DayZ: Thoughts and Impressions

Posted on August 13, 2012 by Matthew Regier

Welcome to the island Chernarus, a 225 km² post-Soviet island state, a land that is one of the few living places that hasn’t been infected by the virus that turns its citizens into ferocious zombies. Struggling each day in order to survive in this new world, there are survivors. They are few left because the world’s population is almost all reanimated dead. On Chernarus basic supplies like water and food must be scavenged, and without a weapon you won’t be able to defend yourself  from the walking dead and each other.


DayZ is a mod that runs off of the ArmA II engine and is building its own game out of the already available resources thatwere available via ArmA II. DayZ requires both ArmA II and ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead to run. Aside from requiring the game and its expansion, DayZ is standalone with its own server tracker and dedicated hosting with server population ranging upwards of 50 at a time, which is not very difficult as at the time of writing one can easily find several full servers.

When you start the game you will find yourself having spawned on one of the many shores of the island in a variety of locations along the coast. These locations range from the wilderness to the outskirts of one of the several cities across Chernarus. You will quickly find that you have nothing aside from some bandages, forcing you to move around and seek out your own supplies and weapons so that you may survive the zombie outbreak before you die of starvation or dehydration. You will find yourself sneaking around rural buildings and cities dodging zombies and other players looking for an easy kill while you look for anything to defend yourself with.

Items all have their pre-determined spawn points throughout the island’s five cities. This makes multiple play throughs of the game tedious despite the large size of Chernarus. The item spawns range from automatic rifles, shotguns, sub-machine guns, side arms, etc. There are also a couple of melee weapons such as a hatchet or crowbar in which you can defend yourself with. Silenced weapons make a big difference on Chernarus, as loud noises are easily capable of attracting more zombies or other players who are out hunting. Weapons don’t normally come with much ammunition either, and it will be very easy to run out of rounds if you are trigger happy. Ammunition is another of those crucial supplies that must be scavenged and saved if you intend on surviving the first day.

The cities on Chernarus are filled with buildings and are considerably large with a smattering of cottages off in the rural outskirts. Unfortunately, not all of these buildings can be entered. Only  major buildings such as the firehouse and hospital with a few houses throughout the island. This amounts to the buildings you can enter compared to those of which you can’t con lower than one would think just starting the game. This leads to roving groups of players into the same buildings that contain vital item spawns. Some will, of course see this as a good opportunity. It does however, take a lot of the immersion out of this survival game.

DayZ is a game designed for co-operative play. With its strong focus on survival and travelling in groups will make having additional allies an important factor. With the strong co-op focus one may find that playing solo can be difficult and is more of a stealth experience; sneaking past the zombies to avoid being seen. The zombies themselves are easy to dodge as they have bad vision and hearing so they can easily be crawled past. Be wary if they catch sight of you, because they don’t give up easily once they catch a scene and fun as fast as you. It is easy to find yourself running half way across the island with an undead mob following you at full speed.

DayZ tends to be a bit difficult to get running when you’re first installing it. For those who are not experienced with running mods for other games can easily be found stuck at the installation process. Most of the problems that I encountered were keeping ArmA II’s anti-cheat system BattlEye up to date, otherwise you will be kicked from the server upon entering. The solutions are often simple and there is a third party software that is able to track servers and is simple to use.

As a mod of ArmA II, DayZ has some difficulties running well. On higher resolutions it responds with a lot of lag and higher graphics settings don’t seem to agree very well even on gaming systems. The ArmA II engine includes a motion blur and movement bob, which adds to the realism of the game, but on the lower settings doesn’t feel as smooth so much as nauseating. Music consists of fitting music from ArmA II which fits the intense, dark setting of DayZ. With its often unexpected bass can make a task as walking down a field feel like danger looms at every corner.

DayZ is still a work in progress and is still currently in its alpha stages of development, and will soon be getting its own stand-alone release. It is still victim to many bugs, but as a work in progress with consistent updating it can only improve. What makes DayZ a refreshing experience, despite all of its flaws is that it is fresh. For years I, as many others have hoped that a game focusing on survival would become available. At last we have been given this game and there is room only for rejoice. Unfortunately the current bugs and unexpected difficulty in getting it to run may deter the less dedicated gamers. DayZ gets full credit for being what it is, and that is a firm step in the right direction to a game and genre that can only get better from here on out.

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