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You awake to the sounds of screams, a once peaceful suburb dissolved into chaos as a global apocalyptic event unravels before your eyes. Weeks later, you’re one of the lucky few, a survivor amongst piles of bodies, all ravaged by the insatiable hunger of the undead. All that’s left to do is survive, to make use of what resources you can find to build shelter and keep your distance from threats both living and dead. It’s a dangerous world with few sparks of humanity left as brother turns on brother just to live another day. Welcome to DayZ, a never-ending trial for survival in a zombified world.
Originally built as a mod for the military simulator Arma 2, DayZ was expanded upon and released as a standalone zombie survival game. Not only did the mod help put Arma 2 on the map, it elevated the status of survival games, giving the genre a footing to take hold of the gaming industry and blossom. Since DayZ’s reveal to the world in April 2012, dozens of survival games have been released, taking players to the ends of time and into the depths of xenomorphic oceans. But we always wind up returning to the expansive wasteland of PC Gamer’s 2012 “Mod of the Year.”
With the undead barrelling down on you and your fellow survivors vying for the same limited supplies, it can be difficult to make any headway in DayZ. There’s plenty of space to roam and enough open land to safely build shelter, but all it takes is one roaming zombie or a desperate survivor to turn your world upside down. Especially if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing.
Jumping into a survival game blind is a death wish. The nuances of crafting, resource gathering, managing hunger and thirst, tending to wounds, and building shelter are distractions from the shambling threats, and if you don’t know how to balance all of them together, you’re guaranteed to fall pretty early on. Even with a friend or two at your side, all it takes is one weak link to bring the team down.
Which is why I’ve pieced together this DayZ getting started guide. The moment you load into a game, numerous threats surround you, making you feel more alone than most games ever will. You truly are on your own, and the only way to make it to the next day is to know the basics, from the core mechanics to the actions that will get you through your first night.
Note that the tips in this guide are for an unmodded, Standalone experience. Mods change how game mechanics work and may render parts of this guide null.
Before You Begin
DayZ isn’t your typical zombie game. This isn’t a romp in the Arklay Mountains or a harrowing mission in the Harran region. This is pure, unforgiving survival where one wrong move can lead to your demise. Seriously. Fail to ransack a location or ransack the wrong location, and you’ll lose it all. DayZ features permadeath, so there are no helpful checkpoints or spawning back at basecamp. Once you’re dead, you’re dead, and any hard work you put in is lost.
What I’m trying to say before I begin, is to be extra careful in DayZ.
The Core Mechanics
DayZ has a lot to learn, and it can be intimidating if you’re new to the survival genre. There are quite a few core mechanics that will help you survive and make the most out of your time in this decaying world.
A staple of the survival genre, a character’s Hunger and Thirst meters are directly proportionate to how useful they are in the wild. You’ll need to hunt or rummage for food, treat water from stagnant sources (which I’ll touch on shortly), or find bottled and canned beverages. When your character is starving or dehydrated, they’ll slowly lose health until they’ve died.
There is no shortage of food types to gather, but be mindful of decay. Don’t carry more than you need to eat and store leftovers to prolong their life. Eating spoiled food can lead to a mild to dangerous sickness that requires antibiotics or other treatments to cure. The same goes for uncooked meat, too. Chow down on raw boar, and you can expect a mild case of Salmonella.
Health and Blood
When the world is unkind, it’ll be a detriment to your overall Health meter. This meter is essentially what keeps you alive, and everything from a zombie attack to prolonged exposure to extreme conditions or temperatures will chip away at it. There are five status effects for health based on how much health you have. If the bar empties completely, then you’re dead.
Recovering health requires more than a first-aid kit and is primarily reliant on the character’s Blood level, which is directly affected by how dehydrated or hungry they are. The more blood they have, the quicker their health will recover, which is why keeping on top of Hunger and Thirst meters is the key to survival.
Interesting Read: Best DayZ Games To Play.
Wounds and Infections
Try as you might, you’re going to sustain damage. Maybe a zombie caught up to you or you tried running around barefoot. Whatever the cause, wounds need to be handled within minutes or they’ll become infected. There are two stages of infection, and you don’t want to get to Stage 2. In the second stage, Thirst is depleted at a faster rate, the screen gets blurry, health drops every minute, and death is inevitable.
Treating a fresh wound simply requires a bandage, cloth, and a sewing kit, all disinfected with alcohol tinctures. A wound with a Stage 1 infection can be quickly healed with a herb or iodine. Stage 2 wounds, on the other hand, require rare tetracycline tablets, taken in four individual doses across 16 minutes.
As is common in survival games, you’ll spend a lot of time in DayZ crafting items. Whether it’s a basic knife or a gas stove, you’ll need to first have the resources on hand required to craft an item. There’s a perpetual cycle of locating materials to craft items, which makes survival easier so you can locate more materials to craft better items.
Melee weapons, attire, building materials, and medicinal supplies are just a handful of the categories of the more than 200 craftable items in DayZ.
Read also: Comprehensive DayZ Weapons Guide.
You don’t want to get caught in the elements in DayZ. Especially when those elements are crowded with the undead. The size of your base is entirely determined by how much work you want to put in and what you can get done before someone comes along and either kills you or pushes you out of your territory.
Using nails, wooden planks, sheet metal, rope, and a few other supplies you can build everything from simple sheds to entire basecamps with watchtowers and tall fences. The longer you play DayZ, the more you may find yourself sinking time into building elaborate structures, just to see if you can.
So, how do you get the supplies needed for all of these mechanics? By exploring buildings and sifting through what little the world has left behind. If you don’t loot, you don’t survive. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, looting can also put you in dangerous situations, so learn to do so carefully.
Look for items laying about the world and have a keen eye. Some items can be harder to see if you’re moving about quickly.
Zombies and human players aim to impede your progress in DayZ, but with the right weapons you can fight back. Firearms are the absolute best way to combat your foe, as melee weapons put you too close to striking distance. The goal of combat is to emerge without sustaining any damage, and close-quarters combat will almost always get you wounded. You don’t have an elaborate set of melee commands, so it’s really a game of who can connect a swing and retreat faster.
HUD and Menus
The heads-up display in DayZ is pretty involved, but the icons are kept small enough so as not to crowd the screen. The bottom left displays contextual indicators and your stamina bar. In the center are the quick-select items available to you at the press of a button. Now, the right side is where things get a little intimidating. This is where you’ll find your indicators for Hunger, Thirst, Health, Blood, Temperature, Fractures, active Medicines, and more. A complete list of the indicators and stats can be found here, but don’t expect to memorize them immediately.
Matching the HUD in complexity is the game’s Inventory menu. Since some attire like jackets and pants can provide inventory space, you may have several sections of items to scroll through. When there’s a lull in the action, get familiar with the user interface so you’re not stumbling when things get chaotic.
Surviving Your First Day In DayZ
If you can survive your first day in DayZ, then chances are you’ll be able to take things further and really progress a character. However, that first day isn’t an easy one. Just because you’ve just loaded into the world doesn’t mean the threats need to build up. They’re there, and they’re already incredibly dangerous.
There is one very important rule to remember during your first day, and that’s to avoid everything and everyone. Nobody is your friend, especially if they’re gnashing at you with rotten teeth. The best thing to do when you see a human-like figure is to move in the opposite direction. Put some distance between you and them so that you can get a handle on the following crucially important aspects of your survival:
From cooking food to slowing the effects of the cold, a fire is going to be your best friend. You’ll find matches scattered around DayZ, but fire is too important to rely on a scarce resource. Instead, you’ll want to craft a hand drill kit, which can be created by using a stone knife (made by combining two stones) to find tree bark (sourced by using your knife on a bark-covered tree) and your hands to break down bushes or small trees into sticks.
Gather enough of each item to build a small campfire and the kit, which, when equipped, can be used to attempt to start a fire. If the attempt fails, you’ll lose the kit, so craft two or three to start.
Drinking from the wrong water source can really impede your day. In DayZ, you’ll need to treat water from certain sources to prevent falling ill. To treat water gathered from rivers, streams, and lakes, add some to a cooking pot and boil it over the fire. The more you explore, you may find chlorine tablets that make the purification process much simpler.
Know Where Not to Loot
There is loot hiding all over DayZ’s map. You just need to know where to look. Police stations are going to be ripe for weapons and ammo, but expect other players to converge on them, too. Hospitals will be a great spot to scour for medical supplies. Be mindful of large open spaces surrounded by buildings, as they’re a sniper’s playground. Military bases, in particular, will be teaming with life that you want to avoid.
When looking for a server to load into, it may be best to find one with the fewest number of people. This way, you can get used to exploring these locations with a minimized chance of being ambushed.
You’re without a map in DayZ, so once you start exploring, there’s no easy way to navigate to specific locations. Unless, of course, you have a map carefully created by DayZ fans. This site has a map for each region, along with many of the DLC, mod, and Steam Workshop maps. They’re a bit busy, but this way, no matter what layout you load into, you’re prepared.
With an idea of how to get from point A to point B, there is one rule to follow – stay off the roads! No good has ever come from following blood-soaked pavement, and it’s a surefire way to run into zombies.
Things I Wish I Knew…
When I first booted up DayZ, I thought I had everything figured out. Years later, I’m still finding out things that really could have made my experience a bit easier. The following are some of the tips and tricks I learned along the way that you should know the moment you load into the map.
Canned Beans Are a Last Resort Melee Weapon
Melee weapons don’t last forever, so what’s a survivor to do when their baseball bat breaks and there are still zombies to clear out? Believe it or not, canned beans are a suitable stand-in when you have no other options. They do a decent amount of damage, can’t break, and, if the situation calls for it, you can pop into them to ease your hunger. The unspoken rule of thumb we’ve learned in DayZ is to always have a can of beans on hand.
Always Have a Sharp Tool on Hand
Not only can a small stone knife be used as a weapon if the need arises, it can also pop open food containers you otherwise wouldn’t be able to open. When hunger starts to hit, a sealed food container is your biggest enemy. By using a sharp tool, you also minimize the amount of food lost when opening it with something bigger and clunkier. Sharp tools can really get you out of a bind, so it’s best to have one on hand at all times.
Duct Tape is a Universal Repair Tool
Much like in real life, in DayZ, duct tape can fix just about anything. Admittedly, in older versions of the game, it was far more of a universal repair tool as it could also repair weapons and be used in place of bandages or rags. However, it’s still very, very useful in later builds and can fix most equipment and clothing. You can also use it to restrain players if you don’t have a pair of handcuffs handy. Don’t make the same mistake I did and underestimate duct tape.
Zombies Can’t Open Doors
Unlike velociraptors, zombies aren’t too good with doorknobs. If you’re being chased by a few zeds, you can make a clever escape by just going inside. It’s not an incredibly impressive or brave strategy, but it works. The issue you may run into is that DayZ is far from perfect, and zombies can clip through doors. It’s a bug that was much worse in earlier builds, but still occasionally persists. There’s no real workaround or counter, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for a zombie that may have snuck in. You can also use this tactic to lure zombies inside and lock them in to make looting outdoors a little easier.
Common Mistakes That Will Get You Killed
There is so much that can kill you in DayZ, that I could compile a guide solely on the many ways to die. Instead, I’d like to pinpoint a few common mistakes I’ve seen players make. And, honestly, some I made myself when I first started.
Staying Close to the Coast
That coastline of DayZ serves as the starting point for all adventurers. If you’ve ever played a survival game, you know the common spawn point is not a fruitful place to stay. Not only are the resources slim and unimpressive, but it’s also where the worst of the worst hang out to prey on lower-level or unfortunate players. Move inland for better loot and a greater chance of surviving your first conscious minutes. You don’t want to fall into the crosshairs of someone that camps near the coastline for an easy kill.
Trusting Other Players
Yes, at some point you do want to link up with other players to improve your chances of survival and enhance the experience. However, do it outside of the game. Find a Discord server or somewhere on social media to get to know other DayZ players before stepping into the game with them. If you try to link up with others you meet in-game, the likelihood that they’ll up and murder you is incredibly high. Even if they seem like they’re welcoming you into their circle, you can bet there’s a motive that will not serve you well at all.
Underestimating the Weather
DayZ takes the concept of survival to a hardcore level, to the point where a little bit of rain can put an end to your adventure. If you get caught out in the rain, you could be subject to hypothermia. Heavy winds can exacerbate the effects of hypothermia, so this is a condition you’ll want to fix very quickly with a Heat Pack or a fire. Be sure to dry your clothes, too, to keep from losing health.
On the other end of the spectrum is hyperthermia, where your body temperature gets too high. If you sit near a fire for too long or carry too many cooked items, your internal temperature will rise. When it gets too high and hyperthermia sets in, you will start to lose health and energy until you’re dead. To combat the heat, find a windy spot or jump into a body of water.
Believe it or not, zombies aren’t your biggest threat in DayZ. At least not if you’re careful. They’re actually quite blind, and respond more to sound than anything else. So, be as quiet as possible. Don’t make random noises and, most importantly, avoid shooting if you can. Just one shot from a pistol can draw a lot of unwanted attention, and though one zombie isn’t a massive threat, just two can be enough to cause some serious damage. If you suspect zombies may be nearby, tread lightly and stow your firearms.
Create Your Own Zombie Adventure
DayZ is all about having a customized experience. There’s no long story to follow, no overarching narrative to guide you from point A to point B. Every move you make is based solely on your decisions, which can be guided by a number of reasons.
DayZ lets you create your own zombie adventure, more than any other zombie survival game on the market. The level of realism that developer Bohemia Interactive was able to instill in its open-world apocalyptic title is surprising and gives players plenty to do. Want to be the gun-toting zombie slayer? You can be. Want to live as a hermit in the mountains, coming down only to scavenge for supplies? Some may not find the fun in it, but you absolutely can do that.
When I say the options are limitless, I’m only being mildly hyperbolic. Unless, of course, you’re playing with the DayZ Expansion mod installed. Then there really is a bevy of entertainment at your disposal as the expansion is a major overhaul of the core experience. I highly recommend playing Standalone first, then loading in the Expansion Mod to see just how much updated crafting and base-building mechanics, new vehicles and items, and a custom mission creator let you enjoy a unique experience.
Question: What’s the Difference Between DayZ Mod and DayZ Standalone?
Answer: When you start to get into DayZ’s online space, you’ll see the game referenced as both DayZ Standalone and DayZ. The mod refers to the original game that still requires Arma 2. Standalone, as the name suggests, is the game you can play on just about every console and PC without Arma 2. Which is better really depends on the player, but Standalone features a bit more content and even more realism than the mod. DayZ Mod, however, feels a little less like a survival game. Also, the mod is still very rough as it never really left its Alpha release.
Question: What Happens to Your Character When You Log Off?
Answer: The most horrifying concept in survival gaming is that, in many of them, your character remains on the server even when you’re not controlling them. DayZ is a little forgiving, though the character does remain behind for about 30 seconds after you’ve officially logged off, leaving them open to attacks. What is up for grabs, though, is any loot in storage. You may log back in to find your base completely destroyed and all your stashes ransacked and empty.
Question: Is There an Offline Mode for DayZ?
Answer: While the core game doesn’t offer an offline component, the DayZ CommunityOfflineMode mod allows you to take your experience offline. Since it’s a mod, only PC gamers will be able to take advantage of it.