7 Days to Die is a first-person survival crafting game set in a post-zombie apocalypse gameworld. It’s also an example of Steam Early Access done right, with a solid & functional initial release, followed by frequent updates, tweaks, fixes & additional content. After 2 years, it’s still in Alpha, yet plays like a full game, albeit with a few rough edges.
We’ve logged some serious hours in this game, and there’s plenty to like about it. Despite the glut of zombie games these days, 7D2D distinguishes itself with a vast, procedurally-generated gameworld, strong variety of buildings, settlement types and biomes, flexible game configuration options, and an exciting zombie dynamic: shamble by day, sprint by night, and an aggressive horde attack every seven days. This mechanic propels the explore/scavenge/hunt/craft/build aspect of the game, which is supported by a sophisticated crafting system which includes blueprints, item quality tiers, and degradation of tools, weapons and blocks. A base provides a central location for the team to live, work and explore from, and a safe(-ish) refuge from the horde.
Gentleman Red quickly demonstrated a talent for designing & building strongholds which were both elegant & functional, which earned him the honorifics of: principle architect, master mason, engineer-in-chief, and Executive Director of Special Projects. Here’s a chronological showcase of our home bases in 7D2D.
In the early game, when resource stockpiles, skill levels and blueprints are in short supply, it’s quickest & easiest to repurpose an existing building. We found a cosy log cabin in a charming rural location, with good proximity to water & raw materials. With successive, escalating hordes, we learned lessons which informed successive enhancements and upgrades to design & materials.
The finished base featured a trap pit, metal anti-scaling flange, reinforced footings and lower walls, plus an escape tunnel to the last-resort refuge outbuilding. The farm was used to produce the vast quantities of cornmeal required for grain alcohol production, which was then processed into fuel for the motorised auger tool.
Version 10 arrives
This update introduced some major changes to 7D2D, plus a new graphics engine. Essentially, the game became much more challenging, with more blueprinted items (players can only craft that item once they have found and read a blueprint for it), and fiercer hordes. This update addressed the over-rapid player levelling in earlier versions, where it was a bit too easy to achieve near-invincibility. Version 10 added a stronger survival dynamic, increased sense of purpose to exploration, and generally made the game feel like a longer-term proposition.
Counterbalancing the increased threat from the horde, settlements also now include a bit more building variety, and we were lucky enough to find a small town which had a Police station. This seemed like a good building to develop as a base, thanks to its tough concrete construction. The game now also has a craftable motor scooter, which takes a lot of scavenging to build, but makes exploration and ferrying a lot easier too.
In the event, this strategy didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped. The sheer size of the building made it vastly expensive in time & materials to secure the perimeter, and we struggled to repair the damage between 7 day hordes. However, each of these builds has provided valuable (and often painful) lessons. It was time for a purpose-built stronghold.
Version 10 also introduced enhancements to 7D2D’s physics system. Whilst blocks can stick to each other, unsupported structures can, and will collapse. The stronghold requires protection from undermining by zeds, but also must be designed for stability, especially with the heavy-duty construction materials we planned to use.
Red’s specification for the base drew on the harsh lessons of earlier projects: a small, defensible footprint, an elevated habitation space, double-hard construction materials, shooting galleries, and a perimeter of iron-tipped log spikes. Another advantage of a purpose-built base is the ability to select your site, and we eventually found a perfect spot: a shallow bowl with all-round sightlines, proximity to both water and a mine, and within half a day’s travel to a city. Cities are dangerous places in 7D2D, but offer the well-equipped adventurer the prospect of high-quality loot.
This is the base that we’re currently using, at day 100, and it’s stood up very well to onslaughts of acid cops, ferals, and packs of dogs. It’s nice to have a safe & secure retreat from the pervasive hostility of the 7D2D gameworld, but it’s only a matter of time before the wanderlust prevails, and we set off once again in search of new horizons and new adventures.