PC Previews

H1Z1 Early Access Impressions – Open-World Zombie Survival

The struggle is real. Whether it be scavenging for enough berries to not starve to death, fending off the onslaught of hungry flesh-eaters, or nervously interacting with other players that could kill you at any chance, H1Z1 is full of fantastic moments and new additions to the zombie survival game landscape.

H1Z1 sets itself apart from other similar games (such as DayZ, WarZ, Rust, Infestation: Survivor Stories, and more) by combining aspects from all of the existing entries into one package all with the backing of a AAA developer and publisher to wrap it all up. You can not only gather materials, craft items, and build things, but you also have to fend for yourself and survive in an incredibly harsh and violent world.

h1zi screenshot 2
The moon provides valuable light in an otherwise dark world.

Early Life in H1Z1

My first experience with H1Z1 perfectly encapsulates what you can expect on a moment-to-moment basis. I logged into a server that wasn’t too full or empty to get my feet wet – a PvE server, that way I could learn the ropes without worrying about other players killing me. After wandering the wilderness and getting some tips and advice from roaming players, I had figured out the basics:

  • Tear my shirt up to make cloth and combine it with a stick to make a bow.
  • Turn sticks into arrows.
  • Hoard blackberries to stave off starvation and dehydration.
  • Thoroughly loot and scavenge EVERY SINGLE AREA for supplies.
  • Stay away from bears. They are the true masters of the universe.

After that experience on launch day, I went to bed and resolved to return the following Friday night with a friend to really dive into what this game has to offer. Spoiler alert: It was super fun. Before I get into that too much further though, a few things should be explained. Yes, this is a paid Early Access Alpha for a game that will eventually be free-to-play. Yes, you can pay money for an airdrop of supplies, but it will not be dropped near you and all surrounding players can freely loot it as well, which adds a “Hunger Game” type dash for the drop zone. Yes, there are a lot of bugs, server instabilities, and generally wonky principles (dying of starvation in less than an hour is just absurd and doesn’t scale to the game’s time passage realistically at all.) All that being said though, I got sucked into H1Z1 and played it for about 6 hours straight before even realizing how late it was – it’s that kind of fun.

Following power lines and roads is a great way to find buildings.

Dawn of the Second Day

Once I got home from my day job, I logged onto Steam with my buddy and we opted to start fresh on a new PvP server titled “Misery” which is an incredible and disturbingly appropriate title. We log in, name our characters (no customization options yet) and are placed on the map…in the middle of nowhere. He describes things around him that I don’t see anywhere meaning our first order of business will be to find one another. There is no mini-map, or menu with a map to show where you are, you’re just on your own out there. The only maps in H1Z1 are physically placed at landmarks, road intersections, towns, and other points of interest. I think it would make sense for you to be able to find maps in the world at some point, but it adds a nice layer of isolation that’s missing from most games nowadays. As it turns out, we weren’t really that far away from each other after all. We were just a few miles each from a relatively large town, just on opposite sides. We start making our way towards the town, chatting on Steam voice chat so we can still communicate, then things start to get interesting.

When I met other players on a PvE server I knew they literally could not hurt me – the server didn’t allow it – so there was no fear. When I strode into my first settlement on the side of the road and saw another player in a PvP server, I immediately approached him and said, “Hey there!” forgetting that I still had my bow drawn. He spins around and points a gun at me saying, “Hands up! Are you friendly? Are you alone?” which causes me to spaz out at my desk frantically trying to explain myself and not get shot. At this point, I had found a can of carrots, a bottle of water, and a small hatchet, so I was doing incredibly well for myself all things considered.

“Woah, woah, woah! Sorry! Yes, friendly. How do I get my hands up? I’m new and yes I am alone.” Luckily that was enough to calm him down and not blow my head off. After a few minutes of chatting he gives me some tips (such as mixing blackberries and water for blackberry juice, using a sharp weapon to cut down trees and harvest meat from animals) and we decide to part ways. The thing that surprised me the most about my relatively limited time with H1Z1 so far, is that for the most part, players seem to really buy into the aspect of it being a realistic survival game. In a lot of other games like H1Z1, you’d be just as likely to find someone happily slaughtering new players just for fun, but for the most part, people seem willing to cooperate.

My friend’s name is 100% mature and serious because we are responsible adults.

The Bright Future of the Apocalypse

So far in H1Z1:

  • I passed dozens of people while traveling down roads, helped out other new players, and even got into a few fights here and there.
  • I’ve been killed by starvation, enemy player’s arrows, zombies, and the wrath of the almighty bear.
  • I’ve made a campfire to cook wolf meat and purify rainwater, as well as found an empty Hunting Rifle that I used as a prop to try and intimidate another player into giving me some food and clothes (he punched me and ran away, thus calling my bluff. Oh well.)
  • I’ve looted houses, shops, gas stations, cars, corpses, and more.
  • I’ve discovered how to create a bow drill to make a fire, how to make doors and shacks, bandages, and tons more.
  • I haven’t build any structures or found a good place to settle down yet, but I’m making progress.

Life in H1Z1 is a life of incremental progress, just like the development of the game itself. It’s still in an Early Access Alpha state so there is a lot of room for improvement, but they’ve already made huge strides in the right direction in just the 48 hours or so since it went live. If my experiences thus far are any indication, H1Z1 is a disgusting, beautiful, terrible, amazing, nerve-wracking, exhilarating, and downright stressful experience and I can’t get enough.

h1z1 screenshot
These guys are in the true upper echelon of players with all of that gear.

You can purchase Early Access to the Alpha version of H1Z1 on Steam right now. However, be aware that the large majority of the 6,000+ current reviews are overwhelmingly negative because of concerns over the “Pay2Win” aspect of the airdrop systems. They are working on fixing them already, and they do not significantly impact gameplay at all in my opinion.

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