There isn’t really a story as such in 7 Days to Die. The game has a setting – the game’s events take place after a third world war resulted in a nuclear blast that destroyed a large portion of the world. You play as a survivoe of the war who must do their best to survive the current world. Finding shelter, finding food and water as well as scavenging for supplies to stay alive against a horde of zombies, presumably created as a result of the nuclear fallout.
The developers haven’t really put a whole lot of effort into giving 7 Days To Die a storyline but what’s here does a fine enough job of painting a picture of the world the game takes place in. As such, there’s not a lot to propel players along a path like other games but we’d argue there’s really no point in doing so. Still, a small personal storyline of the survivor you play as couldn’t have hurt to introduce players to the mechanics. But what’s here is here and it is what it is. The developers have apparently hinted that they may include a story mode in the future but for now, this is all we’ve got. A setting and a concept.7 Days To Die runs on the Unity engine, and with that comes a lot of the issues associated with the ever present developer tool. From the moment you boot up the game you’ll be met with constant framerate drops, some pretty jarring moments where the game itself freezes and some incredibly drab environments. To put it quite bluntly: 7 Days To Die is not a very good looking game and little effort has gone into crafting the world to make it believable.
The locales you’ll mindlessly plod through are plain and drab, feeling empty. Which is confusing because for a game where so little is going on the performance is dreadfully poor. To make matters even worse, the world is covered in a way that obscures distant views.What results is a needlessly closed looking locale, removing any opportunity to create vast, expansive and beautiful landscapes. The whole thing looks rough and dreary and in a game that encourage exploration and survival this is not what you want your major sand box looking like.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is pretty passable. Fans of the zombie genre will instantly recognize the attempts to create a somber atmosphere ala The Last of Us or even the edgier more rock inspired elements of John Murphy’s 28 Weeks Later original score. And it works. It’s a world devoid of all hope and aspirations and it’s a soundtrack that similarly invokes such a feel. It’s just a dying shame that beyond this middling, derivate soundtrack is an even worse looking game.7 Days To Die is billed as a Survival Horde Crafting Game. What does that mean exactly? You’ll play as a survivor of an apocalyptic event and you’ll gather materials from the environment (be it actual living things or just dilapidated homes and locales). You’ll use these items to craft clothing, weapons and equipment to better protect you against not only the elements but the major enemy of the game – a horde of zombies. It’s a concept rife for interesting gameplay mechanics but unfortunately 7 Days To Die just falls flat.
When you’re not fighting off zombies you’ll have to keep an eye and micro manage yourself too. Your stamina bar depletes but you’ll also need to keep yourself free of disease and illness. This is the crux of where the challenge of 7 Days To Die comes from for me, and the game is rather hard on the player if you mess it up. Think ahead, though, and bring all the right equipment and supplies with you, and you’ll be able to survive longer than most. Players who enjoyed managing their items and ammunition in games like the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill will enjoy and be able to easily grasp these concepts from the bat. Other less experience gamers may have to adjust their method of play.The big twist here is that the game is divided into seven day blocks. A timer ticks down during gameplay and every seven days you’ll be attacked by a horde of zombies. If you’ve got your wits about you and you’ve prepared adequately, the timer resets and another horde will descend upon your location after another seven days have passed. A full day is approximately fifty or so minutes. So essentially you’ll have zombies after you every five or so hours.
I’ve heard the notion of the game being called “Minecraft with Zombies”, and honestly such an assessment isn’t too outrageous. During the day I found myself bashing every item in the world just to get resources, so I could build things, and then create greater resources. It’s open, it’s kind of monotonous but the appeal of its freedom, building and exploration is what pulls people in. Sound familiar?There is a little bit more of an emphasis on combat in 7 Days To Die given its nature but not a lot. You’ll be fortunate enough to wield both melee weapons and firearms but the combat is so drab that neither are a joy to use. Melee weapons very rarely amount to anything more than the rapid fire bludgeoning seen in Minecraft and guns have no meaningful feedback. But guns are almost always the better option here as they require little to no wrestling with the camera to constantly focus on whichever enemy you’re trying to pelt.
It’s during combat that we also encountered the most of the game’s many glitches and errors. Sometimes we didn’t even know if we were actually hurting a zombie or if we were harvesting pieces from it as there’s no visual cues to indicate how damaged they are or how we were doing. Sometimes zombies would continue to stare at us with a vacant gaze, twitching, as if we had to do something to finish them off. Turns out the game just forgot to realise they were dead. These were just the tip of the iceberg for the glitches we encountered – including but not limited to flying animals (we’re sure it wasn’t intentional) and stuck enemies.The Steam Release of 7 Days To Die is probably the best way to play the game, but the developers have made no efforts to get their audience to say the same about the console rendition. Clearly designed for a mouse, the user interface has not been revamped at all to accommodate a controller. Rather than selecting options on a menu, players must use the controller to move a cursor to make selections. Should you really be using a controller like a mouse pointer in this day and age? Probably not. It just reeks of a lazy transition and one that could be done so much better.
There are some multiplayer options on offer here and they’re probably the best part about 7 Days To Die. Either online or splitscreen, you and another player can join a map and work together to build up a base and eventually defend yourselves from an incoming zombie horde. While the mechanics are still rather unpolished, this experience of playing with and making fun of the game with a friend is enjoyable like doing the same with a bad movie like Catwoman is enjoyable. It’s almost so bad it’s good. You can also jump online into matches with other people, but we rarely had an instance where somebody wanted to help, instead killing us and taking all our belongings instead.7 Days To Die has a compelling premise and concept that slowly disappears as players begin to play more and more of it. Those who are really, and I mean really into crafting and survival games will be able to sink limitless amounts of time and effort into this game. But it’s a rough and unpolished experience to the point where it’s actually almost on par, if not worse than the alpha that was available on Steam as an early access title.
Should Telltale have released a game in such a poor state? Probably not. And it’s questionable why they would allow something of such a low quality tarnish their otherwise strong pedigree. But it’s hard to recommend 7 Days To Die to anybody unless you’ve got somebody to bring along with you and laugh along with it. After all, they do say that misery loves company.
The PS4 version was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.