I’ve been stepping outside of my normal gaming routine lately. In my current state of mind, I’m not in the mood for following a lot of rules (quests) and pre-defined routines. I’m winging it and playing more casually. That is how H1Z1 has entered the line-up.
I’m not into horror, zombies or post-apocalyptic environments. Until recently, I’d never played a straight up survival game. However, Twitch has introduced me to two games that at least on the surface looked interesting. First up was Don’t Starve (DS) and so far it’s been worth the price. Both of my daughters are now playing it too. On the heels of having liked DS/DST, my interest was piqued enough to give Sony’s new MMO title, H1Z1 a try.
Remember: THIS IS ALPHA
H1Z1 will be F2P, however, to have access to the game now it costs 19.99 USD. Paying to test? Sure, if you’d like to look at it that way. I see it as a path to play something that looks interesting to me now, and that if it were on the market today, I’d be willing to pay to play it. I tend to be a very early adopter in MMOs.
It’s important to remember that even though you’re paying to play, THIS IS ALPHA. No tears over broken mechanics or when the game is down. That’s what you signed up for! If that’s not your cup of tea, don’t buy it. Wait for it to release for free. I enjoyed the alpha phase of ArcheAge. In fact, I enjoyed the management of the alpha game substantially better than the nonsense that went on in live, hence my departure. And even then, I feel like I got my monies worth from the alpha period.
It’s your basic post-apocalyptic environment with zombies and other players being your primary adversaries. There are small cities and towns darting the landscape. You will also encounter dangerous animals such as bears and wolves. For the most part however, other humans are your worst enemy at the moment. That said, there are a variety of server rule sets ranging from normal PVE to PVP with hardcore settings.
My impressions are based on only a few hours of play although I’ve watched many more hours of others playing. I’m playing on a PVE server. This is too far out of my normal play style to deal with the assholes I see other people encountering on Twitch.
The graphics are nice for early alpha. They’re still working on optimizations such as shadows and lighting effects. The movement and animations are smooth. They’re going with a minimalist HUD. I assume this is to enhance the immersion. THERE IS NO IN GAME MAP OR MINI MAP.
Unfortunately, the worst thing about the interface is the obstructive, large, EVE Online like hideous all in one interface. It’s HUGE and you use it for all interactions even looting. UGH!! This is the first time I’ve seen an MMO do this and I’m not a fan. Danger lurks around every corner but to loot, eat, drink, etc., I have to open up this huge window that obstructs my view. I hope this is temporary – a placeholder for other interface elements. We need a small loot window/bag like every other game uses. Even EVE’s convoluted UI doesn’t do that.
When you Spawn into the World
You spawn into the world in a random location. Always out in the woods from what I’ve seen so far. Your first objective is to get to a point where you can defend and feed yourself. You spawn with a few items on hand like a flashlight and flares. But you don’t have any food or “real” weapons.
Everything you need to survive is found in the world as loot obtained by:
- Examining in world objects for loot like abandoned cars, dressers, chests, desks, floors, etc.
- Looting items from zombies you kill
- Looting items from other players you kill
- Stealing items other players have stashed/hidden
- Looting meat from dead animals
- Crafting items whose recipes you’ve discovered
- Breaking down other items (crafting)
- Picking berries, picking sticks from plants, getting wood from trees, getting water from streams and wells
Your energy and hydration will drain as you perform normal activities such as running. I believe if either of these dips to zero, they start draining your health. Health at zero = dead. Death = you drop all loot but will remember any crafting recipes you learned. If you've picked a hardcore server ruleset you might also be subject to losing recipes too.
Immediate Must Do!
Your first few minutes should be spent locating bushes!! Eating berries will restore a tiny amount of energy and hydration. Picking up sticks will let you craft a rudimentary bow and arrows. You harvest either by running into the bush and pressing the interaction key which by default is E. Load up on berries anytime you see them.
Eating berries or food
- Open your inventory (Tab or i)
- Right click the food item and choose Eat to consume it.
- Berries restore 2 hydration and 2 energy
Crafting your first bow and set of arrows
- Grab sticks from nearby bushes (run into them and press E)
- Open your inventory (Tab or i)
- Locate the your shirt on the Character Loadout tab
- Right-click and choose shred to turn it into material
- Click the Discovery tab
- Add the cloth and stick to the recipe by clicking them
- Click Discover – now you know how to craft a bow
- Add just a stick to the Discovery window
- Click Discover – now you know how to make arrows
- Change to the Craft tab
- Click the bow recipe and craft it
- Click the Arrows recipe to make 2 arrows – get more sticks if necessary
At this point you should have a flashlight, berries, bow and arrows and probably a stick equipped too. You’re ready to move out and find what’s left of humanity. Like any MMO inventory space is a precious commodity. Until you have a backpack of some sort you can't carry much. In H1Z1 you're managing the size/weight of the items you're carring not a number of slots in a bag. It's essential that you find or craft a backpack as quickly as possible
Your First Backpack
Unless you're extremely lucky or have friends to help you out, your first backpack will probably be a satchel you craft. To craft one requires 6 pieces of cloth. As you're looting be on the look out for anything made of cloth such as hats/caps. Wearing a hat or helmet provides additional benefits however, I think haveing the added inventory is more important. Loot can be very hard to find. It will suck finding something you need only to realize you can't take it because you lack bag space.
It’s all about the Running
Unless you’re playing with friends already established in the game, you’re going to be running for a long time. You need to get to areas that were once populated by humans so you can scrounge for valuable supplies.
As of now there are only two cities – Cranberry and Pleasant Valley. Your goal should be to hit both of them to find loot and other players, while searching smaller areas along the way. Look up in the sky to locate power lines. Power lines will lead you to roads, roads will lead you to towns and cities.
Although there are abandoned cars you can search on the road, I find hydration and energy drain to be the most pressing issues the first couple of hours. For that reason, I ran in the grass parallel to the road to continue collecting berries to eat along the way. If you’re on a PVP server, it also makes you less of a target. You’re going to be running a lot and across large distances. Get used to it.
Water Equals Life
Weapons and shit are nice and necessary at a point, but without water you’re going to die anyway. Once you begin seeing houses, shacks, etc., it’s essential that you find water bottles. Look through every house, garage, bin, dumpster, draw, cabinet, et al. until you have at least one. If you’re lucky enough to find one with water, bingo! Most likely it will be empty or filled with undesirable water (dirty or stagnant). You can drink dirty and stagnant water if you’re desperate. Ideally, you want to purify it by boiling it in a campfire but you’re not going to have access to one of those for a while.
Continue your trek until you run into one of the major cities. You will encounter other players along the way. You can ask for help or hand-outs. Good luck on a PVP server. You’re more likely to be murdered for the very little you have on hand or grins and giggles.
Remember to keep picking berries and crafting arrows too. Cities bring out the zombies. If you found an empty water bottle look for small streams or wells while you’re running. Use them to fill up your empty water bottle. The moment you have PURIFIED WATER by luck or you sterilized it, use the discovery tab to learn BERRY WATER by putting berries and purified water into the dialog. Then craft yourself some. You can survive on Berry Water for quite some time. At the moment Berry Water can also be made with stagnant water but that might be a bug.
Cities are Dangerous
The cities are dangerous for two reasons – zombies and other humans. Right now the zombies aren’t in large numbers but they do congregate in cities. I’ve noticed that the A.I. makes them spawn and cluster more, in the presence of humans. Be on the lookout for one or both, depending on the server type you selected. Search every nook and cranny. The next thing on your list is a melee weapon of some sort, preferable an axe or machete.
Axe type weapons are used to chop up animals you killed to retrieve meat and make zombies drop cloth. So it’s another essential item you want to find or craft ASAP. If you happen to find metal sheets or scrap metal, get wood and try to discover an item. Basically, any time you acquire a new type of material check if to see if it unlocks a crafting recipe.
The More the Better
This isn’t a game to be played alone although you can certainly entertain yourself running around solo. Just don’t expect that to be as entertaining or rewarding as Jeramiah Johnson. There’s metric ton of scrounging that has to be done to find materials. Searching every option solo might become tedious. The one time you skip a house or a dresser, could be the time you missed out on something valuable. Make friends. Find friends. Staying in a pack is safer and more productive. That's not to say that you can't play solo. I am. But it is harder and more time consuming to establish a foothold alone. And then there's the glitched OP bears. Without a good weapon or being able to glitch it in a wall, you're pretty much dead if you aggro one. Not a fan of how the bears operate at the moment - randomly pop forward at you from great distances.
I’m not following the game in detail. I haven’t visited the forums or browsed Reddit. The things I’d like to see improved may already be on the radar.
- Keybinds are only editable via modifying an XML file. I know a UI for this is coming but the sooner the better. I don’t understand why in this day and age, it’s not there earlier. Yeah alpha but what about left-handed people?
- More towns and cities – I know they’ll be expanding the map but we need more cities not just a bigger map. What I see now represents small town America at best. I want to see NYC size locations with more building density.
- More asset variety – most interiors look the same. That’s a huge turn off. There is little to no variety in furnishings which makes searching through boring - really fast.
- More edible plant life – introduce more than berries and vary the stats they impact
- Increase item variety – an apocalyptic event won’t destroy the variety of tools and assets humanity has created. I want to see broken electronics. More tools than hammers, nails and wrenches. People would have left clothing and utensils in their homes.
- Non-Motorized Vehicles – Where did all the bicycles go? I don’t like the extreme of finding all the parts for a car or walking. Humans would be doing something in between.
- Separate the loot interface – I HATE the ALL IN ONE INTERFACE. It’s too large. It’s clunky. I don’t want to open that thing to deal with looting in a dangerous world. It's redonkulous. I’m hoping it’s just a placeholder.
- Bears - they're scarier than the damn zombies. Yeah-yeah, they're scary in real life to but they run at a pretty much steady pace. If not for the randomly popping forward on top of you and coming through walls, it wouldn't be so bad.
I did pretty well my first playing session. I made it to Cranberry. I have a bow and arrows, a pistol with but no bullets, two water bottles, protective goggles and rabbit meat. Next time I must find a backpack and a melee weapon so I can loot zombies and get meat. After that is a lighter or some method for making fire to cook meat and purify water.