WarZ: Heart of Darkness

The WarZ launched its alpha on the 15th of October and within a few days had reached over 94,000 players and 24,000 concurrent users by October 19th. The game is described by the developers as a zombie survival MMO and it first steps forward are promising.

 

These are the zombies that you’re looking for:

While it is imperative to state this game is in a very rough alpha state, the game itself is incredibly fun. Upon loading the game players are opted to create a new survivor. At present the player is able to create five survivors but more of this a bit later. After creating your survivor you spawn into the beautiful world of a fictional Colorado, the first thing that struck me about the game is the ambient sound such as birds and crickets chirping or an occasional startled bird flapping out of a tree as you pass by and it all sounds amazing. A game of this type relies heavily upon a players sense of immersion and the ambient sound goes a long way into making you believe you’re in this world. I often found myself being startled by various sounds while running through the woods and at night jumping out of my skin when hearing the bellows of some unseen monster echoing through the canyon I was in.

The art design of this game is beautiful if a bit sparse, At this point building models are copy and pasted from place to place and have very little clutter within the buildings themselves. As of the October 31st update new area of the maps have more clutter and items inside the buildings so I am assuming that a lot of that has been kept to the minimum to improve performance and allow the team to focus on the core mechanics first. Even with sparse interiors the buildings are laid out very naturally and easily identified for planning your loot run and telling at distance what sort of settlement you’re coming upon. The best feature of the art design in this game has  to be the lighting. Every part of the day and night is clearly identifiable and gorgeous, my personal favorite time is the early dawn. As the night starts to fade reds and oranges start highlighting the objects around you and you genuinely feel that you’re there at that time. Ungodly large trees aside, the overall game environment is moody and provides a lot of places to hide away to avoid the bloodthirsty players.

 

My fortune for a granola bar:

PvP in the WarZ has gone a bit mad since the alpha launched, from flashlight deathmatches where some players amassed several hundred in their global inventories to killing on sight and spawn camping. After a rash of constant player killing the effect was for every player to adopt a kill on sight mentality in order to defend their hard-earned loot. While Pvp in any game is fun, the rate which this player killing climbed to threatened to break the game for everyone who wasn’t interesting in playing that particular style. Fortunately the October 31st update expanded the map and additional servers allowed for players to avoid conflict with people entirely. While the weapons in the game do have their limitations the overall experience of firing weapons in the game has a fun feel to it, and with the AI update to the zombies firing a weapon does carry some consequence as you will likely summon the walkers to your position. The weapon spawn rates and locations are being tweaked as the devs get feedback from players and their internal systems, as of the writing of this article weapons are relatively simple to find but are limited to the mossberg shotgun, melee weapons, and the pistols while higher grade spawns in highly contested zones that mean absolute death to anyone ill prepared for the venture.

 

The zombles are good!:

The key feature of this game is the zombies (despite what some players might insist) and with their most recent update they are fun adversaries. Alone or in pairs the zombies provide little to no danger as long as you keep moving while striking them with your melee weapon. The decision to force a headshot only kill leads the player into a risk/reward scenario as it’s ill-advised to engage one unless you’re able to deal the proper headblow.  If you find zombies in packs the best thing is to avoid them entirely unless you have a firearm. It is very easy to get overrun by multiple zombies and is a terrible thing when you lose all that precious loot you’ve just spent two hours gathering. The design of the zombies are great, their skins and sounds create a nice sense of tension and the occasional giggle when a male zombie has a female voice. Zombies also serve a second purpose of pointing a player to the valuable loot as they rarely, if ever, spawn around low-level gear and supplies.

 

Game features

A player is able to create five characters with the option to eventually buy additional slots by spending experience earned in the game. The other option is to create a hardcore character that is deleted upon death and the player can immediately create a new character. Servers are plentiful and for those less interested in dealing with many bandits it is relatively easy to find a low population server to scrounge the world in peace while still keeping the tension of looking out for other players who will most likely kill you on sight, especially so if you clearly have good loot. The player spawns with a small backpack and some basic items such as a flashlight, can of soda, bandages, granola bar. Any item found and carried that gets dropped on death which cranks up the tension and provides players with an internal debate about risk vs reward. I have often completely bypassed particular areas on the map because they’re known killing grounds or I have enough good stuff that I’m not interested putting myself in harm’s way to obtain something else that isn’t  worth the risk.

The items range from useful supplies such as food, water, and medical gear to cosmetic and weapons and are found all over the map with some being in logical places (i.e. the best guns are found in military areas). The map itself is a nice mix of small farmhouses, small and medium-sized towns, and a couple larger cities. There are also some areas on the map that offer another chance at interesting kit in the form of a helicopter crash site and an airplane crash site. The various sizes and locations of these places place different value on them. For example I do all I can to avoid the helicopter crash site as it spawns high value weapons and as such is a favorite camping spot of bandits.

The key player in this game is your thirst and hunger meter which begins to decay the instant you spawn into the world. While there are debates that the hunger bar decays too quickly the premise remains to keep the player motivated to move through the world gathering  food and drink. It’s augmented by the  food and drink having different values and some of the items can affect both meters. MREs will replenish an empty hunger bar and will almost completely fill the thirst while a granola bar will only move the hunger bar slightly. Items like coconut milk will completely replenish your thirst while a soda will replenish some thirst and a small amount of hunger as well. This creates value to items and requires a bit of strategy as well to keep your hunger and thirst bars up. If you get to a point where you run completely out of thirst or hunger you still have time to work with before your character will die. The longer you leave one of the bars in the red your health will begin to diminish but you can offset this by use of medical supplies.

My two cents worth

While the game is still in Alpha with more features to come and a more stable game, the game we have at this point is a lot of fun. Exploring this vacant world with the risk of death hanging over your head makes the game fun and intense. This game isn’t for everyone though. Features like losing everything you carry upon death, no in-game missions, and repetitive actions like having to constantly gather supplies. The beauty comes from a game that allows players to experience the zombie apocalypse is a rush and I can’t wait to see where this game is headed.

 

 

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