Dear EVE, Yes, I admit it. I cheated, on you. I was looking for excitement in the First Person Shooter category with real avatars, instant satisfaction, little learning curve, a nice and simple interface and above all, a solid game play with no obligations. I was looking more for a mistress than a wife if I may say so, the plan was always that on those days when I have an hour or two, I would come back and spend time with you and my friends in IOS and comrades in Faction War.
Planet Side 2.
So, as full disclosure for the readers, I played Planet Side 2 for a bit (I already wrote about that) and two things annoyed me about it to the point where I stopped. Firstly, the total imbalance between vehicle combat and on-foot combat was just getting boring. I can’t remember how many times I got blown up by either a aircraft’s rocket pod or a tank. As medic class you are a rabbit in their sights, but a slow one. The only defense is staying under cover and waiting for the next enemy soldier or asshat teammate to shoot you in the head. The second reason is the utter pointlessness of the game or maybe I am over the genre entirely. Random teams have neither strategy nor leadership, run towards the nearest firefight to farm “Certs”, don’t set up defensive position – since it doesn’t matter when you die, 30 seconds later you are back in the same spot. Sure, some people play the higher level – attack positions that give certain points for example but they are in the minority and pretty much doomed. I found the best strategy for me as medic is to find out where the most fighting is, find my team and run behind them from cover to cover and heal those who took fire. Reviving generally isn’t worth it. If the fighting is close to the spawn point, reviving takes longer than re-spawning. If the fighting is further downrange, chances are my team mate got himself blown up in some really open position, if I get close enough to revive him, I am just the next body. So that leaves me standing behind rocks, slightly away from the snipers and heavies – crouched listening to tank rounds whistle over my head. Quite frequently, I revived an entire camp of these guys when a shell hit right in their middle. Those were the only good moments. Fighting myself? I don’t know, my FPS skills are not terrible but I have to be mighty close with my medic gun to take someone out, it rarely happens. A more likely scenario was that I shot at someone (and hit well), they turned around and one-shot me with some “Rifle of Superior Doom” – something they spend a bazillion credits on.
I am done with Planet Side 2 – the entire genre. The utter pointlessness of the game, the grind to get better gear in order to get better gear in order to get …. fails to excite me. I was looking for a shooter where more brains would be involved, where there is more strategy and tactics and where people would have to work as a team to overcome obstacles.
Enter Arma II. Arma is a very unusual shooter, it even labels itself as “tactical military simulation”. Basically, the creators made a game that is as close to military combat as they could make it. A bullet will kill you, when you run or are exhausted your peripheral vision goes blurry and you can not carry the entire arsenal of a small country in your pk. Death matters, respawns drop you off at the far end of the conflict and you have to find your way back. Like EVE, I tried to get into it a few times, really wanting to like it but the total lack of support, the extremely kludgy interface and the glitchy, buggy, laggy gameplay kept me away until now.
But then I found out about Day Z. Day Z is a mod for Arma II that simulates a Zombie apocalypse somewhere in Eastern Europe. Survivors spawn in on the beach of some island with nothing and need to collect food, shelter, water, tools and weapons to just survive. These things have real consequences, don’t eat and you starve, don’t drink and you die of thirst. If you get into a cold area of the island without proper clothes, you shiver and your aim goes bad, in addition you contract pneumonia and die – unless you have looted antibiotics on you. Weapons are a mix of civilian grade shotguns and military style semi automatic rifles but they are scattered among the ruins of the towns amid the scores of Zombies that have pretty damn good AI. But the best part of the game is that it persists. After a while, so the promise, you create weapons caches that stay through a server re-start. This means, you can really build up a presence, make temporary shelters, find vehicles, explore and set camps somewhere while choosing to engage or help other players. Sounds familiar? Yes, its life in a WH. And btw, death does matter. You die, you end up exactly where you were with nothing in your pack.
Did I mention the graphics? Day Z has taken Arma II’s graphics engine to an entirely new level. The landscape and the detail is astounding – each blade of grass is rendered, houses are immensely accurately depicted and towns are incredibly rendered. You walk through towns, you see abandoned cars, children toys and furniture. Also, you must play it with a headset since sounds are as well rendered as the visuals. You can hear footsteps, engines, waves crashing on the beach, you find other player’s bodies by following the buzzing sound of the flies feasting on the decaying corpse. It’s beyond spooky. And yes, voice. If another player is close they can choose to talk to you, no need for special voice channels etc. Just press talk and speak to your environment. Voice carries only a few meters, so if you hear anyone they are really, really close. And generally about to die.
Because the vast majority of players shoot on sight – your corpse may hold valuable bandages, ammunition, food or weapons. If you can kill it – so the advice – do so. If you can not, run like hell and take cover, There is no minimap and if you are lost without a map (later GPS), you are lost in this enormous (200km square?) arena. There are vehicles around but they need fixing up and are beyond the reach of newbs like me. Stealth is the only way to survive this for a long time.
So, my kind of game eh? Terrible interface, gorgeous graphics and a brutal game play mechanic where your actions have consequences. But man, its a learning curve. First of all Zombies, they will follow you for a very long time and kill you but slowly, their eery screams are echoed by yours when they start eating you, your vision goes black and white, you go down and you can see their rotten faces feasting on your flesh. Running away is in the beginning the only hope you have and you can hide in a bush, hoping they dont find you. Killing one with an ax is a good way to dispatch one or two but more will be difficult. A pistol shot will need to go to the head or you can waste entire clips on one Zombie and the gun shots attracting literally dozens more. A rifle shot even more – and it is of course also heard farther away by players who will come and investigate. So stealth is the only real method and when I found myself sneaking into a barn with an ax looking for supplies without attracting attention, I was pretty proud of myself. Then I heard running footsteps outside, a player’s voice in my ear. “Brother can I hang with you, bro, I got no gun, bro”. He was trailed by a dozen Zombies, ran right into “my barn”. I try to run out and kill a few zombies with my ax but one gets me and I go down. Instead of helping me, the other player and his friend (yes there were two, I did not see the other) ask me in voice comms if I was gay, start to steal my stuff from my pack (and I am still alive and on the ground) and generally speak in “gangsta” voice – at least as I imagine gangsta’s to talk. When the Zombies knock me unconscious, one of the gangstas grabs my body and drags it towards the barn while discussing with his friend how he will first rape me, then kill me and steal my stuff. There is something very, very disturbing about watching “your” body through the haze being dragged and being told that you are about to be raped by two guys.
I know this is a game but man, the super-realistic environment that takes immersion as far as can be makes side-shows like this incredibly violent and haunting. I could have logged – although they are fixing it so that you can not log while you are still alive – but I decided to see this through, trying to fire up my screencapture software. Filming these guys “raping” me would be something for Youtube and this blog – and we all thought the Goons were bad. But Day-Z is so buggy and so resource-hungry that Camtasia (the software I use) hangs up and I just watch my world go grey, hear the two gangstas mock-concerned about my death and basically, I die and spawn out. I am pretty sure they really play acted raping my body.
So that was bad enough. I died a lot to Zombies – some genuine newb mistakes but a couple were straight up glitches from the software. The interface is so bad, the inventory system was likely designed in the 80s and twice a Zombie encounters me, I hit him with an ax only to hear the empty clicking sound of a gun without ammo. Yes, its an ax. It doesn’t have ammo. And I am down, Zombies eating me.
Lastly, Day – Z is run on private servers that make it a huge target for hackers. While I have not encountered it, the blogs and Youtube videos report stories of teleportation, god mode, server crashes admins gone wild, special guns with unlimited range and so on. Its just a mess.
Bottom line, Day Z is EVE for FPS and I really, really wanted to like it. Its an incredible concept and in some elements just perfectly done but the buggy mechanics, the terrible interface and the constant threat of lags, disconnects, server crashes and so on ruined the experience for me. Oh yes, and getting raped. I swear that experience will haunt me for some time. Its not just EVE that is real.
Anyway – I am back with EVE now – looking forward to some roams with my friends - I miss the human interaction and knowledge that they have my back when the space Zombies are coming.
PS. If you want to watch an awesome Youtube gameplay series about Day-Z, go here. Its brilliant, funny, amazing and made me buy the game.