|The evac shelter is that white plus sign at the center of the map. The town is south and west. That large structure to the SE is the mansion I discovered and cleared.|
Note: This is a sequel to my previous post, which also combines the story of my current play of Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead with information on how to get started in this free, rogue-like zombie-survival game.
In my first post, I explained how to install the game, choose a graphics pack, and set the window size. In this, I'll give some starting tips. Note that I'm not an expert myself, far from it. But often, I think that beginners can better understand the problems that fellow beginners face.
Now, on with the story:
I looted the bodies of those scientists, though I couldn't carry everything I wanted - not even close. Then I chopped their heads off. Yeah, that wasn't much fun, but I wanted them to stay dead. [Butcher corpses when you can, because that increases your Survival skill. But if you don't have time for that, be sure to smash them, so they don't get up again.]
They had a lot of neat stuff, but I had to leave most of it behind, because I just couldn't carry everything. I had water, at least, and I took a lab coat in my size from one of them (lots of pockets!), but I still needed supplies of all kinds.
So I mentally flipped a coin and headed south on the highway. There was forest on both sides, and more of those weird fungal creatures. I kept my distance and they didn't bother me, but I saw a fungal tower off to the east. Had this stuff escaped from a research lab? I had no idea what it was.
Eventually, I arrived at the edge of town again, and although I could see zombies in the distance, I was able to smash a window and sneak inside a house without attracting their attention. It was a lucky break, made even luckier when I made it across the street to find an unlocked door at the neighbor's.
But by then, I'd been spotted. Well, I couldn't carry any more stuff anyway, so I opened a back window and ran. [You can open most windows from the inside, though you have to pry them open or smash them open from the outside. Once inside, you can also close drapes, which will keep zombies from seeing you inside the house.]
As I headed northwest, making a beeline for the evac shelter, I came upon a huge mansion standing all alone in an empty field. For a moment, seeing figures inside, I thought I'd found survivors... And then zombies started crashing through the windows.
Well, maybe I'd just had enough of running, I don't know. But these were just... ordinary zombies, not the really dangerous types, and they were spread out. So I threw rocks at them until I could lure them into a bush, to slow their movement, then beat them down with my studded club.
OK, there were only five of them, and they'd happened to attack separately, one at a time, but I felt pretty good after that. And as I stood looking at that mansion, I had an idea.
It's the nature of rogue-like games that you die frequently, especially when you're first learning to play. There's no save-game feature, so when you're dead, you're dead. Start a new character and try again.
Or you can manually backup the save-game folder. :) I'm not going to tell you how to play the game, because I don't care how you play the game - any game. I usually keep a backup of my save-game folder, myself, though I almost never end up using it. But I like having the option.
If you find the game too difficult, you can also increase the number of points available in character generation (from the initial screen, go to Options, then tab to the Debug menu), though I'm not sure how much difference that will make.
That's where you can select from various skill rust options, too. (Skill rust makes you lose levels in skills if you haven't used them for awhile. I don't like it, myself, but you can set it however you like.)
I should say a little more about the World Defaults tab, too. Originally, Cataclysm started with no zombies (although you could still encounter dangerous animals, right from the start). When you began the game, you'd make a mad dash to the nearest town, so you could grab equipment in relative safety.
When zombies did start to spawn, after a half hour or so, they'd be the ordinary versions, the least dangerous zombies, at first, so you could get out of town before it got deadly. However, zombies would continue to spawn throughout the game - more zombies the more noise you made - so you could never clear out an area.
Static spawn, which is now the default option, is quite different. All kinds of zombies are present in Cataclysm right from the start, so towns are very dangerous for a new character. However, zombies don't respawn (although they will get back up, eventually, if you don't Butcher or smash their corpses), so you can kill all the zombies in an area and it will stay relatively clear (except for anything wandering in from a neighboring area, of course).
Static spawn makes the beginning game much harder, but the later game, if you make it that far, easier. I prefer it because it just makes more sense to me. (Why would zombies just 'spawn' out of nowhere? And why would the towns be empty at the start of the game?) But it's your game, so decide for yourself.
There's also an option under World Defaults to choose only "classic zombies" and natural wildlife, rather than the bizarre creatures you get by default. I imagine that that would be a lot easier than the default game, but I've never actually tried it, myself. I do plan to,... sometime.
Oh, and I'd recommend leaving NPCs off, which is the default in Cataclysm. It would be great to have human NPCs in the game, but apparently, that's still buggy.
|A garden area to the south side of the mansion, with all my stuff piled up in the corridor to the west (looks kind of like my real home in that respect :) )|
The mansion looked more like a department store or a modern museum than a home, since the exterior walls were composed almost entirely of plate-glass windows. It must have been like living in a goldfish bowl (and not exactly the safest design in a zombie apocalypse).
On the other hand, it was out of town a ways, set off by itself on a huge expanse of lawn. So there wouldn't have been anyone to look inside anyway, I guess. It was that last part which intrigued me. If I could clear the mansion of zombies - and I had no idea what was inside - I might be able to make a stronghold out of the place.
[With a little construction skill and enough two-by-fours and nails - which you can get by deconstructing benches and other furniture - you can board up windows. Or you can Grab bookcases and refrigerators and drag them to block off the windows.]
I suppose it was foolish, but I was in luck - there were only ordinary zombies in the place, not the really dangerous types. There were a lot of them, true, but I took my time. Towards the end, I got a bit too eager and took some damage - indeed, my jeans and my new lab coat were totally destroyed - but I had myself a new home. And, although bruised, I hadn't been bitten. As I say, I was lucky.
There was a lot of food in the house, and a lot of books. So I spent the next week just loafing and reading, trying to learn the skills I'd need to survive. I ran out of food before I ran out of books, so I tried to do some hunting. Well, I stayed alive, but that's about all. (Someone had set traps on the west side of the house, and they'd caught a deer. But I discovered it too late, so the meat was rotten.)
There was a lot of drizzle and even acid rain, so I couldn't do as much hunting as I wanted. And then I got sick. Yeah, it was just a cold, I suppose, but it hit me hard. For several days, I couldn't do anything much but sleep (when I could sleep, with all the coughing). And when I finally recovered, there was more acid rain to deal with.
By the time that cleared up, I really needed supplies - especially food. (There was a swimming pool in the mansion full of water. It didn't taste very good, but after boiling, it was perfectly safe.) So I headed southeast again.
There were fungal creatures everywhere. Apparently, all that rain was causing a population explosion. They weren't especially close to the mansion, not yet, but they seemed to be spreading rapidly. Heck, they were a long way from where I'd seen that first bunch. There was even a fungal infestation in the town - among the zombies. I couldn't tell for sure what was going on there, but it certainly wasn't safe for me.
So I went west, instead. As I got near some suburban homes, I was spotted by zombies almost immediately, but I pried open a window (I'd found a crowbar in the mansion, so I'd left my club behind) and gathered up some loot before escaping again. On the way out, I killed a shrieker, but not before it made a lot of noise. But I still made it home OK.
Unfortunately, as a food run, it was nearly a bust. And would that fungal infestation keep spreading? Would I lose my new mansion, and all the stuff I'd found there? It seemed likely, and I didn't have a hope in hell of carrying everything away with me.
I won't say too much about traits and skills, since it's fun to experiment. But note that zombies - and most other enemies - can detect your character by sight, hearing, and smell. (They can follow a scent trail, if it's not too old, and your scent will balloon out from you if you stay in one area for long. Thus, I would definitely not recommend the Smelly negative trait at character creation, especially for a measly -1 points.)
One tactic is to raid towns at night, which drastically lowers an enemy's sight range (yours, too, of course). So, if you plan to do that, it's very handy to take the Night Vision trait, which doubles your sight range at night, and the Light Step trait, which muffles movement noise, too.
You can still get into trouble, of course, especially if you spend too much time on your raid. Thus, it can be handy to have the Fleet-Footed trait, so you can move faster (and escape more quickly). But that's just an example of how these might work together.
When it comes to skills, they're all useful, except for Bartering and Speech - especially if you have NPCs disabled (zombies aren't known for their conversational skills). You can learn most of them from books - if you're lucky enough to find the right books - and all of them through practice.
Still, some would be particularly handy for a new character. Survival, for example, helps you get useful meat after butchering an animal. As critical as food is, it's extremely frustrating to ruin the meat when butchering with no, or low, Survival skill!
A beginning level of Dodge is nice, too. You're going to get into situations where enemies try to hit you, and, obviously, it would be really helpful to dodge some of those attacks. But Firearm skills would be less useful at the start, because you first have to find a gun and the right ammunition for it. Also, guns are noisy, so they'll likely cause more problems than they solve.
One of the handiest weapon skills - but one that's very easy to train, so don't start with it - is Throwing. Many things can be thrown, but rocks are everywhere, so you don't even have to worry about retrieving them afterwards. Throwing is also quiet, and rocks have a pretty decent range. You won't often kill an enemy by throwing rocks at it, not until your skill is higher, but you can still injure it before it gets near enough to injure you.
Note that Tailoring is also a very useful skill. You need a needle and thread (or make bone needles from bones), but you can practice on the clothing every zombie is wearing. At low skill levels, you're likely to damage what you're trying to repair, but once you get a little better at it, you can keep your clothing and your backpacks in tiptop condition. That's very important, since it affects not just your armor, but your ability to carry stuff, too.
|Cooking macaroni & cheese over a campfire. Look at the recipe list! And this is just one of eight tabs in the craft screen.|
The next morning, I headed north, away from the city. I had fungus to the east and zombies in the city to the south and west. There were forests and fields to the north, but what else? If I had to escape, that was going to be my only option.
I cut through a spur of the forest and came out on the same highway that ran past the evac shelter. But this time, I went north. And at the end of the road was some kind of scientific research station.
The door was locked, but a scanner took one of the ID cards I'd scavenged off those dead scientists and let me inside. There was a short hallway, ending in descending stairs. Two doors led into rooms on either side.
The first room was filled with,... well, pools of goo. I didn't like the looks of that, so I tried the other. There I found beds. That would work fine for a storeroom and temporary base as I explored further.
It was dark underground, so I needed my flashlight, but there seemed to be power to the computer terminals I found (all password-protected). Unfortunately, there was power to the defensive turrets, too! I tried to be careful, but those turrets were fast. I couldn't even peek around a corner without getting sprayed with submachine gun fire.
I was hit a couple of times, but not too bad. I found some first-aid kits and patched myself up OK. All I had was aspirin for pain-killer, but that was better than nothing. And most of the rooms seemed to be safe enough to explore.
It appeared to be a huge underground complex - perhaps a cloning facility, though I only explored a small part of it. I found two dead bodies and a bunch of clothing, plus some large bottles of cleaning supplies, but not much else. Still, I hauled most of it topside, so I could sort through it at my leisure.
This wouldn't be a bad bolthole, if I were forced to leave the mansion. As far as I could tell, there was only one entrance, so it wouldn't do to get trapped in there. But who knew? There was a lot I hadn't explored yet - that I didn't dare explore until I could take care of those defensive turrets.
So I figured I'd return to the mansion and study some books on computer science. Perhaps I could learn enough to hack the system here? Well, what else could I do? So I headed back, encountering nothing but another sewer rat on the way.
The funny thing is, after turning up my nose at it the week before, I was pretty much living on rat meat by then. In my travels back and forth, I'd seen a lot of wildlife - deer, turkey, rabbits - but I could never get close enough to hunt any of it. There were a lot of rats around, though, and they would come to me.
I'm sure they'd be dangerous if I encountered them in large numbers, but not so much one at a time. And although it wasn't the tastiest meat around, rat meat would keep me alive. If I could kill a deer, I'd eat venison. But by then, I was glad enough to get rat.
OK, you've created your world and your character, and you're standing in the evac shelter. What now?
If you call up your map, you can see a small part of your world. There's lots more, but you'll have to explore to see what it's like. Every world is different, since it's all procedurally generated. But your evac shelter should be the only building around, far enough from the town that you won't see zombies from the windows (and they won't see you).
There might be dangerous animals outside, though. And you do have to go outside. That's the first thing I'd do, in fact. Be careful - try not to go too far from the shelter - but get yourself a rock. Then come back inside. (Close the doors behind you. Some creatures will crash through the windows or break down the doors to get at you, but many won't.)
I suggest wielding that rock and smashing apart one of the metal lockers. Yes, it will make a lot of noise, but if there aren't any zombies nearby, that should be OK. It will take a few tries, but you should end up with some pieces of metal, including a metal pipe. Well, by using the crafting screen (&), you can make a crowbar by beating that pipe with your rock.
Alternately, you can beat apart a wooden bench and make a weapon from the two-by-fours (and maybe nails). However, a crowbar is not just an effective melee weapon, but a very useful tool. You can pry open locked doors with a crowbar (making a less noise than smashing them down), and often windows, too (although you do have a chance of breaking the window).
And you really can't carry much but what you can put in your hands. So a combination weapon/tool is ideal. Once you've made a weapon, wield it and go downstairs. It will be dark down there, but there probably won't be any enemies (probably no loot, either, but it's important to check).
The first thing you need - the really critical thing, at first - is a backpack, duffel bag, messenger bag, fanny pack, purse - anything which will increase your carrying capacity. Certain clothing will work for that, too - cargo pants, trenchcoat, lab coat, clown suit, etc.
You can find such things in houses, but you can also find them on zombies, after you kill them (admittedly, their clothing is usually badly damaged). But you need to avoid zombies unless you can take them out one at a time. Be careful. Be cautious. Be sneaky.
There are three things to keep in mind. Storage capacity is the first. You need to be able to carry stuff, or it's not going to do you any good to find things. (Note that damaged items will carry less. Keep your stuff repaired, if you can.)
Every item has a volume and a weight. The total weight you can carry depends on your strength, but the total volume depends on the storage capacity of your packs and your clothing (plus one item which you can carry in your hands).
Encumbrance is the second. Clothing will often burden your character, slowing him down. Clothing that "fits" is better in this respect, but if you wear multiple layers, it can still be a burden. Check your character screen (@) when you Wear a new item.
Finally, clothing works as armor. Often, your clothing or your packs will be hit instead of, or in addition to, you. As it's damaged, you can lose storage capacity and armor coverage, so keep your stuff repaired, if you can. (This is where that Tailoring skill comes in handy.)
Of course, you need far more stuff than just backpacks and clothing, but you won't be able to carry much stuff without containers and pockets to hold it. Keep a note of things you've left behind (Note those on the map).
Once you can carry stuff - and even when you can't - food and water (fruit juice, soft drinks, etc.) are primary requirements. Eat and drink the perishable stuff first. It won't last long. Drop aluminum cans and empty cardboard boxes, but you need those empty plastic bottles, because you can fill them with water at toilets, swimming pools, rivers, etc.
But you need a fire, a pot or a pan, and an empty bottle in order to turn them into fresh water. (If you drink out of the toilet, or from any other unclean water, you'll get sick.) Note that you can make a stone pot out of rocks in the crafting screen (&).
Good luck! You're alone in the zombie apocalypse (worse than the zombie apocalypse, in fact, because there are far bigger dangers than just zombies out there). You start with almost nothing but the clothes on your back and with hardly any skills. You're considered prey by almost everything.
So watch yourself. Be careful. Run from danger. If you get injured, that will slow you down, and if you can't run away, you'll likely end up dead. (Note that some things are faster than you, anyway.) You have to be smarter than your foes, because you probably won't be tougher than them - certainly not at first.
You'll probably die. Well, everyone dies. So try to have fun before you go. :)
PS. I've got more tips for actually playing the game, so I'll probably write another of these, eventually. Meanwhile, note that most of my other posts about computer games are here.