H1Z1 Preview: H to the 1Z1
When H1Z1 launches in early access, it won't be perfect. I hope anyone familiar with the early access release model will understand this. In my hands-on time with the game at SOE Live, I encountered glitchy AI, wonky rag doll physics, and doors that repeatedly got stuck when attempting to open. These were just a few of the issues I encountered while playing (though none were necessarily game breaking). Simply put, H1Z1 is very raw in its current stage. You have to understand though, this is just the nature of early access.
The important thing is, despite the bugs, I had fun playing H1Z1. It's far from polished, but the core elements of a fun post-apocalyptic zombie survival-MMO are already established. It's assumed these issues will be worked out.
I spent the first portion of my hands-on demo roaming the vast wilderness of the Northwest. But after 20 minutes of running through rolling hills, fighting off wolves, and hunting deer, I grew tired of the lack of excitement. As with any man driven mad by the end-of-world scenario, I found myself wanting to die so I could respawn. So I did.
My second playthrough spawned me in more urban part of the map. And by urban, I mean a sort of turn-of-the-century style town. Imagine that podunk town from Footloose. As a result of my first playthrough, I already knew the basics of starting out: chopping down a tree to get wood, making a bow and arrow, and scavenging for any other supplies I could find. Although H1Z1 features permadeath, the cool thing about it is all of the recipes you discover for crafting carry over. So even though you won't have your items, you'll still have the knowledge of how to create them. In that sense, it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time should you die – and you will die.
My second playthrough was less about exploring the game world for the first time and really trying to survive. I stuck to the road, finding that most supplies are found in stranded cars and abandoned buildings. Of course, the tradeoff there is more zombies and – perhaps even more dangerous – other players. In my playthrough, the server was filled only with a few of us, so the threat of other players wasn't as prominent as I assume it'll be during early access.
With nightfall setting in, I equipped my flashlight and continued to scavenge. Little did I realize, another player could spot the light I was emitting. Unaware I was being stalked, I turned around and was met face-to-face with another player who I immediately struck and killed with my crowbar. It was the first man I have ever killed in H1Z1 – and I felt no remorse. Let's be honest, there will be far worse than I in the game when it launches. I continued on my way, clearing houses and finding supplies, with no real goal in mind. After 15 or so minutes, that player that I had killed was back with vengeance. A few swings to the back of my head and it was all over.
H1Z1 isn't the first game to drop you into an post-apocalyptic open-world. Anyone familiar with DayZ or Rust will likely embrace the fact that there's no direction or clear goals in the game. While I personally like that approach, a few other journalists seemed baffled by the notion that it wasn't holding your hand and telling you what to do. So if you do decide to approach H1Z1, understand that you will be determining your goals when playing.
Respawned once again, and now familiar with the world if H1Z1, my third playthrough was much more successful. I found a handgun, bullets, metal scraps that I turned into brackets, which I then discovered helped make a furnace. I learned how to create a barricade door. I found a 20-slot backpack which is incredibly useful as lack of inventory space can be a real hindrance. I realize a lot of this was luck of the draw. It won't always be that easy in H1Z1, so be prepared to die.
For those excited for H1Z1, rest easy knowing the game, in its current stage, is fun to play. Can it use more features and variation? Absolutely, but it's still too early for all of that. Right now, SOE is working to create the core gameplay elements that make a game that's fun. As I mentioned, H1Z1 is far from a polished gameplay experience. Animations are stiff, settings are still being tweaked, and there's still some very noticeable bugs (especially when trying to open and close doors). That's not what early access is about though.
H1Z1 is definitely on the right track. The dev's focus is on creating content that will give you something to do when initially playing H1Z1. The polish will come presumably during the various stages of early access.