Honestly, when Dayz went from an Arma II mod to a standalone title with Lead Designer Rocket heading the development, I was ecstatic. Even on beta release, when the game was pretty much the mod without any of the base building or vehicles, I was floored to know that I could play the game as it’s own dedicated experience and that it would eventually become a fully fleshed out survival challenge the likes of which the world hadn’t seen.
The announcement was around 2012, and it would take a full year or so before the game would be out in pre-release. To say that my first few hours of playing the game were disappointing would be an incredible understatement. It was basically Arma II, with its clunky engine and horrifically optimized performance, without the mods, convenience, or fun. And it would stay just about there, in pre-release, for another 5 years.
Given the fact that Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall left the development team to found his studio in 2014, I was pretty sold on the notion that Bohemia had almost completely abandoned the idea that the standalone game was going to ever work the way players wanted it to. The gameplay was boring, travel wasn’t sparse OR scary, finding food was a chore, and, again, the mechanics of the game were clunky and didn’t run well on the average computer. By this time, I had left the game completely.
2018 rolled around and the news that Dayz Standalone (or just Dayz, at this point) was being officially released. I chuckled at the notion that this wasn’t just a cash grab aimed to garner attention for a bare bones survival game and passed it on. More fool me, I know.
Come 2020, just a month ago or so, and I found myself searching for something relaxing to play. I didn’t want harsh micro or macro game to focus on, I didn’t want to be competitive, I just wanted to relax and play a new experience. Ironically, this led me to install Dayz, mostly out of curiosity. The modding community had been making some noise, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to see what the game was like with community support.
Fast forward a few hours, and I had forgotten all about the mods or even the game’s history. I don’t even know if I can refer to it’s past as its own history anymore, that’s how much it’s changed.
The clunky engine is completely reworked, the zombies themselves are all the more terrifying, the gameplay is smooth and responsive, there’s more weapons, clothes, and players. Hell, the atmosphere itself is a reward to be in. Night falls on lush trees and grass that both run excellently on my mid-tiered PC and look better than ever while wildlife brings the woods alive with the sounds of chirps and rustles. Wind gusts in the same form of a cold and sharp slash across the player’s face, almost as if you can feel the sting of a dropping temperature.
The grunt’s and moans of zombies all around you in the fleshed out villages and towns are enough to spook anyone amidst a hunt for leftover food or weapons. It’s honestly fun just being in the game. I didn’t bother looking up strategies or crafting recipes, I liked the game so much. Why rush it, right?
It was about 15 minutes after finding my first weapon and moving inland that I made crackling campfire in the dark. The thought of a bandit player seeing the glow from afar quickly made me rethink my heating strategy, and I held up in a building I found. Where I found it, I have no clue. But I found it. And I was lost, with the only direction being given to me gun shots in the distance from skirmishing players who happened across each other’s paths.
This the experience I wanted to have in 2012, with the added benefit of having full faith in the developers behind it. The amount of work it must have taken Bohemia to deal with just to get to this point must be astounding, and this article is written purely as a hats off to them. They’ve really put a high standard on themselves, and I couldn’t be happier.
Congrats, Bohemia. You’ve revived a game everyone counted out as long dead. Here’s to another eight years. Cheers!