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Can You Outlive the Apocalypse?: Tips and Tricks for Staying Alive in Project Zomboid

Posted on April 11, 2023

A massive sandbox world you can play in with friends. A gorgeous top-down pixelated RPG filled with crafting systems and looting. And… zombies?

Welcome to Project Zomboid, an indie zombie apocalypse RPG available on PC, Mac, and Linux. This may be an early-access title on Steam, but what we've seen so far is impressive. And one thing is abundantly clear: you will have to fight for your dear life to survive, whether alone or with friends.

Combat is punishing and risky, and resources are scarce. One false step, and you could bring the entire horde down on you. That is unless you have a few aces up your sleeve.

Follow along for your ultimate guide on how to stay alive in Project Zomboid. 

In Project Zomboid, Always Crouch as You Move

When you first drop into this giant map, your first instinct will be to ransack homes left and right for supplies. But before you do that, pin down the crouch button (typically assigned to C). 

Zombies here, like in many other games, react to noise. Normal walking without crouch enabled means you are making a ton of sound for nearby hungry zombies. Unfortunately, Project Zomboid for beginners is rough because any tussle with zombies will spell certain death.

Plus, notice how you can only see things in your active field-of-view. Anything else disappears behind a "fog of war." Walking or running around is a great way to turn the corner smack into a horde of zombies.

Even once you get inside a building, don't allow your discipline to wane. You'd be surprised how much zombies can hear. And when zombies make noise, they attract other zombies in a nonstop wave.

Limit Yourself to Looting Essentials

Loot is the bread-and-butter of Project Zomboid. No guide on Project Zomboid tips would be worth it without a dedicated section focused on resource gathering and supply management. However, for beginners you only need to know one thing: take essentials, leave everything else.

It's understandable why you want to hoard every last item that you happen upon. A core gameplay component is to build a base where you and your friends can hole up for the night. You would assume that you need to gather every last dust bunny and cockroach to build that eventual base.

Weight Limitations

But if you do this, you'll quickly run into one big problem: your character can only carry so much weight. Overburden them, and you can literally break their back. All that loot you gathered could easily get lost if you're too encumbered to run away from attacking zombies.

Here is an example list of the things you should prioritize in your search:

  • Weapons (preferably high-damage and durable ones)
  • Food of any kind
  • Full water bottles
  • Medicine and medical supplies
  • Carpentry tools
  • Books
  • Equipment for farming

If you're dead set on a certain type of loot, mark the location for later. There will always be time to return in the future.

Bandage Yourself with Ripped Sheets

Medical supplies are a bit of a last resort when playing Project Zomboid. They're exceedingly scarce and best reserved for severe injuries. You can only find them in certain areas, which makes it inconvenient to plan your looting trips around hospitals and pharmacies.

At least during the early hours of the game, you'll have to do with makeshift bandages. Right-click on any cloth item, destroy it, and the result is ripped sheets. Voilà, you have a means to bandage bleeding wounds while far out from your base.

A couple of considerations here. Number one, check whether the bandages are dirty, as that can be a source of infection. Remove any dirty bandages and replace them with fresh, clean ones.

Number two, know that bandages don't heal you. They only stop bleeding, which stalls the decline of your health bar.

Start Building Your Base

After long hours roaming apocalyptic neighborhoods, you're starting to grow weary. Your eyes are getting sore from long hours behind the screen, but there's no save point in sight. It's time to build your base.

You can turn any building into a base, but here are a few key tips for base building:

  • Choose one that has multiple entrances and exits in the event of a horde attack
  • Find one that has an upper level where you can keep your inner sanctum
  • Get as many storage containers as you can find to store all your items
  • Build defenses and establish emergency plans for when the horde arrives

Curl up and Watch Some TV

One of the first things to go in an apocalypse are the communication networks. In Project Zomboid, you have about nine days until that happens. During those first nine days, you can watch TV at the end of the day--and you should.

Watching certain programs will actually give you skill advantages. It's an easy, guaranteed way to buff your character. Once the broadcast ends, you'll learn those same skills through books--difficult since you will have to find them yourself.

Use Guns with Prudence

What zombie apocalypse is complete without guns? They're the ultimate weapon against zombies that doesn't require getting up close and personal. But here's one of the most surprising Project Zomboid tips: don't use the gun so much.

Guns are few and far between. You should use the guns you find sparingly, and not just because they are rare. Rather, because they make noise.

Remember the advice to crouch? Your footsteps can attract a horde, so now imagine firing off a shot. It's practically a siren calling all zombies to your location.

Use them instead as a last resort to defend your base. They're very heavy anyway, so you can make better use of space with other items.

Make Use of Maps

It's not hard to understand why a map would be useful in a gigantic world such as Project Zomboid. The problem is, you do not have a map by default in the game.

Instead, you have two options:

  • Find a map somewhere in the game world (very rare)
  • Pull out your phone and look up an online map to guide you

Keep in mind that these online maps are big, with many POIs. Make sure you have a speedy Internet connection, as downloading the map information could put a dent in your ping.

Get a Car

We just told you how bad of an idea it is to fire guns or even walk. A car may not be as loud as a gunshot, but it is loud. However, a car gives you one advantage: you can quickly outrun any horde.

The main advantage of a car is it can quickly take you to faraway towns and edges of the map. Plus, it gives you tons of storage for anything you find there. If you pass by any hordes, you can quickly speed away from them to safety.

Many cars are in good condition and ready to drive. Check in the glove box to see if there is a key there. Assuming you have some fuel, your car will be ready to drive.

If not, you can learn to repair broken vehicles. You can even hotwire cars, but this will require learning how to do so.

Have Storage Methods for Water

As we mentioned, Project Zomboid has a brief period in the beginning where everything is still functioning. You can draw water from the tap, find tons of food, and even use facilities such as swimming pools. Then water services shut off, and you have nothing.

We mentioned getting water bottles as much as you can. Once you have your essential supplies, focus on getting receptacles to store water. This allows you to stockpile water as you prepare for more advanced water collection methods, such as rain collectors.

Get Ready to Die A Lot

Death is ever present in the world of Project Zomboid, and not just because of the zombies. A simple scratch could fester into a vicious infection that spells your doom. A routine scavenging trip could end with you and your friends as zombie food.

Remember, Project Zomboid is a hardcore survival RPG. You will die on a regular basis, even as a seasoned player. The sooner you accept this reality, the less time you'll spend banging on your keyboard.

You have two options when you die: create a new character in the same world, or enter a new world. If you return to the old world from before, you have the opportunity to find your base again. Then you have full access to all of your original supplies, minus learned skills.

Embracing death means learning to have fun even when your character skills are wiped out. It means taking joy in the journey regardless of how hard it can be.

Host Games With Ale Forge

Project Zomboid gives no quarter to new players, but it still remains a satisfying survival RPG. If you know a couple of Project Zomboid secrets, you'll have much more fun throughout the game. Keep these tips in mind as you venture out into the addictive world of this zombie RPG.

At AleForge, we love gaming, especially online games with friends. We provide server hosting for titles like Project Zomboid and many more. Visit our list of game servers and rent one for as low as $1.99 per gigabyte.

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