This is a simple guide designed to help those of you who have taken the plunge into DayZ, and to soothe possible future-players who may feel uneasy about trying the game due to its difficult appearance. Fear not, fellow survivor… you are not alone.
First and foremost, I'm not an expert on this game by any means. I'm just a player that has put in a decent amount of time that wants to help. This is a compilation of some of the most helpful stuff I've found around the web, along with my own experience, tips, and tricks delivered directly to your door… or screen. If you have some awesome tips that I don't have here, put them in the comments! The more help everyone gets the less of a mountain this game is to climb. (This guide is strictly for the standalone version of DayZ)
Get it Running So You Can Get Running:
Obviously, you need a copy of the game. For the standalone it's on Steam, so if you don't have an account, it's free —> boom
Here are the specs and more info —> boom
I'd shoot for the recommended, as the game is pretty GPU and CPU heavy. I had some issues graphically (my machine isn't exactly stellar anymore), but I resolved a lot of them by turning shadows and any lighting down. Surprisingly, though, the thing that helped me the most was turning off clouds… This is a give and take though, as (incoming tip) clouds always go from West to East, which can seriously help you figure out where you are and where you want to go.
We're Fully Operational. Now What?
Create a default character from the main menu. The choices are limited, so just pick some visual traits and move on. Now, select a server you want to play on. This can be tricky, but what I suggest is looking for a low population server so you can hop on and get your bearings with the controls and user interface.
You'll always spawn near the coast with your first character, as well as every time you die and respawn. Look around… big right? Wrong, ENORMOUS. The game map is truly huge and it is quite easy to get lost. It's often difficult to find out where you are and there is NO in-game map to pull up in the UI. A map can be found in the game world, but it's pretty rare.
What the #@%# do I do then? A compass will be your best friend. Keep an eye out for these little golden treasures anywhere you go. They're hard to spot because they're so small, but having one is a huge boon. Next, find a good map online and either alt+tab periodically to see where you may be, print it out to keep handy, or (if you have a second monitor) throw it up there for quick and easy reference.
This map is the best I've found and is the one I use —> boom
When you spawn for the first time you should be around some form of town or village. Head for the houses and look for whatever you can find. If you've heeded my advice and you're on a low population or near-empty server you should be able to explore the buildings in peace. Mess around a little and get a feel for the game's mechanics. When you're good to go, it's on to the real game: survival.
Humans, Zombies, Nature… it's Thirst That'll Kill You
You've probably noticed by now a little message in the bottom-left corner of your screen telling you that you're thirsty. These messages are important because it's really the only way (so far) to tell how your character is doing. You'll be told if you're thirsty, hungry, bleeding, unconscious, or dead.
The most important thing is water. You need to find a source of water immediately, and you can't drink ocean water, sorry. So, where do you look? Some buildings have the chance of spawning a water bottle, which is ideal because once it's empty you can refill it and take it with you.
Try looking in a supermarket… —> boom
…or in a hospital —> boom
You can also come across a canteen, which is even better because it holds more water and takes up the same amount of room in your inventory (2 squares).
These can be found in military bases… —> boom
…and the airfield —> boom
Where can you refill these things?
The BEST place is a well, which looks like —> boom
You can also fill up at streams and ponds, but I recommend that if you do make sure you have some water purification tablets. It's possible to drink some fresh water and get sick, which can lead to your very lame death. The tablets are found in medkits and they can be found in hospitals, but I've come across some in regular houses.
Last thirst tip: Sodas are an awesome way to keep yourself going until you can find a bottle and they can also curb your hunger some as well!
My Tummy's a Little Rumbly…
Thirst is quenched… now it's time for some caloric intake. You need energy to survive and the only way to get that is from food. Fortunately, in my experience food is pretty easy to come across and one of the most abundant items. There are a few tips and tricks to know, though.
Canned food is your friend. There are fruits and whatnot around, but they are all rotten and can make you sick enough to die. Stick to the canned stuff and you should have no problem.
That being said… A lot of the canned food can't be opened properly without a can opener —> boom
It's definitely one of the best items in the game, and also one of the hardest to find. If you see one, take it. Even if you already have one it's always good to have a spare and maybe you can trade one for something else you need. You can open canned food with other items (like a shovel), but you'll spill food in the process and only have so much left to eat.
THAT being said… Some of the cans can be opened without a can opener and without losing any food. These are awesome and you should cherish your new-found, easy-peasy meal. Don't forget (as mentioned above), sodas are a great way to beat both thirst and hunger too.
Swing Swing, Lock'n Load
So you've got some water and some food. Now you need to protect yourself. Before, if you died you didn't have much to lose; you could just respawn and try again. But now, if you die, everything you've found goes bye-bye (most likely down the gullet of your murderer). We don't want that to happen so you need to find a weapon.
There are a few guns and melee weapons to choose from. Well, really, the weapon will choose you because you'll use whatever the heck you find and you'll like it, dammit!
The best of the melee weapons is the fireman's axe —> boom
It can drop a zed in a single swing and the right placement can drop an attacking survivor the same way. If you find one, drop whatever you've got in the main weapon slot and take it, unless…
…you have a rifle of some kind. You can carry both a melee weapon and a rifle! (thanks to all who commented!) The best weapons in the game are the rifles. They're accurate, efficient, and deadly. If you find one hopefully you can find the ammo for it, or vice versa. I currently have 4 full clips for an M4, as well as some aftermarket pieces and I can't find an M4 to save my life.
Pistols are great too. They can be carried in your pack and don't take up your main weapon slot, so you can have a fireman's axe and a magnum at the same time. Pistols can pack just as much of a punch, but only at close range.
Hopefully you find something relatively quick, even if it's just a pipe wrench. Fighting shouldn't ever be your first choice in this game (at least in my opinion), but you do need to always be prepared to crack some skulls. Word of advice, though… Don't use the baseball bat. It looks cool and it'll do damage, but not nearly enough fast enough.
Don't Be a Tough Guy… Run
This tactic is simple. If something looks like you'll die if you try it, you probably will. It's fun to experiment with things, but always use your head. See a crowd of 10 zombies? Avoid them. See a geared-up survivor headed your direction and you know you only have a shovel? Hide or run. Not everyone is out to kill you, but don't purposefully encounter someone unless you think you could defend yourself. Side note: Don't jump off of buildings. You can break your legs or just die. It never works out. Don't try it.
All by Myself…
Alright, you've figured out the game mechanics, you've learned where to find the necessities, you've dealt with zed, and you've figured out how to defend yourself. Excellent, it's time to apply it and head to a server with more people!
Even on a populated server it'll get pretty lonely, so if you're looking for action head for more populated areas. Look at the map I linked earlier and try to find your way to big cities, bases, and the coastline. Use what you've learned and seek out adventure, danger, and… cults.