DayZ Standalone Alpha: Hands-On Impressions
The gaming community have been waiting a year now for the Standalone version of the popular zombie survival mod for Arma 2 DayZ
to finally be released. After a lot of confusion and a certain amount of negativity and backlash from DayZ
fans over the past few months including a noticeable lack of hype for the game, the guys at Bohemia have finally released the alpha version of the game for fans to get their teeth stuck into. Well we delve into Chernarus to see how the standalone differs from the mod and offer a hands-on perspective after playing the DayZ
mod and it’s various mods pretty vigorously over the past eighteen months.
Firstly what is most noticeable now is that the game is detached from the ARMAII engine. To play the standalone in Alpha you must download through the stream platform. I’ll link the Steam store page in the description, but if you’re a big fan of the game like myself then I’m sure you already have the game and are churning your way through it. Opening the game will start up to the new entrance menu giving you the opportunity to create your character, change server, or play from your last saved character. Creating a character is seamless and easy and the whole menu is very easy to navigate around. The map known as Chernarus, although the same as the mod, features a variety of graphical bonuses, new areas and a lot more enterable structures than found in the mod but at the moment is lacking the big features of the mod which has disappointed some fans. To be honest we have been waiting long enough for the game, so surely a few months more to implement these features shouldn't be too much of a problem, right?
I’ll start with the graphics and have to admit they are vastly sharpened and improved from the mod and the game feels a lot more fluid to play. The changing of graphical options now comes in the form of a settings menu, not too dissimilar from the mod but features a lot more settings to get your game looking even more beautiful and life like. I really like the lighting in the game and the sun looks amazing as you pace around the vast wilderness and looks beautiful throughout the trees and undergrowth. I said earlier that the game feels smooth but unfortunately thats only around about 75% of the time. If I delve into some of the larger towns like Cherno, Elektro, and Berezino, I often find that my frames drop below 20 which was one of the complaints of the mod.
I understand they are still optimizing the network bubble so that items, zombies, buildings and players have less effect on the gamers' machine, but right now it is not fully optimized and even with a beastly GTX680 and an i7 4770k, I was still noticing frame drops around the towns. Another thing I found quite annoying was that you could be hit by zombies or players that are noticeable far away from you, I mean if you see a player swing an axe at you and you're next to them there's a chance it may or may not hit you dependent on their accuracy but at points accuracy isn't needed and they could swing a hefty blow even when you're 10 paces in front of them, These are mechanics that again should be fixed in upcoming patches but still make the game a little annoying at times where a player with no ability has a 50% chance of hitting a luck shot just with a mouse click.
The looting mechanic is very comparable to the mod although the font and interface is different. You use the center circle on your screen to hover over item and if they are intractable you can use the scroll wheel to see what actions are available or you can press the tab key and drag them over from your vicinity into your characters storage which at the moment on spawn is your pockets, although many bags can be found across the map to enhance the storage space of your items.
The UI has also changed somewhat and at the moment the blood, food and drink icons which were found in the bottom right of the DayZ
have been removed to be replaced by status change messages displayed in the chat. These status changes have already been announced as buggy where you will often receive notices that your character is thirsty or hungry even minutes after eating or drinking. I would like to see the overlay of you characters stats like the mod as I liked seeing a visual representation of how you feel but maybe that is something they will add in patches in the future. On the matter of patches it seems the team are very keen to listen to feedback and have issued a new patch just 48 hours after the release which shows how much they are on it!
The items in the game have drastically changed and are harder to find throughout Chernarus. At the moment there is a lack of crafting as found in such popular mods for Dayz
as epoch and there are only a handful of guns and a small variety of melee weapons such as ratchets and axes to be found across the map. You can see the potential with the items though as you can discover duck tape, batteries, stoves and many other items that would no doubt allow you to craft in the future but at the moment in the alpha phase there are only a handful of items to play about with. The clothing system looks great though with the ability to change your characters appearance happening quite easily as you find clothes and accessories in a lot of places around the map, Including the popular clown mask that's been added as homage to PayDay 2
When comparing the standalone with the mod which, lets be honest, were going to do considering it has been the placeholder whilst we awaiting standalone the last year, the game is somewhere far behind with mods such as overwatch and epoch for DayZ
that have features that will probably at some point be integrated but for now remain void. The game feels like it’s around 30% finished with a hell of a lot more to come including vehicles, loads more weapons, trading, crafting and lots of subtle changes to the game and items and the UI. The game is advertised as alpha and it is that. So don’t expect that finished product you were expecting, you will find bugs, you will find a lack of features. I can foresee the game being finished by this time next year and looking at the time scale already spent I’m a little disappointed it is not that bit further in development but again, I have been on the edge of my seat for this game for so long that the enjoyment and hype is still there for me. The DayZ
standalone alpha lays down a fantastic foundation to be worked upon over the next year and if the implementation of promised features happens as planned then this could well be the PC game of 2014.