Tips, tricks, and strategies for getting past the hardest part of Zero Sievert: the early game.
Tips & Strategies for Early Game
- The 6 starter gear choices are a matter of personal preference. #1 (Assault Rifle) and #3 (Sniper Rifle & Pistol) are good choices, but it’s really up to the player. They are just gear choices, not related to the player-character or future skill progression.
- The early game is a complete bastard. Expect to die a lot, but treat each death as a learning experience.
- There are 4 quest-givers at the base: the Barman, the Doctor, the Trainman, and the General. The General doesn’t become available until you complete a couple early quests. Make sure to visit each one and get all their quests. The Barman and Doctor both sell things, so check out their inventory. The General does not, but just to his left is another room to buy/sell military gear. The Trainman only has one mission, and unlocking it allows access to The Mall map area.
- Shop gear & money resets at 7:30am.
- Sleeping is important. When setting the sleep slider, the top number is how many hours you are sleeping, and will turn green if it’s enough to get Stamina back up to nominal. The bottom number is what time of day the player will awaken.
- In the early game, water is critically lacking, with only one sure source: The Barman. Each day, make sure to buy everything drinkable and use the crafting station to turn the irradiated water into drinkable water. In the early game, this will barely be enough, so don’t miss each day’s buying opportunity.
- Decide what constitutes success for an away-mission, and leave when that is achieved. If you complete a couple missions or get some decent loot, it is probably best to head for the exit straightaway. It’s very disheartening to die 10 meters from the extraction point — with a completely full inventory — simply because you saw one last shiny thing to loot, and didn’t notice the soldier in the trees just beyond. It happens. Don’t be greedy. Get what you came for and bug out. Especially in the early game. (Reminded by one of the comments, thank you!)
Both the E & Q keys are unused by default. Thus, two easy rebinds to consider:
- Map: rebind to Q.
- Night Vision / Lights: rebind to E.
- Put laser sights on all assault weapons. Turn on with the L key at the beginning of a mission, and leave it on. Absolute game-changer for run & gun situations where there is no time to aim carefully.
- Ever run out of ammo with most of a wolf pack still chasing you? Instead of dying, run with the SHIFT key.
- Learn how many enemies normally spawn in certain areas, and then make sure you get them all before looting.
- After killing one bandit, the others will often run off into the woods, or around behind a structure. Circle around and look for them.
- Be patient and smart. If you just killed one bandit from below their position, circle around to another location and hit them from there. The AI is better than most games. They will look for you. They will move to new locations and hide. They will fire off exploratory shots where they think you might be or saw you last. Try to imagine what you would really do and do that; barging in from the same direction as before is a certain way to take a bullet to the face.
- Before starting a fight, especially with bandits at a camp or structure, scout the surrounding area. You should have an idea if there are any (1) obstructions, like water, (2) areas of cover, (3) high radiation areas, and (4) areas with hostiles. This way, if you have to run, you already know which ways to go and (more importantly) not go.
- Ammo types matter a lot. Soldiers and other armored enemies cannot easily be damaged with normal rounds. Make sure to bring a stack of ammo with a higher “Piercing” value. To change ammo hit Y to see a list of ammo types in inventory for the current weapon, use scroll wheel to choose the correct one, then hit Y again to reload with the new ammo type. If nothing happens, you probably selected the same type that is already loaded.
Death & Progression
Early missions will result in a lot of deaths. A lot of deaths. What happens when the player dies?
- All loot is lost
- All quest progress is lost
- (some) XP from combat is retained.
- Any skills learned from skill books are retained. If you find a skill book while on a mission, use it immediately. There is no good reason to risk carrying it around.
- Skill upgrades gained while using skills like Stealth & Shooting are retained.
- XP levels determine what you can buy in stores. Higher level gear is unlocked, and new items may appear.
After death, the player will re-appear at the Trainman. Both time-of-day & player inventory will revert to what it was before the failed mission. The player can immediately leave on a mission again without re-equipping. All loot & quest progress from the mission will be lost but skills are retained. Thus, the player can die, and die, and die (this is a certainty) without losing existing inventory, progress toward the next XP level, or skill levels.
- The Forest is the only map needed for the first many hours of game-play. Get to know this map.
- After arriving, hit M to open the map, then find and mark the exit waypoints. Also, note where the main structures are located. The Forest has two that show up on the map: (1) the lumber yard, which shows up as a grey rectangle, and (2) the village, which should always be at the center of the map.
- The lumber yard is very dangerous, with 5-8 armed enemies. Avoid it until more experienced. The main building also has 2-3 more enemies. However, there are plenty of looting opportunities here, once gear is leveled up a bit. Avoid in the early game.
- The village is a great place to raid, early game. It has two “areas”: the outer “ring” of houses, and the store in the center. The area directly around the store is dangerous. Lazar and his gang hang out there. However, the houses around the store can be looted without alerting the gang. Most of the houses have 1-3 ghouls hanging about, but shooting them never has attracted any attention from the gang in the middle. Most of the stuff needed for base upgrades can be found looting this area.
- Be aware that regardless of what is seen on the map, lots of unseen houses, forts, and other waypoints can be found all over the place. None will be marked, and some can spawn right next to each other. RNG changes each map, each time, so each run can be very, very different. Go slow, be stealthy, and sight out as far as possible while exploring. Right-click to zoom out even further (or scope, depending on gun setup).
The order of some of these items may change as you progress. In the early game, drinks are VERY hard to come by. Anything related to keeping alive should be top priority, with making money coming in second place.
- Skill Books (use immediately)
- Quest items
- Crafting materials
Base upgrades are a three-stage process: (1) Use the J key and then click the building icon. Choose a location for the component you plan to build, and install it. (2) Craft the component at the workbench. (3) Open inventory, right-click (“Use”) the component. New base equipment should appear.
- Choose room locations wisely. If the player uninstalls a room, the installed component is destroyed and must be rebuilt using new materials.
- Early game suggestions: (1) Weight room (passively increase carry weight), (2) Shooting range (passively increase combat stats), (3) Bedroom (passively increase skills), (4) Ammo (allows ammo crafting), (5) Workshop (self repair weapon & armor).
- Some rooms, like the Ammo store, provide resources and can be interacted with. Others, like the Shooting Range, passively increase stats without requiring player interaction.
Watch skill progression thru the J-key UI. When a skill gets fully maxed out, the player can choose a specialization. Highlights:
- Strength: The obvious choice is “Pack Mule” which will almost double your carry weight.
- Charisma: “Storage” causes shops to have more of the same inventory items: more water, more ammo, more meds, more everything. The same exact inventory options will appear, but there will be more of each item for sale. This will more than solve any ammo, food, or water shortages.
- Shooting: The “Sniper” specialization massively improves the scope’s ergonomics, stability, and speed.
The game changes a lot when after leveling up some skills & gear. Here is a target to aim for:
- Important Specializations: Mule, Stealth, Sniper, Storage
- Weapon #1: F90 with silencer, scope, and laser sight (a game-changer)
- Weapon #2: Carbon fiber Mozin with silencer & scope (obtain from The Old Man mission killing the old man).
- Armor: Police is a good starter, but move up to the grade-2 & 3 military armor ASAP.
- Light source: Using a headlamp at night is as about as stealthy as firing a cannon. It will attract unwanted attention from hunters & other dangers. They will come and find you. Save up for NVG’s and avoid being out after dark until then. The Military grade-2 & 3 night vision goggles are a complete game changer.
With better weapons, armor and night vision, start going out on night missions. With the Stealth perk and silencers on all weapons, away missions will transform and become highly profitable. Take down enemies without them even being aware of your presence. In the dead of night, you become the hunter.
Imagine getting 500+XP and 30,000 roubles on an good run. My best “Forest run” so far is 575XP and 56,000 roubles, and it was done in complete darkness. You’ll want to bring double food & water for such missions, as they can start in the dead of night and still be going on after daybreak.