Last night, the longest and most prosperous life I’ve ever had in DayZ (mod or standalone), came to sudden, violent close. I had been alive for a good two weeks in real time, and was extremely well equipped. I had full military gear, most of which was in pristine condition. I had enough ammo for the sniper rifle and two pistols I was carrying to sink a ship. I had plenty of water and was positioned in an area where finding a well was not difficult. And I had enough rice to last me until some time around mid-2026. All of it was destroyed by one sniper, who opened fire without knowing anything about me, who I was or what I had gone through to get to where I was now.
But you know what? I’m not upset. (Well, okay. I’m a bit annoyed that the guy who killed me didn’t even have the balls to face me and just fired with no provocation from on top of a hill. But it’s not that bad.) Last game, I was at the point where I didn’t need anything. I just sort of spent my days wandering around the map. Now I can start all over again, surviving in the deadly world of Chernarus by only the skin of my teeth. So, I thought it might be a good idea to share some basic ideas on how to survive in the game’s unforgiving Russian wasteland. Keep in mind that all these tips are based on my own personal experience playing the standalone, so don’t expect the list to be 100% perfect. That said, I’ll do my best with it so you guys can hopefully survive a little longer.
1. Avoid other players. Unfortunately the “shoot on sight” mentality has not changed a great deal from the mod. That’s not to say there aren’t reasonable players out there, it’s just a risk you’ll be taking if you venture out of hiding to speak to them. A good way to avoid people is to choose lower population servers.
2. Have friends. Preferably people you know outside DayZ, but as long as you trust them it’s fine. Having another person whom you trust can be a huge advantage. An extra set of eyes on the lookout can spot infected or hostile players yours might have missed. Towns and military bases can be searched twice as fast and up to twice as much loot can be carried with you. Lots of medical operations require at least two people to complete. In addition, another person can provide a second opinion, which will often help with decision making. In short, it’s always nice to know someone’s watching your back.
3. Remember the seven P’s. DayZ is based on Arma 2, a military simulator, and while DayZ has attempted to lessen how much it feels like a simulator, it can’t change its fundamental nature. So always keep in mind the seven P’s of the military: “Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. Decide where you’re going to go, what your escape plan is, where your rally point is if you’re playing with friends. Consider every possibility and try to plan for it. This isn’t so necessary at the beginning of the game when you have little to lose and lots to gain, but once you’ve built yourself a good character you’ll want to preserve it, and the seven P’s will help with that.
4. Be patient. There are two ways of collecting loot and building your character in DayZ; the fast way and the slow way. The slow way is to scavenge off spawned items. Find loot in houses and barns and slowly build up a character. The fast way is to find a dead player and steal everything, leaving their corpse lying there in nothing but its underwear. If you see a corpse, remember that he or she died there for a reason. Maybe they were killed by infected, maybe they starved to death or died of dehydration, or maybe another player killed them.
5. AVOID HEIGHTS. I know this sounds weird but just trust me. Fall damage is extraordinarily unpredictable in Arma 2 and DayZ alike. Stay away from cliffs, especially rocky ones, as my friend found out shortly before sliding to his death in an unexpected and tragic incident.
6. Don’t get sick. I know this one sounds pretty basic, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. You can get sick by eating rotten fruit, eating or drinking too much at one time, having wounds get infected, or drinking disinfectant fluid (though if you do that I’m not sure any number of tips for surviving is going to help you).
7. Don’t go straight for guns. DayZ is a survival game, not a first person shooter in the traditional sense. Guns are useful at times but the kinds of things you should be looking for when you spawn are better clothes, backpacks, melee weapons, food, water and tools like can-openers. Once you have those items, you can head north-west to the less-looted military bases in which you can find weapons without having to worry so much about being shot in the back. (Though it should be mentioned that I was killed in one of these bases so still keep an eye out.) Avoid places like the Balota Airfield and Military Base, military zones which are close to the coast and thus swarming with players.
8. Choose your weapons. I know it’s tempting to choose the M4A1 because it’s automatic and military, as well as the Magnum revolver because it’s badass and looks like Rick’s gun from The Walking Dead, but all the weapons have pros and cons. There are only four firearms in the game as of yet (with more to be added soon):
-The M4A1, an automatic military rifle used by the American military and Australian Special Forces, as well as numerous other places around the world. It’s highly customizable with sights, handguards, stocks, suppressors and bipods which can be found scattered around the map in military zones. The first shot is fairly accurate, but as soon as the full auto engages the gun becomes a spray-cannon with 4 times the dispersion of the DayZ mod’s M1014 shotgun. The shots are also not particularly damaging, so it’s best used at medium to close range. It uses magazines of 5.56mm rounds, which take up excess space but make for fast reloads. The weapon is fairly quiet when fired compared to the Mosin or the Magnum, especially when used with a suppressor.
-The Mosin 9130, a bolt-action rifle used by the Soviets in the World War II era. Firing the larger 7.62mm round as compared to the M4A1, it is more accurate and louder, earning it the name “The Dinner Bell”. It is less customizable, but does feature the possibility of attaching a Long Range Scope, which makes shooting at longer ranges much easier. It has an internal 5-round magazine, making it a pain to reload, but also means the rounds take up less space since they do not have to be stored in magazines. It is also far more damaging than the M4A1, with one or two shots enough to take down an enemy player. Just remember that “ringing The Dinner Bell” will mean every player and zombie within half a kilometer will know where you are.
-The FNX45, a military standard pistol which uses magazines of .45 ACP rounds. Fairly quiet, it is less damaging and accurate than the Magnum (but is still powerful enough to take down zombies in one shot to the chest). Should be used for very close range shooting and is better for dealing with the undead.
-The Magnum, a revolver which looks like it came straight out of The Walking Dead. Loud, powerful and accurate for a pistol, it has an internal magazine which can be filled with six .357 rounds, which gives it the same reloading problem as the Mosin, but also the same space benefit. Good for dealing with enemy players at close range if one isn’t carrying an M4A1 or is feeling especially badass.
In the end, pick weapons which work for your play-style. I was carrying a Mosin, Magnum and FNX45 when I was killed, so it’s more of a choice between the Mosin and the M4A1 if you have lots of space.
9. Surrender. If someone tells you to press F2 and get on your knees, it means they didn’t kill you on sight. Chances are they’ll take a bunch of your stuff and let you on your way. There’s no need to go out in a blaze of glory just for the sake of a few cans of beans and an apple. On Australian servers (where I play), people seem to mostly be pretty reasonable. If they haven’t killed you on sight it means they probably don’t want to kill someone needlessly. While they’re taking your stuff, just ask them to please let you live and tell them you’ll just go on your way once they leave you. It won’t always work, but it’s better than spinning around and trying to shoot the guy.
10. Don’t kill on sight. This isn’t really a survival tip, in fact it may end up getting you killed quicker. You get almost nothing from shooting other players. It damages everything they’re holding so looting that way is ineffective. It reveals your position to zombies and other players and just gets someone angry at you. DayZ is a game where you can either choose to be ruled by fear and instinctively kill everyone you come across, or you can be brave and overcome that fear. It’s true that doing this may get you killed, but at least you’ll die with some kind of dignity left. Still, I met a group of 5 or 6 other players doing this and they all turned out to be really nice after they stopped pointing their guns at me and I now play regularly with them, so in the end it was a good choice on my part.
Thanks for reading this list, if you have any more questions you can comment below and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have. Alternatively, check out the DayZ Wiki for a heap of useful information.
See you all in Chernarus.
(Cover photo taken by me)