As DayZ slowly winds its way through alpha, we're finally beginning to see more updates to the early access zombie survival game, with new items and features being regularly added. Mechanics for hunting, fishing, crafting, and cooking mean there are now new ways to thrive and survive in the post-apocalyptic landscape of Chernarus besides simply scrounging around in buildings for canned food or shooting and looting other players.
I thought I'd try surviving by relying exclusively on these new tools. Instead of guns, I'd try to use a crossbow to take down some deer. Instead of peeling open canned tuna I'd try to pluck fish from ponds. No more cold beans: I'd cook my food over a roaring fire or gas-powered stove. A quiet little camping trip: that's all I wanted. Robbery, murder, betrayal, and bad luck: that's what DayZ gave me instead.
Part one: the gear
I could run straight out into the woods and survive simply by picking apples and berries (now available from certain trees and bushes) and by drinking water from ponds, but if I want to hunt, fish, and cook, I'm going to need gear, and quite a bit of it. That means my woodland adventure needs to begin by raiding a few small towns and buildings, and with that comes facing the mild threat of zombies and as well as DayZ's true danger: other players.
I pick a high population server (I don't want this to be too easy) and fresh-spawn near the revised Northeast Airfield, which has been recently transformed from a military installation into a civilian airstrip with a few industrial buildings and a control tower. Luck is with me: it's both empty of players and appears to be un-looted. I make off with some great outdoor gear: a crossbow (though no arrows), a couple of water bottles (which I can refill from ponds and even from falling rain), a portable gas lamp (which needs a gas canister), and an bulky orange mountain backpack to hold it all.
I don't dawdle: despite the changes to the NEAF, it's still a highly-trafficked area and if there aren't players here currently, they're definitely on their way. I head into the trees to the northwest, aiming for the northern road that will lead me all the way across the map. Along the way, I come across something I've never seen before: what appears to be a half-finished gas station in a clearing in the woods. It's weird, but I'm glad I found it, because in the trunk of an abandoned car I find one of the game's more elusive items: a fishing lure.
I reach the north road and run west for a good twenty minutes, looting the series of scattered barns, sheds, and garages as I go. I find a farming hoe and use it to dig up earthworms for bait. In another garage I find a rope, and further on I find an axe. I use the axe to cut down an Ashwood tree, which gives me a pole. I tie the rope to the pole, and I've got an improvised fishing rod (you can also craft a longbow from the same materials), then combine a worm with my lure and attach it to the pole. Bingo! I'm ready to fish.
One small wrinkle: I'm now in the northwest corner of the map, which has a distinct lack of ponds (and a distinct lack of everything else: even the tiny town that used to exist out here has been removed, leaving only a solitary water pump). The only pond I can think of is west of Vybor, south of here. Vybor has grown busier recently: with military weapons becoming more rare and player spawn-points spreading further inland, there's much more foot traffic in Vybor lately than there has been in ages. I'll have to proceed carefully.
I skirt past the bus depot, then crouch nearby, peering down at it, wondering if I should loot it. If I catch a fish I'll need to cook it, and I still have neither matches for a fire nor a portable stove or cooking pot. While I'm watching the depot for activity, I hear a sharp crack from my left and my screen goes black. Someone's shot me, most likely from a cluster of trees north of Lopatino or perhaps even from the same stand of bushes I'm squatting in. Just like that, I'm dead. Everything I've spent the morning collecting is gone.
Part two: the catch
Okay, then! It appears I crouched in the wrong bush while looking in the wrong direction. After a long, deep sigh, I put my deceased character out of my head and respawn in Dubrovka, a small town that would be perfect to loot for starter gear except that it's already been picked clean by other players. I head north toward Krasnostav, thinking I'll raid a few buildings there before heading west to the town of Gvozdno, but due to the sun being hidden by the clouds, I accidentally wind up running east. I realize my mistake only when I come across a sign that informs me, dreadfully, that I'm on the outskirts of a place where fresh-spawns go to die: Berezino.
I carefully raid some of the buildings on Berezino's outskirts, making my way north toward Khelm. Berezino being Berezino, though, I run into other players almost immediately. They're semi-geared, but thankfully friendly, and after a brief conversation they wish me a safe trip and head into town to look for trouble. Less friendly is the zombie who assaults me while I'm picking berries, and my apple-picking is abruptly ended as well when I hear a long gout of gunfire a few blocks away.
Okay. I'm being stupid. I bolt from Berezino, and make it through Khelm safely, filling my pack with odds and ends. Then I get stupid again, pressing my luck by hitting the NEAF for the second time today. This time, I'm not the only one there.
I don't really mind being held up in DayZ. A lot of times, the muggers just want to make sure you're not a threat, or just want to mess with you a bit. I'm not a fan of being handcuffed, however, and I'm also not a fan of the N-word, which one of the bandits uses repeatedly while preparing to cuff me. So, camping be damned: I take out my machete and start running around wildly while hacking at them. I'm eventually shot dead, but I know I got a couple cuts in: as I lie there in the darkness, I hear one player frantically ask the other for a bandage. Bleed, jerk. Bleed all of your stupid blood.