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A Thorough Breakdown of A17


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Heads Up: This post is going to pretty long. As in - I need to separate it into three posts. (I'm probably not the best at giving concise info). A17 brings a lot of changes and additions, and so there's a lot to examine. I'll be trying to look at most of the major systems that were changed in this update - and other general gameplay elements that currently exist, even if they weren't specifically changed - and see how they affect the overall experience, for better or worse.


There will be a summary at the end.


Some background info so you know where my experience comes from (don't take this as an invitation to use the "you don't have 10,000 hours so you can't have an opinion" argument).

  • I have played Alpha 16 for 100+ hours, both unmodded and modded. (You won't see this playtime on my main account; don't ask why :distracted: )
  • I have played Alpha 17 for ~50 hours, both modded and unmodded.
  • My entire experience with the game is in singleplayer.


In the rest of this post I'll be looking at most aspects I can think of, starting from major to minor, and if they were [+]improvements, [=]sidegrades, or [-]downgrades - as well as why they are those things and what my own thoughts are. I'll try to avoid anything that clearly isn't intended to the experience, meaning things like bugs or minor errors. I'm mostly trying to give an opinion on things that are intentionally designed or part of the game's structure. There's no particular order to this - but to start...




I'm tying these two together because for me, they seem fairly related. I don't have too much to say here, but one thing is important to bring up.



[+]Many textures have sharper details.

[+]Lighting has definitely improved.

[++]It's now humanly possible to track a rabbit in the grass.


This is my favorite thing. Revenge. Is. Sweet.



[---]Performance has dropped by a huge margin.


GPU usage has spiked tremendously between A16 and A17. Previously I could run the game at medium settings and native resolution and still have stable 60+ FPS, even in large environments. Now in order to reach 60 FPS stable in the middle of nowhere, I have to play at a significantly lower resolution (native resolution with everything at lowest still has big FPS issues) with most options turned down to lowest/low. As such, despite all the graphical improvements, the game ends up looking considerably worse.


This isn't a gamebreaking problem
for me personally,
but I imagine this performance drop will ruin the game for many and turn the game unplayable for others. Low/Unstable FPS in 7DTD also does much more than just make the game unpleasant to look at as well - see
for more on that.



Conclusion: [+/-]


If your system can handle it, you'll enjoy the graphical improvements. If you can't, you'll have to choose to suffer with low framerates, or a small window/blurry graphics. You might not be able to play it at all, depending. If the performance drop wasn't so significant I wouldn't mark the game down for it, and maybe this'll be optimized more in the future - but for now it's too big to ignore.


"Integrated Survival System"


AKA: ISS. This is the new system that replaces the Wellness mechanic. Hunger now determines your max stamina capacity, while thirst determines your HP/Stamina recovery rate. Injuries may now also reduce your max HP. "Damaged" Stamina/HP bars can be restored via medical items, food, and drinks.



[+++]Survival is key. Neglecting your health has consequences.


Previously it really only mattered if you were above 0% in any category. The worse thing you would suffer is having to listen to your character's audible complaints when they were hungry/thirsty - which would attract zombies. All that still happens ofc, but now you really feel the effects of neglecting your character's status. This is a very nice change in direction.





Ironically, the survival system doesn't feel very well integrated into the game. What starts as an interesting thought quickly turns into a chore while playing. Stamina is an incredibly crucial part of the game, more so than ever. It drains incredibly quickly, skill points are so limited that you can hardly afford to spend them on lowering the drain rate (more on that later), and now you have to maintain your hunger/thirst meters to avoid penalties.


In A17 the moment either your hunger or thirst drops below 100% - you are being penalized. For each % you are missing in hunger, your stamina cap is lowered by 1 point. For thirst, your recovery rate is lowered. This necessitates bringing food and water on every journey otherwise you will suffer increasingly annoying penalties. Though technically you're already being penalized by having to carry more items with you at all times, seeing as you now also have to deal with the encumbrance system.


The only saving grace is that with B208 you are now able to "overeat a little" once more. This doesn't seem to affect thirst however, the far more important stat to maintain, and since it's not specified how much "a little" actually is, nor can you see how close you are to dropping below 100% again, you aren't able to plan around it.



Conclusion: [=]


It's almost an improvement? But in the end it's really just a sidegrade that's sitting close to the edge of being a downgrade. In fact I don't see many people actually enjoying it either way - and I wouldn't expect them to. It's hard to enjoy a system that has you constantly babysitting your character.


The penalties need to be delayed until you are at least below 80% in either food/water. It's obnoxious to play a survival game which penalizes you for not being in absolute perfect condition. Overfilling in food/water I think should also exist as buffs for high quality foods like meat stew. Otherwise, why use them? You have to be near half-stamina to get the full value out of them, which I doubt many people would choose to do.




There have been a number of changes to the NPCs in the game. Some have new functionality, others new purpose - etc. A number of various things to look at here.



[+++]More animals.


Hearing that zombies could no longer be harvested had me very worried coming into A17. Thankfully, the animal spawns rates have been increased by quite a lot. Animals are now rather common, whereas in A16 I was left wondering a lot of the time if my game was bugged because there were so few of them.


[++]Enemy AI has been improved a lot.


Not so much zig-zagging anymore - though there is still a bit of that. It's quite a bit harder to cheese them during the blood moon though, which was definitely needed.


[+]Trader quests.

[+]More enemy functions; spider zombies will leap onto your base.





And I thought these things were annoying in A16. Now they're even worse. They'll stalk you over long distances. If you look at them, they'll fly higher so you can't hit them unless you use a gun. If you look away for too long, they'll rush you and immediately start pecking your scalp off. By the time you hear their wings flapping, you only have a second or two to react to them.


There's also sleeper versions of these, as well as wandering hordes, and apparently some vultures will puke. They might not be "overpowered", but they are very annoying to deal with. They feel cheap and uninteresting.


[--]The loot rework has derived the sense of individuality from zombies.


So, loot is now at a 2% drop rate according to some sources. When loot does drop, it doesn't matter from whom - you'll just get some generic gear. Which isn't even guaranteed to be good, despite being a 1/50 chance. In my most recent playthrough, I've gotten 5 bags of loot - and the best thing I got was a nearly broken handgun from just
of them.


I do like the idea of there being less drops from zombies. But the direction it's being taken is pretty bad. Zombies no longer have any unique characteristics about them. They're just worth more/less XP and have more/less HP.


Getting money/suits from businessmen, and medical items from nurses, made them feel unique and fit their character. Getting a rocket launcher and ammo from some random crawler in the desert really breaks the immersion and really just feels dumb. Or you can be like me and get a candlestick and some water from a zombie - the same exact kind of crap you'd get in A16. Extremely rare junk is still junk.


Also - I don't know if lowering the amount of loot from zombies was supposed to make you seek them out less, but if it was, then they shouldn't have made it so difficult to level up. Running around killing zombies is the fastest, and really the only efficient way of leveling. Since leveling is so slow and necessary, you're going to be seeking them out more than ever.



Conclusion: [+]


A17 improves a lot of the enemy functions, which is the most important thing. Unfortunately it also removed most of the charm in the process. Nothing that can't be changed - either officially or through mods, but still.

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This is definitely the biggest section on this list. This is a really crucial part of the update in my opinion since it has been overhauled in such a major way - and it really impacts every gameplay aspect.



[++]Specializations feel more defined.


What you invest into has tangible effect, and everything feels like it serves a different purpose.


[++]Leveling is simplified.


All level-based progression has been narrowed down into 5 core attributes with various perks tied to each. Through this, the skills page is now much more tidy and straightforward.


[+]More vehicle progression.



[---]The system is not balanced for solo play.


It's pretty clear that TFP wants you to "specalize" in certain abilities with this system. You don't have enough skill points to invest into everything - in fact you don't have enough skill points to invest into more than 2 skill trees. It's a neat idea and I'm sure it works for multiplayer. However, it does
work for singleplayer.


It's pretty obvious how you would work with this concept in a group. You can't specialize in everything yourself, so you'd just specialize in one thing, while everyone else specializes in something different. An example would be something like:

  • Player 1 specializing in Intelligence, to get good deals from traders and crafting absolutely vital items for the rest of the team.

  • Player 2 specializing in Strength, to smash and gather things faster, and keep bigger groups of zombies away from the rest of the team.

  • Player 3 specializing in Perception, so they get the best/most loot from scavenging, and also so they can silently and easily sweep POIs of threats.

Etc. etc.


A solo player however doesn't have this kind of luxury. They have to do everything themselves. If they don't invest in something - they'll never get it. My first thought trying to work with this was "How can I narrow my options? What don't I need?" And, well...

If you don't invest in Intelligence, you literally never progress the game. You won't even be able to make iron tools, let alone guns, ammo, armor, vehicles, etc. There are no recipies in the game anymore. If you want to craft something, you HAVE to gain it through leveling. Not to mention you'll get abysmal prices from traders without this tree.


If you don't invest into Strength, you'll spend an eternity grinding resources because you earn very little, lose a ton of stamina, and you'll be constantly dealing with the obnoxious encumbrance system. Not to mention you won't be able to handle any significant zombie threat with melee weapons.


If you don't invest into Perception, ranged weapons will be absolutely worthless, and ranged weapons are the only thing you can rely on for feral zombies and blood moon hordes.


If you don't invest in Fortitude, then... Well, actually, you can live without this stat so long as you don't get hit very often. Still a lot of very good things in this tree but you won't suffer if you don't have them.


If you don't invest into Agility then you'll be constantly running out of breath just traveling around, and your sneak damage won't be high enough to take out ferals with ranged weapons once they start appearing in POIs - which puts you incredibly risky situations.


Basically what this means is, it doesn't really matter what you choose if you're alone. There are too many bases to cover. Intelligence is mandatory - and you can only pick one other thing. If you try to cover more than two bases then you'll only, at best, be good at everything. Which is to say you will be great at absolutely nothing.


But regardless of what you do - picking only the absolutely essential and necessary skills, or slowing your progression on those to get some "convenience" abilities like extra stamina - it doesn't matter. No matter how you "specialize" your character, you'll always be miserable.


[--]Stone tools until Level 20.


...I mean... Why? So if I go over to a trader who has a working forge and cement mixer, I can make my base out of reinforced concrete surrounded with metal spikes regardless of my level - but until I grind 200+ zombies (generous estimate btw) I have to run around with sticks and stones?


I get it - you can buy or earn better tools without crafting them, through scavenging and quests. But that's unreliable and too dependent on RNG for something as simple as getting tools so you can gather faster. They want you to be in the early game longer as that's part of the "challenge". My problem is the "challenge" isn't fun or challenging. It's just making the game slower and more tedious.


Hitting trees and rocks isn't the fun part of the game. It may be necessary to the genre but it's unbearable with stone tools. Forcing people to grind so they can get to iron tools, just so they can build a base in relatively decent time - or forcing them to do so with just stone tools, is a terrible idea, and frankly feels like a cheap and artifical way of extending the "early game".


[--]Items don't improve with quality.


And I mean, they don't
improve. They get better durability so you don't have to repair them as often, and more slots for mods - but they don't do any more damage, block less damage, use any less stamina, or shoot any farther or anything.


If you want your equipment to do more, then you need item mods. These can only be found in the world, and they are often found as schematics. Schematics, unlike blueprints, cannot be learned permanently: Instead you keep it in your inventory, and if you have a high level of intelligence as well as some materials which are likely very pricey, you can craft it. Once. Then the schematic is consumed.


This makes the sense of progression really lacking. It takes a long time to be able to craft better tools. But the effect is barely noticeable on it's own. And what you need to get in order to have a tangible improvement is a hassle. In A16 crafting new gear felt like reaching a milestone because you'd reach new breakpoints for damage to enemies and blocks. Here it's just kind of tedious.


[-]No new weapons


Paired with weapons no longer scaling in damage via quality and weapon mods being uncommon, not having any new weapons added leaves an even bigger hole in the sense of progression. A whole skill section devoted to "heavy melee weapons" and we're still stuck with only an iron sledgehammer. Why isn't there a steel version?



Conclusion: [--]


This is rough. There's a good direction here but the delivery is just not there. I'm sure it works well in multiplayer but in singleplayer, the way this was tuned made everything miserable. I stopped after the first blood moon because I was so burnt out having to farm zombies, then materials, just so I could survive the blood moon - then go STRAIGHT back to farming.


This seems like a really bad baseline experience. It's a core part of the game which affects everything you do, and I can't see who this system is supposed to appeal to other than group/hardcore players. It's like offline/solo players were just excluded from the design process.


Quick list of potential improvements:


  • Bonus skillpoints every 10 levels. i.g. 5 skillpoints rewarded at level 10, 20, 30, etc. This is mainly for singleplayer and could be limited to that - but it would open up some options to do a little more than just specialize in very specific things for people playing alone - which is something that's really needed.
  • Scrap iron tools as an in-between for stone and iron tools, so players don't have to deal so much with the grind aspect that plagues the early game.
  • Bring back quality-level improvements to weapons or add in low-level mods which are easy to obtain, so that you always feel like you're steadily progressing.
  • More weapons to add diversity to the current arsenal and also to add new milestones in terms of progression.
  • Maybe a proficiency system? Similar to A16 where you would level up your "skill" with different weapon types by just using them, only it's just a passive bonus. Something that will add to the sense of progression with the weapons you're using and maybe make certain things less skillpoint dependant - such as ranged weapons are currently.

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