|Get ready to scream|
For those who don't know, DayZ is a mod for ArmA 2, a European military shooter. DayZ swaps out the setting with that of a zombie apocalypse. But this isn't some arcade shoot 'em up like Left 4 Dead. DayZ is hardcore and punishing.
For starters, it's based around permadeath. Once you die, you start over. Don't find water? Die and start over. Don't find food? Die and start over. Don't find a means to defend yourself? Die and start over.
Supplies are scarce and every shot from a gun needs to count. Patience and strategy are key to surviving in DayZ. And that really is the goal — to survive. There's no end game. There's no dialogue. There's no quest line. You start on the shore and it's up to you to survive.
I'm playing the game while listening to the 28 Days/Weeks Later soundtracks. It is scaring the shit out of me and after only playing for 75 minutes last night, I needed to step away and take a walk to clear my head. DayZ is stressful and tense.
I'm in Day 2 of my DayZ adventure.
Day 1 was spent learning the controls and getting a feel for the game. Day 2 is all business.
It felt like I had scavenged all over Europe without finding any supplies, but eventually I was able to pick up a crossbow, a soda or two and a can of beans. Of course it wasn't easy. On three different occasions I was left running for my life from zombies. All three instances were dire. I had to risk it all because I had nothing to lose.
My risks paid off, though, as soon as I realized that I could retrieve my crossbow bolts from zombies that I had killed. All of a sudden, three bolts seemed plenty. Not only that, but it's a silent killer, so nearby zombies wouldn't be attracted to my kills like they would with a gunshot.
The crossbow became my dearest friend in this bleak and suspenseful world.
One after another, zombies fell to my accuracy. I'd shoot, wait for them to drop and then go and retrieve my bolt, remembering to search the body for any supplies. It was at this point that I felt that I had become the predator.
In a world so dismal, finding a can of beans or a soda can be a major victory for a player's morale. Learning how to use the crossbow made me feel like a god. This feeling was compounded even more when I found some old tower ruins and was able to stock up on supplies for sustenance, including binoculars and a couple extra bolts. I had a high vantage point to plan my next destination. It was a perfect scenario.
Of course, all good things must come to an end.
This morning I stumbled across a hunting rifle. I decided to pick it up to see how the scope works (I'm still learning the game, after all) and in doing so, it replaced my crossbow. Normally, my crossbow would now be on the ground and the rifle would be on my person, but this being a game still in alpha, my crossbow disappeared. To top it off, the rifle had no ammo.
I went from being a god to a survivor with an extremely weak pistol and limited ammo. Fear overcame me once again.
It was a struggle to reclaim some sense of protection. At one point I found myself trapped in the upstairs of a barn, while the groans and screams from four zombies on the ground floor drove my paranoia home. I'm still not sure how I ended up surviving that barn, but I did.
For the most part, I've been able to keep enough food and drink in my backpack. I picked up a canteen, which has allowed me to refill it when I find a well. I also have a hunting knife, which I used to gut a boar. If I can find a way to start a fire I can eat the meat.
After traveling northwest for a bit, I came across a dear stand in the forest that had just what I was looking for — a means to survive. Inside the dear stand was an AK-47 and three clips. Had I still had my crossbow, the decision as to whether to take the AK or not would have been difficult, but considering my hunting rifle was empty on ammo and was only serving as a vanity piece on my back, I quickly swapped it out.
Now I stand on the outskirts of another town. I can see where the military had set up a medical encampment. Maybe I will get lucky and find some good supplies.
• A larger backpack.
• A means to start a fire.
While neither is critical, both will bring a level of comfort and security. And in a world as harsh as DayZ, morale can be more empowering than even a good weapon.