Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead – Beginners Guide

This guide contains information that the player would need to know before trying something while still allowing them to make their own discoveries and solutions along the way. The guide mentions common occurrences found early in game and with that in mind it should be Close to Spoiler Free.

Guide for New Players

Tutorial and Controls

The Tutorial can be found under [Special] in the Main Menu.

When playing the game you can press ? to see a list of keybindings for controls the tutorial hasn’t covered (Sort Armor, Zones Manager).

Note: The keybinding list changes when you open a menu, this can be used to see their controls and change them.

Dying Happens

If you’re going to start the very first game with a custom character, I urge you to not put too much time and effort into making them at first, because there will be inevitable and unforeseen deaths in the start of these games.

Play as a basic character with no skills and familiarise yourself with things you learn in the game and try out some of the other scenarios.

When you feel ready, go back to making that cool character you had in mind and throw them into the pits of doom. And remember, “One survivor’s fall is another survivor’s legacy”

Note: The world resets when the last character dies in that world, unless it has been changed in create new world.

Sneaking Around

Most monsters will always see you in lit areas while some in pitch darkness, so crouching won’t do anything for stealth besides keep you quiet and hidden against nearby objects and plants, if keeping distance isn’t an option, you may as well be walking.

Escaping through a dense Forest can help your character Break Line Of Sight with their pursuers, which eventually makes them stop giving chase and wander around aimlessly.

Less hostile creatures may attack you when you’re really close or otherwise Ignore you until they’ve been Attacked by walking into them, they can get into fights with other creatures, depending on how long it takes for their fight to end, you might be able move past them, so long as they aren’t Fleeing in your direction.

Note: Nearby zombies can smell through walls before they can hear walking.

Fighting the Slow Things

Everything moves with time-based turns, the longer your actions take the faster you die.

Zombies move a bit slower than walking. so having a melee weapon with low move cost (such as a pipe) can let you get a hit in before moving away, but moving into range gives them a free attack so it is better to wait, this method works for one zombie in a large space and can be used alongside Furniture and Tiles that have High Movement Costs, it is applied whenever something moves onto or out of these, meaning you can hit them more before moving away.

Keep in mind zombies can grab you, especially if they stumble or are pushed by another zombie trying to get through the doorway, characters at high strength can break free of grab in a few attempts assuming the grabber isn’t stronger.

Having no Stamina left will make you slow and vulnerable, so take rests between fights when it’s safe to.

Injury, Pain and Encumbrance will also make fighting and moving harder, so be sure your character’s gear and health are taken care of, before going into more dangerous places.

Note: If a Headless Zombie doesn’t come over, fight them with a spear or throw rocks at them instead.

Hitting Agile Pests

There are some things that are difficult to hit in melee or can’t be out ran alone, this is usually from their ability to fly or their small size. Cars and Explosions will help in those situations, but Guns are safer and will hit close things with a well aimed shot (full white bar).

However this much Noise will draw Zombies from the neighbourhood which could cost more Ammo than you have to clear them.

Note: When an Alarm goes off a drone will appear outside, keep your distance if you plan on living.

Settling Down to Craft

The first thing you want to do is to gather more food than you’ll need (and to have something better than ration packs, yuck!), because Crafting, Reading and Constructing are some of the biggest time consumers in-game and food runs out quickly within days.

Several empty liquid containers will also be needed, just in case you craft any item that counts as a liquid (fruit jam) or you run out of places to store them. I’m sure a plastic bottle can hold sulphuric acid.

Fire and Crafting are both the 2nd biggest cause of character deaths, and setting up contained fires will have you fooled, so here’s some vital information:

  • If a fire is already lit, the sidebar will display information about these when hovered over, if it says, “small fire” then the fire will spread, if it says, “There is a fire here” then it is safely contained.
  • A container of water can be unloaded to put out fires and in theory yourself when poured on the correct tile, keep those on hand and maybe a bucket for good measure.
  • Braziers are deployed from the Use Item menu, if the sidebar isn’t showing it’s description then it’s not going to contain fire. I think it could trap a fire even if it’s on the ground.
  • Avoid interacting with the oven, plugging it into the power grid will remove it’s ability to contain fires, anything that was burning inside will go everywhere! To start a fire manually, move a piece of wood into the oven and open the Use Item menu to light a fire.
  • If not using a fireplace or wood stove, Smoke will be produced indoors, keep a window open or construct a Firewood Spot to control how much fuel goes in at one time.

Note: Fire can be used to passively purify water over time, just fill a metal container and move it into the fire.

Long-Term Health

Depending on your character you don’t need to worry about these for the first few days so long as you’re still eating and drinking on occasion.

The character’s body Weight determines how long they can go without food before they get Hungry. Eating until Satisfied may prevent them from going Underweight and having dense Calorie food (such as bread and meat, but not fish) should fix this, overweight is beneficial and can be controlled by not eating to full or swapping out your food.

Vitamins are things absorbed from food that keeps your body in working order:

  • Regular Meat covers Iron and Vitamin B12 and can be butchered from creatures.
  • Mutated Meat have Toxins that’s bad for your health and survival, eat less than one per day or give them to animals.
  • Vegetables and Fruit covers Vitamin A and Vitamin C and can be foraged from the wilds until the first day of winter.
  • Milk and Cheese covers Calcium but will rot over time and need to be sourced from plants and bones.
  • Junk Food and Ration Packs won’t help with vitamins.
  • Multivitamins covers most vitamins but will cause problems if you absorb more Iron than in your food.

Note: Should your character have an addiction, avoid consuming drug items immediately when they’re first needed, as this will make the addiction grow worse and happen more often (I haven’t tested this myself, so how should i know).

Things to Do with Spoilage

Food and Spoiling Items can be preserved in many ways, but some of these can limit their crafting use, so having a place to keep them frozen can be beneficial.

Outdoor temperatures change during the Daytime and parts of the Season, so nights in late autumn can make pears go Mushy and days through winter can keep pears Fresh for a very long time.

Below ground the temperature is always cold on all levels and barely changes.

Rotten items don’t get used in construction or crafting, however some rotten plants can have their seeds crafted for potential use.

Note: When checking temperatures of tiles, place water down and leave them for a few hours instead, this will determine if food left here will gradually turn cold, frozen or constantly change.

Farm Big or Go Loot

Planted crops take a season (which is 90 days) before they’re ready to eat and animals breed in certain seasons and take time to grow up just like in real life, so don’t wait for a miracle to happen, but on the sunny side they don’t need your attention (watering, picking, providing food and water).

Fertilising Crops will yield less food as the end result, but will be ready sooner instead of later and is a good way for getting their seeds, overall it’s not worth doing, especially when your character accidentally consumes fertiliser and feels terrible, you need to Interact with the Mound of Dirt to spread these on the crops.

One exception to breeding are egg-laying creatures, they drop eggs that go to rot, and the rotten eggs sometimes spawn babies that go to lay their own eggs. This cycle takes a month to complete and can eventually have a large yield, but on that note the number of chickens present near your home base can slow down your game while passing time, if they populate enough in a room they’ll escape through the walls and become unstoppable.

If you’re really going to have chickens, either have dogs tied around your base to keep them close or line the outer walls with nailboard traps (or deep pits if you have the time to dig).

Note: Crops don’t die out in winter, but they can be destroyed by most creatures and vehicles (destructive zombies, plant-eaters, wheels with lots of weight).

Appliances and Car Batteries

How connecting power grid works is dependent on what appliances you have linked together, not what buildings they’re connected to.

Any appliance you plug-in to each other share the same power pool (oven and fridge), but these can only be used if they’re plugged onto a car or into a battery that’s been placed in construction mode.

Appliances that have been turned on drains power over time, a fridge alone would empty out a full car battery in less than a day (roughly guessing).

If you’re using solar panels to keep it powered, plug in more batteries to extend the power’s lifespan at night.

Note: Extension cords and charging cables can be used for plugging in appliances on different levels, you just have to open the Use Item menu for attaching them each time you walk between the two appliances.

I Want a Cat

(Oh god) ok so the first thing you need for taming are special items like Wet Cat Food, you can make these yourself if you have enough Food Handling skill, once you have it stand near the wild animal and open the Use Item menu to tame it.

Of course if your character isn’t good with animals, that cat is just going to keep running away and will never get tired from doing it, so you’ll need to be creative.

One way to catch an animal is to use an empty nearby building, open all the doors and windows on one side and close the rest, then walk a huge circle around the cat before chasing it towards the building.

If it runs inside, close all the doors and windows and tame it before it gets the chance escape.

Now because the world has ended, pets will live momentarily, for their sake and yours, you’d do well to take them back to your home base or maybe your car… Or you can leave them with your pet dog if anywhere else is dangerous.

To do that, fetch some Rope from a Hay Bale or Seat Belt and interact with your pet to attach a leash and interact again to either lead them or tie them down, this is to prevent them from running away or getting stuck while staring at something.

Avoid closing garage doors, lighting fires and walking past traps and hazards with your pet close at hand, in the event that they pass away, fire can be used to cremate their body as an option.

Note: Some animals can only be tamed while they are newborns.

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