After writing up an article yesterday on the 7D2D A13 release, Dahakha asked a fascinating question, which I’ve pondered over all of last night.
So how does this stack up to ARK: SE in the survival genre? Is it just a flavour swap (zombies vs dinosaurs) or is there a different feel to the gameplay too? I’d love to see a comparison post if you felt like doing one.
7 Days to Die (7D2D) and ARK: Survival Evolved are my two favorite survival games so far. They are both in early access, though 7D2D has been there much longer (Kickstarted on August 15, 2013). They are both developed by smaller teams of devs with lots of previous game dev experience. And they both drop you into the middle of a cold, hard game world with nothing but your fists.
But they are two different games, and games that I really enjoy for different reasons. Here’s some comparisons.
Player Vs. World
To start with, the environments are very different. Sure, you have to punch rocks, trees and grass to start out in both games. And sure, survival is based off of crafting, hunting and gathering. But, no, zombies and dinosaurs are not just interchangable dangers between the two.
ARK – The world of ARK is finite. You are dropped on an island with a lot of prehistoric (and not so prehistoric) creatures, and there seems to be some kind of overarching sci-fi thing going on (though we’re not sure just yet).
But every time I’ve played, the island was the same. There are different biomes within the island, but it has boundaries and is not procedurally generated. I’m not sure if that’s something planned for the future, but there’s a comfortable feeling of the known in ARK. Once you learn your way around, you can be sure you will find the same resources/creatures/land structures in the same locations.
Plus, the island setting is pleasant. You do have to deal with temperatures fluctuating depending on time of day and biomes. But you can also be pretty sure that the coastal areas are safer than the inland areas. So you can generally work your way into the harder content at your own pace.
7D2D – The world is infinite and procedurally generated. Based on whatever you name your map, it is vastly different every time. It has this gritty, rural mid-west American feel to it (the game was originally made to take place in Navezgane County, Arizona).
No place is safe in 7D2D. Zombies spawn everywhere, regardless of your ability to deal with them. The closer to civilization you come (small towns or large wasteland towns), the more zombies and more challenging it becomes. So, you can choose to stay out of the cities to be safer, but that won’t save you from the 7 night hordes.
This leads me to the biggest difference between the two games.
Player Vs. Beast
ARK is a different kind of survival game because you can turn what is dangerous to you into something you can use. A wild T-Rex can chew a player up. But a player can eventually grow strong enough to overcome and master that T-Rex, taming it and turning it into a tool for their own use.
I love ARK for the dinosaur taming, training, and breeding elements. ARK was created to highlight this, and that is what sets it apart from other survival games. Without the dino system, it would be just another survival game.
That’s not to say that 7D2D is just another survival game, though. In 7D2D, zombies will never be your friends. You can’t ever tame them or use them to make them something advantageous. While, you do get stronger and find better ways of dispatching them, zombies are always a danger.
7D2D is not just a survival game. It is also a fort defense game in disguise. If zombies hone in on your location, they will tear a building out from under you to get to you – including your base. So, part of “defeating” the zombies is learning what works in fortifying structures against them.
If you “heat up” an area by doing too many things that cause notice (mining, chopping wood, cooking, forging), a zombie screamer will scout out the area and call a horde on you if you don’t dispatch it quickly enough. So you have to balance your activity to prevent being swarmed.
Every 7 nights, the red moon rises, and you will get what I call a “7 night horde.” There’s no preventing this horde. You can only prepare for it (ie. hide in a cave somewhere far away from your base so it doesn’t get ripped to shreds… unless you think your base can handle it!).
At night, zombies can run. They are fast, and they will tear you and any structure between you and them to pieces. The danger is real.
Player Vs. Structure
ARK‘s building is more simplistic compared to 7D2D. You learn new building recipes as engrams that you unlock while you level up. While base building does have parts (there’s a foundation you place, then walls you place on that, then a roof on the walls), it’s mostly snap-on building. ARK focuses on building large, stand-alone parts.
Placing items can be restricted by the terrain, which you can’t change. You’ll also not find existing game-spawned structures within the ARK world (at this point).
7D2D is a fully voxel world with a Minecraft-ish crafting and building system. You can destroy the world and shape it to be what you need it to be. You build your structures block by block, and make exactly what you want to make, anywhere you want to make it. There are realistic building physics, so if you build something not structurally sound, don’t expect it to stay standing very long.
7D2D also has a block upgrade system now. Meaning, if you find a run-down house, you can use wood and metal to upgrade each block (without replacing or tearing down the original) and eventually fortify that structure against zombies.
Player vs. Skills
ARK’s skill system is pretty straightforward. You kill things or craft to gain experience and levels. You also gain bonus experience when you are grouped together with your Tribe, which is a nice perk.
When you level up, you earn points to spend on engrams (recipes), so crafting is gated by not just the materials you have, but your level. You also can put points into skills such as attack damage, stamina, run speed, vitality, etc. So, there is a bit of customization there.
7D2D’s new skill system is amazing. And this is the dev team’s first pass on it – it’s going to continue to evolve. You level up skills as you use them (reminds me of old skool RPGs and MMOs). So the more you use a bow and arrow, the better in archery you get. The more you craft certain items, the better you get at crafting.
On top of that, you gain experience in overall levels, which earns you skill points to put into any skill that you like. For example, I’m into building, so I get a lot of my levels through crafting and building. But, my archery was lacking, so I dumped some of my extra points into that, since I hadn’t spent a lot of time with the bow and arrow.
Items have quality levels in 7D2D, so the better you are at crafting weapons, for example, the better quality the weapons you caft will be. I just love how much you can customize the direction of your character with this skill system – it always feels like I’m improving something, and that something is always important.
Player vs. Player
I don’t play on PvP servers, so I don’t have much to say about this aspect of the game. It’s in both of them, but ARK seems to allow players to hurt other players more.
In 7D2D, there are protective blocks you can put down that prevents anyone except people on your friends list from destroying structures that you place. So, your base is protected as long as you keep it within range of these blocks. It’s the zombies you really have to worry about tearing down your base.
In ARK, you don’t usually have to be concerned about dinosaurs flattening your base on their own. Sure, you might have a random wandering bronto stomp down stuff if you haven’t put walls up to deflect roaming dinos… but they don’t come in herds and purposely attempt to tear down your base.
Other players, however, riding their tamed dinosaurs, can and do flatten your bases and kill all your dinos. Which really sucks, and why I don’t play PvP.
Player vs. Time/Difficulty
Both games allow you to modify files to change the difficulty of the games. In 7D2D, I mod things so that it’s easier for the enjoyment of the different players on our team (though we still think it’s challenging). The game gets more difficult the longer you play, however. Time passes in the game and the 7 night hordes come every 7 nights, getting larger and more dangerous each time.
In ARK, the passage of time doesn’t effect anything, but the unmodded vanilla game requires a LOT of time to make progress. I don’t have time to spend hours and hours trying to tame a single dinosaur… I just don’t comprehend the why this game was developed to have an extreme amount of time to do things. When it only takes a few moments to kill the very dino that took hours to tame.
That’s why our ARK servers are very heavily modified to make it more reasonable for a much more casual set of players. I appreciate the fact that both games allow this kind of tweaking, making it possible for the various types of players in our group to enjoy their experience.
I’m quite fond of both development teams, though I’ve had a longer time and more experience with The Fun Pimps of 7D2D. That might be because 7D2D tends to take so much longer to release.
7D2D has huge systems that are being updated, and almost makes it play like a brand new game each time. For example, turning the world into a fully, infinite, procedurally generated map was a huge undertaking. Then polishing all the graphics for that, adding weather, adding a temperature system, adding higher quality zombies with motion capture animations, a full overwork of the gathering and crafting system, several overworks of the UI, and finally the new leveling and skill system.
They do turn around hotfixes extremely quickly, however, even busting their tails through the weekend to get things done!
ARK, on the other hand, releases content so quickly I have trouble knowing when to update my server! Often, I see several patches in a week. Though, the content this team pushes is usually in much smaller chunks, and sometimes includes things like new dinos. I won’t say they don’t release any larger features – I saw new biomes and the whole dino breeding and raising system come out. It just seems the foundational systems are already in place and the team can spin out new content more quickly based on what’s already there.
In conclusion, these two games are very different, even though they are both survival games with crafting and building elements. Between the two, I have enough content to last me for so, so, sooo long. I’m the type who can build and build and build and just be happy building.
However, when I want to go zombie hunting with my team, loot some towns, and figure out how to build a base to withstand a horde, I can do that in 7D2D. And when I want to build a base on a lovely tropical island and tame, train and ride dinos around, I can do that in ARK.
It’s the best of all worlds!