Minecraft is all grown up; it has met The Walking Dead, and together they’ve given birth to 7 Days to Die, The Fun Pimps’ crafting survival PC game ported to PS4 and Xbox One and published by Telltale Publishing. Dropped outside a rickety old house with nought but a name, your first objective is to craft the bare necessities, such as a stone axe, or a hood – because how are you going to survive in a zombie apocalypse without looking like a cut-price assassin?
From then on, you must go out and scavenge, battling the elements and the various predators in your way. While zombies are naturally the ones you will be on the lookout for most of the time, the ferocious and seemingly bulletproof bears are your true nemeses. Food and water are essential to stave off death, yet heatstroke or frostbite are just as likely to strike you down.
All of that will seem chilled and perfectly manageable when the night of the seventh day comes around. At the end of the week comes the blood moon, where a ravenous pack of living corpses and zombie dogs come to feast on your already quite battered flesh. The horde will tear apart the shelter you have worked so hard to put together and reinforce, leaving you to spend another week fixing it all up before the snarling masses come back for more.
While most players will gravitate towards the single player mode, it is worth avoiding it more than the zombies that are lumbering about. Playing alone is a dry and unrewarding prospect, with a vast map too big to cover and time too much of an obstacle. Those fancying a challenge may wish to play alone, but the split screen co-op mode makes for a more enjoyable experience overall – like you’re surviving together in the wilderness. Unlike many games, co-op mode is just that; while one player goes off on a hunt, the other might stay behind to reinforce and booby-trap the shelter, or you can go off on expeditions as a pair. Basically, working together makes the whole zombie apocalypse much more bearable. The online multiplayer also presents an interesting choice: either work with your fellow players, or kill them off to take their sweet, sweet loot and improve your own situation.
The crafting is the most important part of the game, and it is there that 7 Days to Die delivers. The extensive list of items that can be found, scrapped, smelted and cobbled together to improve your chances of survival makes for a wide range of possibilities, and good motivation to scavenge for anything that can be taken from the vacated houses, cars and trash piles you come across. The map size means you will not get bored by a lack of space to explore, while also offering plenty of items to take and camps to raid. Perhaps the best feature of the game is its customisation of the settings. Not only can the difficulty be altered, but all aspects of the game, such as the number of zombies that spawn, how fast they can move, and the number of hours of daylight you get before they start to attack, can be tweaked and changed to your heart’s content. Changing the game to cater to all abilities opens 7 Days to Die up to a number of audiences, from those who just want a survival crafting game with minimal risk to a thrill-seeker looking for a colossal zombie showdown.
However, there are a lot of flaws that make this game very, very annoying. The constant glitches are hair-tearingly frustrating, though not as much as the lag that makes being pursued by zombies much more tense than it needs to be. The interface is hardy user-friendly: the small text caused by the need to cram a lot of detail into a small space leaves you craning your neck ever closer to the screen, squinting like a half-blind person at an eye test. “H…er…U…N T…E….D. Oh crap.” Finding the items to craft is not as simple a matter as it should be. Finding a bird’s nest during the tutorial is more nightmarish than wandering into a horde of zombies, and the dearth of animals and useful craft items at times leaves you clinging on to life. The nights spend hiding away in the shelter or traipsing through the wasteland can get mind-numbingly dull, and they are not helped by the extremely poor graphical fidelity.
What is most disappointing is the fact the original PC version has been directly ported onto the PS4 and Xbox One without the slightest hint of any improvement, which is frankly shocking considering that it’s being sold at around double the price. Its one saving grace is the fact it is an Early Access game – not that it has been marketed as such – and thus perhaps the updates that are yet to come will sharpen it up and make it more worthwhile.
At this very moment, it is hard to justify spending £30 (or even $30) on 7 Days to Die. There is plenty to like; as a crafting game it hits the spot, while it is good fun to play online or on the split screen co-op mode. However, it is hard to love an unfinished game, and 7 Days to Die is still far from the finish line, lumbering and wheezing like a bloated zombie. Wait it out, see if the game’s potential is met further down the line, and then get what could one day be considered a great addition to the crafting genre.