H1Z1 has just shambled out into the wild, releasing on Steam Early Access and already finding itself a large, dedicated following on Twitch as players attempt to navigate the cutthroat world of post-apocalyptic rural North America.
Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn between the game and DayZ, and it’s not difficult to see why – at first, second and even third glance you could easily mistake Sony Online Entertainment’s zombie survival game for that of Bohemia Interactive’s genre-spawning game, given the subject matter, look and overall feel of it. Whereas it usually feels a little unfair pitting one game directly against another, in this instance it’s completely unavoidable, given the similarities between the two.
However, SOE wants to take the foundations of DayZ and build a better game upon it, and given the amount of attention the game has already received you may be wondering whether or not they have achieved that feat. While both games are still in early stages of development, with H1Z1 having just gone into alpha and DayZ still gearing up for a beta release, there are certain directions both games are taking which already give us an indication of which of the two will go on to be more revered.
With that being said, let’s examine some of the key differences between the two games, and pick apart their current strengths and weaknesses to conclude which one may have the brighter future ahead of it, if early impressions are anything to go by.
Zombies are ancillary in both DayZ and H1Z1, because while they’re ostensibly the key threat in the game, the reality is that aside from starvation, your fellow (living) man are the biggest killers in the games.
Much like how humanity would likely act if the real zombie apocalypse were to rear its head, the people you meet on your travels in both games veer wildly from helpful, honest folk, to ruthless murderers, to sheer maniacs. Your view of both games’ communities will only be shaped by your own experiences with them, though at the moment H1Z1‘s smaller environment seems more conducive to teamwork and fair play.
It is far easier to encounter humans in H1Z1 as its map is only roughly one third of the size of DayZ‘s, meaning that you’ll engage in far less time spent alone with only your backpack and bottle of tepid water for company. While SOE has gone on record to say that they want the map to be increased in size, I’m of the opinion that this is the biggest thing that H1Z1 has going for it at the moment.
The community in H1Z1 feels varied and real.
Player interaction is the best thing about both games, but in DayZ it happens so infrequently that you could potentially play the game for multiple hours without encountering a single living soul. Within my first few hours of playing H1Z1 I bumped into plenty of other players despite knowing nothing about the game’s environment, and my experiences with these people were mostly positive.
Venturing into almost every encounter with another player with my arms held aloft shouting “I’m friendly!” down the microphone, mostly every player greeted me in the same manner before we exchanged snippets of information about our surroundings, then head off on our separate ways. Of course, there were still plenty of tense moments to be had with roaming groups of gangs shooting in my direction, the occasional lone ranger using me as target practice for their bow or a chancer running at me armed with nothing but their fists, but the community in H1Z1 felt varied and real.
This is a contrast to DayZ‘s environment which, since the abandonment of the Arma 2 mod of the same name, has become a lot more ruthless. Given how long players can spend roaming the game’s desolate Russian setting alone, deaths are more infrequent in DayZ, thus meaning that more loot can be gathered. This often leads to encounters with other players simply leaving you with a target on your head, as they see you as little more than a walking backpack filled with potential goodies that they’d otherwise have to search far and wide to find.
Whereas survivors in H1Z1 play it far looser with player interactions than in DayZ, in DayZ whenever you do bump into someone you can either expect to be shot or, if you look more well-equipped than they do, ran away from.
Perhaps that’s more realistic, but it’s certainly not more fun.
Both H1Z1 and DayZ take place in similarly rural settings, though both have unique pros and cons. DayZ‘s map is more varied, featuring more memorable landmarks and often quite striking vistas to explore. On the other hand, H1Z1‘s rural America is incredibly bland, being little more than a sea of blackberry bushes, deer, and wrecked vehicles/pillaged homes. The resident areas look the same, as do the industrial towns, and if you’re stuck as being a lone ranger in its post-apocalyptic world then you’ll likely find yourself becoming very bored, very quickly.
However, while DayZ‘s environment is certainly more varied – though admittedly it’s still basically a landscape filled with little more than grass, trees and rubble, albeit one where not every city and town looks identical to the last – its sheer vastness makes it a much more daunting proposition. I’d argue that the land mass of DayZ is unnecessary and stands to make the game a more dull experience, with it being a world so huge but with so little to do.
In a 10 hour game of DayZ only a small percentage of that play time is enjoyable.
Others would almost certainly question that viewpoint and point at it being much more realistic than H1Z1‘s smaller terrain where bumping into a survivor is an occurrence that takes place every 30 minutes, but I’m in this for the fun, and in a 10 hour game session of DayZ only a small percentage of that play time could ever really be classified as enjoyable.
With that being said, H1Z1‘s environment will receive an “upgrade” at some point where player interaction will be minimized, and as it stands its setting’s lack of diversification makes it a thoroughly unmemorable locale. While DayZ suffers from its huge open world actually being far too open, at least the variances in its presentation make trawling through it more exciting when something actually does happen, be it a sniper camped on top of a roof holding you down whilst you attempt to scavenge in a city, or you being forced to take refuge in an abandoned barn while the undead shuffle outside.
If DayZ‘s environment was condensed into a space about the size of H1Z1‘s map, with the endless amounts of forest cut down, it would be a much more streamlined and exciting experience. If H1Z1‘s current setting was made as big as that of DayZ‘s, however, it would be hopelessly dull.