infinite room to grow. It needs to grow, because the combat gets boring very fast. Keep up the content, more maps, more recipes, more zombies!