7 Days to Die Alpha 19 Newbie Guide (PC Version)
I've seen a number of posts looking for a "how to play," or "introduction," to the game. This is my attempt to write one.
At the beginning of the game, you wake up video-game naked (i.e., in your underwear) and completely ignorant. Your goal is to survive, which is made harder by a) your nude ignorance, and b) the fact that you're living in the aftermath of a combined zombie/nuclear apocalypse.
Your character has four on-screen meters showing your status: food, water, health, and stamina (or call it whatever you like -- fatigue, energy, etc.). Food and water levels
go down unless you eat or drink something. They go down faster if you're doing something that burns stamina (like running). They go down faster if you're too hot or too cold (which is usually only an issue in biomes like desert or snow when you're not properly dressed). They can also go down faster with certain health effects (like getting dysentery -- I'll talk about these effects in a second). Run out of food or water and you will die. (Pay attention to the status bars; in real-life survival situations, regularly getting water is more important than food, but in-game, they both matter.) (Pro tip
: Food and drinks you can make yourself are better in many ways than canned goods or basic crops.) Health
is just like in any other video game. It goes down when you get hit, or fall, or step on pointy things like spikes or cacti. Run out of health and you die. Eating food, using certain medical supplies, or just waiting will cause health to go back up. Again, certain health effects may nerf your health bar. Stamina
shows when you're tired. If you run out of stamina, then you can't swing weapons or tools, run, jump, or do other elements of an active post-apocalyptic lifestyle. The good news is that your stamina comes back faster than health while waiting. Drinking improves stamina recovery, and eating gives a temporary boost to maximum stamina. The bad news is that you will be using stamina constantly as you go about your day. (Pro tip
: Check out the various beverages in the game to find stamina benefits -- particularly red tea and coffee, also known as the mining combo.)
Alpha 19 has a variety of different health effects
that can hamper your food and water consumption, your health/stamina recovery, your maximum health/stamina, your speed, or your ability to use tools. Dysentry comes from eating rotting flesh or drinking unboiled water. Don't do that if at all possible. (Pro tip
: You can eat animal fat and snowberries -- or yucca fruit in the desert biome -- if you run out of food in the first couple of days.) Other de-buffs come from injuries. The good news is that if you click on the icon showing the effect, it will bring up your character with info on exactly what you need to mitigate the effect, e.g., put on a splint or a cast to speed healing from a broken leg. Two particular health effects worth calling out are bleeding and infection. If you're bleeding, your screen will flash and your health will keep dropping. Use a bandage, medicated bandage, or medkit to stop it. ANYBODY can make bandages from cloth, so keep some with you. Infection refers not to gangrene, but to the dreaded zombie infection...a disease so horrifying that it helped usher in the fall of civilization. The ONLY way to cure this dangerous disease is...to eat some honey or take an over-the-counter antibiotic. Really, infection should only ever be a serious issue in the first week. (Pro tip
: using an ax on tree stumps has a random chance to drop honey.) Encumbrance
: You have a fixed number of inventory slots. You will note that three rows are clear at the start of the game, while the final two rows are not. Those extra rows represent encumbrance, and filling them up will significantly slow you down and increase your stamina usage. Try to avoid that outside of cleared or safe areas. You can increase the number of non-encumbered slots with clothing and armor mods, or through the Pack Mule perk. I recommend finding or making pocket mods ASAP and skipping the perk, though a single level in the early game can make things easier for newbies. (Pro tip
: Some items, like most raw materials, food, drinks, medicines, etc., stack in inventory; some items like clothing, mods, and weapons do not. Smart inventory management when looting and salvaging will keep that in mind: do I really want to pick up that pair of shoes, or hold onto that dirty water that will stack if I find more?)
All right, now that the basics are out of the way, how do I get better at surviving? The answer to that is two-fold. 1) Learn how to do more things. 2) Get better stuff. How do you learn more things?
You get experience points (xp) from almost everything in this game. Eventually, when your xp bar fills, you will gain a level and get a perk point. You can use that to select perks, which all have various benefits. At the start, you will get a series of basic quests that serve as a mini-tutorial, and you will gain 4 perk points from finishing them (make sure you complete them!). (Pro tip
: Upgrading blocks, e.g., turning flagstone walls into brick walls, is an exceedingly generous way of earning xp in Alpha 19; using a hammer on a block will tell you what material is needed to upgrade it.) Which perks should I pick first?
Well...as a newbie, I recommend Lucky Looter (which improves your chance of finding good stuff), either Pummel Pete or Skull Crusher (depending on whether you want to use clubs or sledges), Sexual Tyrannosaurus (which improves your stamina usage), and something from the Fortitude recovery perks. Healing faster, using less food, or running away are all useful. Ask a different player and you will get wildly different suggestions. Eventually, you will figure out your preferred style of play and pick things accordingly. Note that perks tend to be useful to different degrees based on whether you are in early, mid, or late game.
The other way to learn stuff is to find skill books and schematics. Schematics let you craft new things. Skill books give you a free perk, basically. Collect all seven of a type to get a bonus perk. Some of those are quite useful. Some of them are very circumstance-specific. Regardless, reading an unread book or schematic at least nets you bonus xp. You can tell that you've read a book by the tiny book icon (it will be open if read already). Even if you've read it, you can keep it and sell it for some cash. (Pro tip
: Technically, schematics and books stack in inventory; in practice, finding multiple copies of the same one in a single POI is relatively rare.) How do I get better stuff?
There are three ways to do that: 1) Loot it; 2) Make it; 3) Buy it. Looting
: There are many objects that serve as containers in the game. Some objects, like cars, may or may not be a container. Just get close. If you get the option to search it, then it is a container. Not every container will have stuff. Searching containers takes time and makes noise. Locked containers need to be disassembled or have the lock picked in order to open them. Alpha 19 changed looting to be highly level- and time-dependent. You will not get top-tier loot in the early game. Even if you somehow fight your way to the roof of the Shotgun Messiah weapons plant on Day 1, you are likely to find stone spears and maybe a blunderbuss. (Pro tip
: a pair of lucky goggles will increase your chance of finding better loot when opening a container for the first time.) Crafting
: If you know how to build something, and you have the necessary ingredients, and you have access to the correct work area, then you can create something from scratch. Perks and schematics will tell you how to build stuff, though there are a handful of things you can build right at the start (like you saw in your tutorial quests). Ingredients can be looted, or you can salvage them by destroying items. See the next paragraph for more on this. Lastly, some items require you to be at a workbench, chemistry station, campfire, or forge to create (there will be an icon next to the item in the build list telling you which). You can build all of these work areas if you know how, buy them from traders, or use ones you find scattered around the world. Traders have one of each, though they probably won't all be functional (but the broken ones can be looted, at least). Caveat: In Alpha 19, you can build up to level 5 gear (higher level gear is usually better and has more slots for mods), but level 6 gear can be found or purchased. Level 6 gear is typically better than anything you can build of the same type. Salvage
: Getting raw materials can be done in a number of ways. Use tools (axes, picks, wrenches, shovels) to extract things from blocks in the world. This is mostly fairly intuitive -- shovels work best on dirt, cement, etc., while axes are good on wooden items like tables and trees. Tools have different levels and can be modded to improve their abilities. Pay attention to the "block damage" stat of the tool to compare them. Some blocks are better sources than others. You can find mineral nodes scattered around that provide you with coal, iron, nitrate, oil shale, or lead, and those are excellent sources (Pro tip
: the nodes are just the tip of the mineral iceberg; you can dig down to extract more ore.)
Another way to get raw materials is to use the scrap command
in inventory (personally, I found the hotkey for this a little too easy to hit accidentally, so I remapped it). This includes most useful items of gear, as well as certain decorative items like faucets and chairs that you can pick up. Note that many metal items can be put in the forge to smelt them down
for more resources than you get using the scrap command, including iron tools. (Pro-tip
: Smelting radiators that you get from disassembling cars, heating radiators, and AC units is a great source of brass for crafting ammo; you can also smelt Dukes...but you're usually better off using them to buy ammo from a merchant.) Buying
: Merchants are scattered over the map. Setting up a base near one is a good idea. The post-apocalyptic currency in this game is the Duke, a brass coin that looks like a casino chip. (There are no bottle caps in this game!) If you don't have any money, then you can instead trade your labor for payment. Complete a quest and you'll get cash, xp, and a free prize of some kind (you get a choice -- ammo, meds, gear, etc.). Quests boil down to: retrieve a package, kill some zombies, kill some zombies AND retrieve a package, or dig up and retrieve a package. In the early game, in particular, quests can be very lucrative. (Pro tip
: The Daring Adventurer perk can improve the rewards you get from quests if you decide you want to focus on that aspect of the game.) Merchants sell all sorts of things: food, raw materials, weapons, armor, vehicles, skill books, schematics. Their inventory resets daily-ish, so pop back on a regular basis. Cheesy pro-tip
: When you trigger a quest location, the POI will refresh to an "unexplored" state. This automatically refills all of the loot, etc., as well as repopulating the zombies. You can clear the location, then trigger the quest and clear it again for double the rewards. Just don't leave any loot inside a container that will refresh. What about combat?
Why haven't you really mentioned the z-word yet? Well, honestly, you'll probably spend a lot more time salvaging and looting than fighting (with the exception of Blood Moon horde nights, which I'll talk about below). Most zombies in the early game are slow and fairly easy to avoid. If you can avoid getting mobbed, then you will probably be all right.
Animals, however, will mess you up. You will quickly start yawning when you see a single stumbling housewife zombie, but a wolf will continue to be a threat well into the mid-game. Zombie animals are also a threat. Zombie dogs are fairly easy to kill but come in packs of 3-7. Zombie bears will soak up more damage than you can easily dish out in the early game. Zombie vultures are hard to hit and are really good and causing lacerations and bleeding. I've gotten infected by zombie animals far more commonly than I have from human zombies. Zombie dogs, coyotes, wild cats, and wolves
: running works until you run out of stamina, and then you're dead. The best bet in the early game is to find someplace high they can't reach and snipe them if you have enough arrows or ammo. These animals can and will sneak up on you. The good news is that they will make random noises that will let you know they're in the area. Snakes
: I've seen these in the desert and wasteland biomes. Good eatin', but they are quiet and can attack without warning. Luckily, they die easily. Wild pigs
: Don't bother them. Seriously, just leave them alone until you have good guns. Bears and zombie bears
: The good news is that they won't chase you as easily as some other animals. They are also not as fast and you can outrun them. The bad news is that if you get cornered, they can take and dish out huge amounts of damage. Zombie vultures
: These will attack you if you're injured, or are riding a vehicle. Shotguns are the easiest way to deal with them. Hitting them with melee weapons is an irritating chore that often ends with negative health effects. Possibly the most annoying creature in the game. Deer, rabbits, and chickens
: They don't attack, but run if attacked. They can be a good source of meat. (Pro tip
: you can get quests from slips of paper you find in loot; the ones asking you to do things like, "kill a bunch of rabbits by throwing cans of Sham at them," are never worth it unless you're desperate to try something new.)
As the game advances, and as you explore some of the larger points of interest (POI), you will run across more dangerous zombies. Feral zombies have glowing eyes and always move at a full run. Crawlers will jump around like demented jackrabbits. Glowing versions of zombies regenerate health. A good rule of thumb is that if something is different about a zombie, it probably is more dangerous. (Pro tip
: Quite a few POI's have alert triggers that will cause a bunch of nearby zombies to wake up at once, and stealth doesn't avoid tripping them; best to always have a clear avenue of retreat when entering a new location.) Weapon selection
: As said earlier, clubs and sledgehammers are your basic melee option. Either works well for the early game or to save ammo or hit quietly in the later game. Spears, axes, and knives/machetes can also be used, but they require more practice and really NEED perks to be fully optimized. Note that knives and axes are mostly meant to be tools. Stun batons require another source of damage, either turrets or other players, to be effective, and are also perk/mod-dependent.
Bows can easily kill basic zombies quietly with a headshot. Use the best bow or crossbow and the best ammunition that you can. Do away with stone arrows/bolts as soon as you can find or build the iron versions. You'll need to decide for yourself if you want to keep using bows once guns are available. I like them, but your mileage may vary. (Pro tip
: There is a skill book that allows you to craft flaming and explosive arrows; sadly, there is no way to ride around in a Dodge Charger, shooting exploding arrows out the window while Dixie plays from the car horn.)
Guns are easily the best option in the game...and while perks can make them more effective, they aren't necessary. Don't hesitate to pull out a shotgun just because you put all your perk points into pistols if you run out of 9mm ammo. There is a fair amount of ammo in this game, and you can make more...but I always keep a club or sledge with me just in case. Having a gun makes exploring the harsher biomes a lot easier. The trade-offs for gun selection are pretty in line with any other game that has guns. Some burn ammo quickly. Some have low ammunition capacity. Some are better at long range. (Pro tip
: having several loaded blunderbusses or double-barreled shotguns in your tool belt can provide an early-game rapid-fire option for dealing with tougher opponents.) Weapon perks and skill books
: Each type of weapon has an associated perk, and an associated skill book set. Maxing out both can make a fairly sizeable difference, and can have some unexpected other benefits. For example, one of the skill books gives you a 10% barter bonus if you happen to be holding a .357 while trading. Blood Moon Horde Nights
: Every 7 days (by default), the sky will turn red. When night falls (hour 22 by default), a horde will spawn near the player. Every zombie in that horde will magically know exactly where you are and will rush at you to eat your delicious flesh.
The devs of the game have made it clear that they want you to FIGHT the zombies, and have gone well out of their way to make turtling behind defenses less viable. Zombies will break down walls -- even ones made of brick and concrete. They will dig to reach you. They jump on top of each other to climb to get you (like in the Brad Pitt zombie flick). As the game progresses, zombies will appear that are capable of spitting acid, or that act as suicide bombers (can you call it suicide bombing if they're already dead?). (Pro tip
: Bomb zombies, also known as Demolishers, can be taken down by head or leg shots; shooting them in the chest is a bad idea, despite the fact that shooting the glowing spot is normally the best move in a video game.)
Having said that, building defenses and traps can be very effective at delaying or channeling zombies, and can effectively thin the horde. There are pretty much two approaches people use to deal with a horde night.
- Find a POI that prevents the zombies from reaching you and then wait out the attack. Anyplace high with enough metal or stone to last for a while will work. Large stores, fire departments, skyscrapers, water towers, etc., can all work, though the smaller the location, the more quickly it will fall to the zombies eventually.
- Build a fortress. This is usually a setup that includes auto-turrets, traps, spikes, and walls made of brick or concrete. Often, they're set up to lead zombies into a killing zone where you can shoot or bomb them into bits. There are many YouTube videos on different approaches, and they range from lore-friendly to extremely cheesy exploitations of the AI or physics engine.
Note that these two are not mutually exclusive. It's pretty common to use POI's at first and then try building your own, or to move back to POI's if your attempt at a custom fortress is less effective than you had hoped. (Pro-tip
: Don't use your home base for horde nights...at least until you've got a LOT of experience fortifying against horde nights.) Creating a home base
: Every survivor needs a place to keep their stuff. Just like with a horde base, you can either re-purpose a POI or build your own from scratch.
If you use a POI, then make sure you put down your bedroll. That will keep sleeping zombies from respawning in the area. If you want to use a bedroll as a way of regularly resetting your spawn point, then you're probably better off building your own base. That said, a good POI to use as a base has height. Using a forge on the first floor is a good way to attract random zombies. It's also good to find someplace with brick or concrete walls, as they'll last longer against wandering foes. Also, keep in mind that you'll be going in and out a lot, so you don't want it to be too hard to get in and out. (Pro tip
: lone zombies can't jump to ladders that are two blocks off the ground, but you can; this doesn't work so well with hordes, as they climb over each other.)
By default, zombies are faster at night, so early game nights are a good time to huddle up in a base and craft things. When you run out of things to craft, READ the descriptions of your perks, skill books, and the built-in journal entries. You'll be surprised how much information is buried in there. You can also take the time to look at the map and plan out the next day's activity. (Pro tip
: Find a cluster of close-together POI's on the map, and put a chest or storage box in the middle to serve as a temporary loot repository; inventory item stacking means that having a collection point can mean many fewer trips back to your base with the fruits of your effort.) Vehicles
: Maps in this game are fairly large. The solution to moving about to different biomes (which have different resources and different POI's) is to make or buy a vehicle. Anybody can assemble vehicles if they have the right parts, but some of the parts are locked behind perks/schematics. Taking the first-level vehicle perk can be useful, as the bicycle isn't a bad starting vehicle and the perk unlocks wheels, which every other vehicle needs. (Pro-tip
: the easiest way to get gas when out-and-about is to salvage the many derelict cars.) Zombies and wildlife are pretty harmless if you can speed past them...with the exception of vultures, which can be annoying enough to make you stop your motorcycle just to shotgun them out of the sky. Mods
: There are tons of clothing, weapon, and armor mods in the game. Read the descriptions, as they can have a huge impact on effectiveness. (Alpha 19 has no vehicle mods, despite the fact that vehicles have mod slots.) If you open an item for modding, then any mods in your inventory that can be used for that item will start flashing, making it easy to see which mods go with that item. (Pro tip
: There is a boot mod that reduces falling damage that is worth its weight in gold. Not only is it really easy to fall in some POI's, but the de-buff from spraining or breaking a leg when zombies are about can be utterly lethal.) Power tools
: Power tools are very powerful. Augers and chainsaws harvest materials very rapidly. They also use gas and make a ton of noise. They tend to quickly attract screamers, which are zombies that scream until other zombies show up to find out what all the fuss is about. Kill them quickly to avoid hordes interrupting your mining. (Pro tip
: The physics engine of the game means that mine collapses are a thing, and they can be deadly; shoring up the ceiling with wood blocks can help prevent this, but augers can mine so quickly that you can lose track of how deeply you've gone beyond your supports.) The annoying pinging noise made by augers is an Alpha 19 addition that was generally disliked by everyone. Repairing items
: Many items like tools, weapons, and armor will degrade over time. Weapons and tools will let you know they need repair...typically when you need them the most. Armor never notifies you. It just stops working. Check your item status bars to figure out when to repair them. Simple tools and weapons can be fixed with wood and stone. More sophisticated items require repair kits. In Alpha 19, repair kits are a generic fix-all for any advanced item, which greatly simplifies things. They can be crafted with forged iron and duct tape. (Pro tip
: forged iron can be made in any forge, but you can also salvage them from disassembling weight sets, desk and gun safes, and NON-FUNCTIONAL vending machines; salvaging them can be tedious in the early game but can be worth it to keep your precious firearms and armor functioning.) Farming
: You will find seeds, or you can take a perk or find a schematic to craft seeds. It takes five cobs of corn to create one corn seed, which is odd given that the whole grain is basically made of seeds...but chalk it up to game-play balancing. To plant a seed, you need a farm plot (except for mushrooms, which can grow on any surface), which you can craft with wood, rotting flesh, clay, and nitrate. Once planted, it will grow in three stages. Harvest it at stage 3 by punching the plant, and it will revert to stage 1 and deposit the appropriate food item into your inventory. If you accidentally harvest the seed, just replant it. If you want to get physically fit, do a push up in the real world every time you accidentally punch the ground or the air instead of your crop. (Pro tip
: Don't harvest with a mostly full inventory, as if your tool belt slot is the last open spot, the crop will go there, and your next attempted punch will instead eat the last one you harvested.) Electricity
: Fire attracts zombies like moths. Using electric lights is a convenient way to avoid that, as zombies are Luddites and don't care for the products of industry. The most convenient way to light up your home base is with lanterns, but you need to find a certain skill book to make them. The good news is that their batteries never need recharging. You can also get flashlights, or mods that attach lights to your helmet or your weapon (press F to pay your respects...er, sorry, to turn on your light). You can also craft a variety of stand-alone electric lights, but that requires a separate energy source.
Energy sources come in three varieties. Battery packs hold up to six car batteries and drain the batteries over time. You can recharge the pack by connecting it to a different energy source. Generator banks hold up to six engines (recoverable from many derelict vehicles, among other sources) that burn gasoline to provide power. Solar banks contain solar cells and generate power as long as they are in sunlight. They also cannot be crafted and are as expensive as hell. (Pro-tip
: Higher-level batteries last longer; use level 1 and 2 batteries to craft vehicles, sell, or smelt for lead, and keep the better ones for the battery banks.)
Use wiring tools to connect energy sources to energy consumers. There are some slightly wonky rules to how you can connect, but it isn't hard to learn with a little trial and error. Wiring doesn't cost you anything, so experiment freely. You can put various switches between the consumer and the source: toggle switches, pressure plates, and motion sensors being the most common, though there are other options. Switches require power, but less power than an active consumer. This allows you to, for example, conserve power in the daytime by turning off active defenses and lights so you don't waste battery charge or gasoline. (Pro tip
: a solar bank charging a full battery bank will provide quiet, continuous power, at which point you can feel free to light up your place like a Vegas casino 24/7.) Stealth
: Some players will tell you stealth is impossible in this game. That is not true. What is true is that some situations negate stealth, most particularly Blood Moon hordes. Just tell yourself that the red moon makes their senses so acute that they can smell a living human from a mile away -- if you can't rationalize it away as a game balance issue. Some POI's also have event triggers that are based on your location rather than how stealthy you are being. Chalk that up to dramatic license. This is a game where zombies are real and I can carry a motorcycle in my boot. Get over it.
There are some things you need to know about stealth, though, to do it effectively. Your stealth rating is a combination of noise and visibility. Clomping around in heavy armor, waving a torch or flaming club around, or using a flashlight will make you easy to notice. Firing a gun, whacking a wrench against a metal appliance, or jumping up and down on a pile of trash will also make you easy to notice. That means using light armor, using a bow or melee weapon, and crouching are all ways to avoid being seen.
There are a number of skill books, perks, armor and weapon mods, and craftable gear that can all make you more stealthy. With diligence, you can walk up behind a sleeping zombie, smack him in the head with a sledgehammer, and not disturb the other one right next to him. Will this make the game much easier? I would argue no. It certainly makes some specific situations much easier. Clearing out a mini-horde in a POI with a bow before they wake up can be much less stressful, certainly. The lack of universal effectiveness definitely makes it a playstyle choice, however, rather than an over-powered build to avoid if you want a challenge. (Pro-tip
: Stealth is never a 100% guarantee, which is why you always carry stacks of wood; wood is incredibly flexible, as it lets you drop cheap spike traps in narrow passages, climb up easily to places zombies cannot reach, make bridges across open gaps, craft doors to seal off openings that foes have to make noise to get through but that you can open easily, etc.)
That's about it. The most important pro tip is this: this is an open-world game where the only thing that matters is that you have fun playing it. It doesn't matter if you want to do single-player, or multi-player, or if you like crafting more than combat, or prefer spears over guns. You bought the game. Do what you like, as that is really the only goal.