7 Days to Die is a challenging game in its Vanilla form. The first hours of a new world are spent scrounging and preparing. You have six days of prepping for that seventh night horde of zombies. The scarcity of resources, tenacity of the zombies, and progression of a character imbues the game with a very real sense of survival. With random generation, variable settings, and PvP multiplayer, there hundreds of hours’ worth of gameplay available. However, as with all games, you eventually get too good. Or the game stops being interesting. You are too comfortable with the way things are. Enter Valmod.
The Sanctuary server run by Gommel Nox reached somewhere approximating this point earlier this week. Dozens of players had pitched into to make a nigh unbeatable network of zombie shelters. Minibikes, firearms, and medical supplies were plentiful. Travel in the underground tunnels was quick and safe. The challenge plateaued, and interest waned. The 7DTD Discord channel was still one of the most active on Imperium News’ Discord server, but the peak concurrent users had dropped.
SMALL FILES, BIG CHANGES
If you were around during the days of TMC, you are likely familiar with my love of mods. Kerbal Space Program, Rimworld, Homeworld, and Skyrim are just a couple of the games I have installed right now with mods, most of which I have written about. 7 Days to Die just made the list as well with the addition of Valmod. Developed by a single player, Valmar, Valmod is really a collection of mods that Valmar offers individually.
Valmod comes in two distinct packages: Expansion and Overhaul. Expansion is the lighter of the two, adding more items, recipes, and zombies. Game play, however, is largely unaffected. If you want to add a bit more to do in 7DTD, but like the overall feel of the game as it was. The Overhaul does what it says on the tin. It features a class system, new leveling system, work stations, skinned user interface, and much more. Mercifully, neither package is particularly heavy in size and installation is easy. I would recommend backing up a vanilla copy of the game beforehand. But, you can try one or the other in pretty short order to find what you like.
The Sanctuary server is currently running the full Overhaul package with a bundled bigger backpack mod. Make no mistake: the game is significantly more difficult. I am by no means an expert. But with 173 hours, almost all of which are in Alpha 14 and Alpha 15, I was struggling to make it through the first night. It’s not just more zombies or a few new challenges. Just about everything I did in 7 Days so far has to be unlearned and relearned. Readers familiar with the Complex Mod for Homeworld find many parallels with the learning curve.
Valmod locks dozens of what are mundane recipes in the vanilla game behind skills. For example, Goldenrod Tea requires several levels of cooking unlocked before crafting. This is something I learned after I nearly died of dehydration and drank directly from a water source. After which, I most certainly died of dysentery like the most gruesome of my Oregon Trail settlers.
Lets walk through that first experience.
CLASSY AS ALWAYS
Fire up a new single player server or join the Sanctuary server, and a new message greets you explaining your first steps. Open the inventory screen, search for “Class” in the crafting menu. The class you chose will dictate your starting equipment and skills. Therefore, it is highly recommended you do this right away. Who doesn’t want sweet skills and loot to start off with?
Nine classes will appear for you to chose from. If you are playing single player, this will drastically affect your first week. Choose carefully. And if in multiplayer, picking a complementary class would be ideal. After all, having six people be able to craft bows is handy for defense or food but less ideal when nobody is able to actually build something to defend. Please note that classes are only what you start out with; earned or learned skills still progress as they would in the vanilla game regardless of the stater class selected.
LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES
Valmar provides a pretty comprehensive look at the classes in the standalone mod. I would highly recommend looking them all over. In my first single player world, I went with Miner. I love making subterranean bases, so I thought it would be the perfect class. However, Miners cannot initially make any ranged weapons. Your starting pistol and ammo are your only defense until you gain some levels and invest them into new classes. Death and disappointment piled up as I learned the ineptitude of my miner character. This is far different from the vanilla build. My normal techniques were not going to work.
My next build I thought I chose more wisely: builders start off with the recipes to build structures and a workbench. Surely, this would be the way to go! And in the confines of a multiplayer server, this is a valuable class when balanced with some more offensive classes. However, in single player, this would not do well. In my second single player world, I had much better results with the Survivor Class. In this situation, having archery skills to quietly kill zombies and prey from a distance with easily craftable ammo is priceless.
It is for the easily craftable ammo that I would so highly recommend the Survivor Class above the others. I will grant you not being able to make a door is sure inconvenient. Starting from the bottom with mining? Less than ideal. But when that seventh night horde comes a-calling, having a strong ranged weapon that applies damage to zombies at range is the most valuable asset to me. Although true for me and my style, your mileage will most certainly vary.
THE VITAL SKILL PROGRESSION
Another big change in the game is the way it handles and emphasizes skills. Skills in the vanilla game feel more like a means to gain points, which you invest into perks. Several players have even gone so far as to say perks are the only thing that points should be used for. At some point, vanilla characters reach a level cap. Free points spent on skills cannot reallocate to perks, locking them out.
This is far from the case in the Overhauled game. In Valmod skills are just as important as perks. According to the creator Valmar, “The largest change to Overhaul, and the most dramatic, has been to the progression system.” This is because skills unlock recipes. This includes many recipes that were available by default in Vanilla, like wood frames, or required a book, like pistol assembly. Perusing the character skills in game gives an idea of what unlocks with what skills. But, that can be tedious to click each and every skill to find the one you need.
Thankfully, Valmar provides a table that shows most all of the skills needed to unlock recipes. The post also shows a number of skills that have been created, renamed, or removed as well as a why. A quick search should show you what you need to invest in. Unless you need Goldenrod Tea for your dysentery. That is under the cooking skill which, unlike every other skill listed, doesn’t say what it unlocks. I really hope you don’t need Goldenrod Tea. If you’re level 2 and need Goldenrod Tea, you are probably going to die. I hope you crafted and placed your bedroll.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Leaving no stone unturned, the Valmod Overhaul package naturally touches on items. The mod adds some items, modifies some other items , and even adds a little bit of variety to the game with new ammo types and legendary versions of weapons.
Most of the new items expand upon categories that already exist. For example, there is a new axe that is nigh identical to the stone axe but uses raw iron. There is also a repeater crossbow that can shoot three bolts before reloading. The “bolt gun” uses the same model as the hunting rifle and single shot functionality, but adds a fixed power scope.
But there are a few that are new items as well. Take the weed clever: it acts kind of like a rapid fire grass destroyer. Sweep back and forth enjoy the loads of plant fiber you are reaping. Make sure to watch your stamina: the weed clever can destroy it about as fast as it destroys grass. There’s also a tranquilizer gun that can fire three different darts. One dart heals, one does chemical damage, and the last infects. I tried the chemical darts on a few zombies in single player. They did some damage, but seem to be far less effective than acute lead poisoning.
WEAPON AND AMMO MODIFIERS
When the situation calls for acute lead poisoning, it’s nice to have options. Valmod brings choice to more than just caliber to ammunition. The ubiquitous hollow points that join the standard full metal jacket line up. They appear to do more damage but are otherwise not too much different from the common FMJs. For something with a bit more pop, try the incendiary. These provide more damage and a show when the zombies burst into flames. At lower levels, it will likely still take a few shots to kill the zombies. With the excitement the rounds bring, I’m happy to oblige.
Ammo wasn’t the only part of weaponry that was given more choice. Players have the ability to suppress firearms. Shooting zombies with a suppressed firearms won’t attract the attention of all their friends. Remember that much like using a bow, if you do damage but don’t kill the zombie, they will suddenly know exactly where you are. And then start hunting you, naturally.
Lastly, brawling weapons also got some love. Specifically, the addition of “legendary” versions. These legendary versions feature flavor text changes that are a bit in a mildly humorous manner. But mostly the stats received a buff. In my extremely scientific testing, I can attest that a even a low legendary chainsaw wielded on a horde of zombies is both effective and entertaining. If it weren’t for the fuel usage and the fact that zombies hit back, I might recommend players do it more often.
7 DAYS TO DIE, AGAIN AND AGAIN
Valmod is not for the faint of heart. If you’re struggling to make it through the first week of the vanilla game, I would have a hard time recommending the single player experience for you. The mod is very difficult with many basic recipes locked behind skill progression. Leveling is a big event. You will die while your base is destroyed, and probably well before the seventh night. So for the new player, I really would not recommend this mod.
That is not to say I don’t like the mod. Quite the opposite. If you are a strong veteran player looking to add that excitement again, or are going to be with players that are veterans looking for that survival rush, this is a fantastic mod. You will enjoy the challenge, teamwork, and creativity this mod provides. If dying repeatedly in ways you haven’t died since you first installed the game sounds like fun, download the full Valmod Overhaul Package here. And then join us in the Imperium News Network #7_Days channel on Discord for the details for the Serenity server we have running. Fellow survivors are guaranteed; survival isn’t.
Why are zombie games so popular?December 2, 2016 at 10:49 AM
Andrew Sturgis David Matterall
That is a deep psychological question that I am not near qualified to answer properly. Still, my off the cuff thought would be that it combines one of the two biological imperatives (survival) with a cathartic way to deal with masses of people.
According to a few studies, vampires are more popular in the US when there’s a Democratic president, and zombies are more popular during Republican. (I had them backwards. My bad)December 2, 2016 at 4:36 PM
Ryan Andrew Sturgis
Zombies as a social metaphor goes back quite a ways in films. As for games, I don’t credit them with social commentary so much as finding a convenient, easy enemy that doesn’t need to be a terribly detailed human, and is able to be both easy to kill and threatening at the same time.December 3, 2016 at 4:25 AM
Yaroslav Stekhov David Matterall
Maybe it’s the sublimated fear of the dumb crowd. Well, and righteous violence unleashed – one wouldn’t feel bad about smashing cannibal zombie skull (original zombies weren’t eating brains, they were just witch’s dead slaves)May 21, 2017 at 10:36 PM