I’ve mentioned before that I’m into survival games with a goal past staying alive, because if surviving is the only goal, what’s the point in living at all (he says, with a firm glare at the Tory party)? Grounded has its main quest and Minecraft has the Ender Dragon, for example, which gives you something to work towards past simply keeping your heart beating. 7 Days to Die is the biggest counterpoint to that, with its routine weekly horde attacks delivering moreish gameplay that keeps me playing way past my bedtime.
With just seven days until a horde of ferocious zombies attacks, your goal really is survival. Survival isn’t as simple as just meeting needs, though. It’s actual survival, an escape from almost certain death that comes with a horde on the horizon. The enemies aren’t just blocking your route to progression, popping up near piles of goodies to give you a challenge. They’re coming regardless and will ensure that nowhere feels safe. Boarding up a house? They’ll storm right through. Building a base on stilts so that they can’t climb up? They’ll knock those stilts down, causing the physics system to send your base crashing to the ground.
That means you don’t have time to settle down, grow some crops, and start automating production. You need to craft weapons, build defences, and find novel ways to slow the assault so that you can survive the night. If you make it through, then the doomsday clock begins again, ticking towards something even worse. The increasing difficulty of each horde breaks away any tedium that the loop might otherwise carry.
7 Days to Die doesn’t tear up the rulebook entirely. Most of its systems feel similar to any other open world survival game, with the steady rhythm of chopping trees and foraging plants to make new gear marking out the first few days. But in ripping out a couple of pages and presenting an obstacle that you can’t avoid, it changes the pace significantly. You’re forced to play faster, settling in random ruins that don’t feel like home. It takes away the luxury of time, creating a survival experience that’s both familiar and unique.