Project Zomboid is a Steam game developed by The Indie Stone which has recently risen in popularity with the help of Twitch. It’s an open world survival game set in a post-apocalyptic world with one simple goal – to survive as long as possible.
Getting started in the harsh world of Project Zomboid can be a difficult task: Learning to control your character takes practice and enemies, although slow, are everywhere in large quantities, are tough and can kill you in a single attack. Setting aside all the systems you’ll have to juggle (hunger, thirst, sleep, nutrition, etc.), melee combat is perhaps the area where most players struggle at first.
Not all characters created are equally. Some are better at the crafting side of the game, others excel at harvesting renewable resources, etc. These are my suggestions for characters focused around melee combat in the early stages of the game, when resources are limited and your skills are yet to develop. Some occupations and traits have intentionally been left out to make the characters easier to handle.
Best Occupations in Project Zomboid
Construction Worker: (+1 Carpentry; +3 Short Blunt; -2 Trait Points)
Short Blunt category weapons are by far the easiest weapon to find in the game. Find all sorts of hammers and pipes by exploring garages, sheds, warehouses and maintenance rooms. Have zombies destroy small metal fences (by having large groups stumble into them) and claim Metal Bars if you can’t disassemble them yet. Search car trunks for wrenches, etc.
At Level 3 Short Blunt you start your journey being able to melee small groups of zombies.
With a +125% XP bonus to Short Blunt you will gain levels incredibly fast. Weapon skill levels are the main contributor of damage output for your character.
The bonus to Carpentry is a nice cherry on top, as besides being good for construction, it allows you to craft spears at full condition (Lv3) and get the max bonus when repairing with Wood Glue (+75% at Lv7).
Repairman: (+1 Carpentry; +2 Maintenance; +1 Short Blunt; -4 Trait Points)
Trades some of your Short Blunt’s levels and bonus for Maintenance’s, which makes all weapons last longer and is of key importance if you plan to use Spear as your main weapon category, since they tend to have the lowest durability of all types.
Since you still have a bonus to Short Blunt, you can use them while you build up your levels of Maintenance and also during times when you don’t have enough knives to craft spears. Short Blunt weapons also have some advantages over Spears, like being lighter (uses less endurance on each attack) and having less minimum range (which forces you to shove).
Spears are quite deadly even with low skill levels, mainly because of their high critical damage (x10) and critical chance (30%), which is further improved when using the static stab animation (+30% critical chance).
Best Positive Traits for Beginners
Must have positive traits
- Keen Hearing (-6): Keen Hearing increases your Perception. Perception is the bubble of vision behind your cone of vision so increasing this will give you additional time to react to threats approaching from the rear.
- Fast Learner (-6): Like most RPGs, leveling plays a core part in Project Zomboid either by hard-locking key abilities to survive the apocalypse (Hotwire: Lv2 Mechanics + Lv1 Electrical) or soft-locking access to areas behinds hordes of zombies that must be killed for safe looting. This trait gives you a small but important +30% XP bonus to all skills except Strength and Fitness.
Recommended positive traits
- Strong (-10): Expensive, however it’s well worth paying for as you get a considerable melee damage bonus (+5% per level of Strength and an extra +40% with the Strong qualifier at Lv9), extra inventory capacity (18kg at Lv9; 20kg at Lv10) and increased chance of knocking down zombies.
- Wakeful (-2): Reduces the time required for sleeping to restore your fatigue (~4.5h when Drowsy and sleeping on a good bed) but most importantly it slows down fatigue gain while awake, allowing to take full advantage of daylight to explore the map, fight and loot safely. Fatigue moodles severely impair your ability to fight (reduced melee damage and ranged hit chance) and the more fatigue you accumulate, the slower your endurance regens. The extra night time before going to sleep can be used to read books, grind skills and do “house work”. Do not take on MP servers where sleep is disabled.
- Lucky (-4): an extra +10% chance of getting additional items when you search any type of container (including corpses). You can possibly go thru thousands of containers during a playthrough so it’s well worth the shot of getting some bonus items.
Best Negative Traits for Beginners
Must have negative traits
- High Thirst (+6): doubles your character’s need for water. Countered by bringing extra water bottles, preferably in your backpack. Only a problem when you find yourself in areas without water (forests, roads between towns) as you’ll find at least 20 units of clean water on every sink, toilet and bathtub in the map once the water is shut off.
- Slow Healer (+6): increases the time needed to heal from injuries. Usually, you’ll die outright from zombification or get pinned down by multiple zombies and if you don’t die you can always take an extra day or two on your base to heal. Only an issue with fractures (falls, car crash) and heavy PVP firearm combat.
- Prone to Illness (+4): makes it more likely to catch colds and bacterial wound infections. Increases how fast you die from zombification (but not the chance). Proper insulation isn’t hard to find and there are several ways of treating wound infections.
- Weak Stomach (+3): doubles the effect of poison, which includes rotten and burnt food and tainted water. Staying away from these is rather easy as long as you identify berries and mushrooms, explore the map for food and water and use the many renewable food and water sources available.
- Short Sighted (+2): as far as I have tested, the only effect on gameplay is having reduced Search radius (foraging), which is countered by Foraging levels and the Lucky trait (among other things).
- Slow Reader (+2): slower reading isn’t that big of a deal if you’re able to speed up time.
Recommended negative traits
- Smoker (+4): you will need to use cigarettes on a daily basis or you’ll gain Stress (up to Agitated, which reduces damage by -10% and increases unhappiness). On the flipside, cigarettes now cure all stress and reduce unhappiness by -10. Cigarettes and lighters are not trivial to find at first, but once you get your first set you’ll usually kill enough zombies before running out, ensuring a steady supply. Gas stations and bars tend to have them, while sometimes they can be found on kitchens, car glove boxes, desks and nightstands. And zombies, of course.
- Conspicuous (+4): increases the chance of zombies detecting you by sight at long ranges, but doesn’t change their sight range. The thing with trying to sneak while in visual range is that the zombies will usually spot you regardless if you have Inconspicuous, Conspicuous or none of them. You might as well take for granted that they’ll detect you and use it against them to split large groups of zombies into more manageable sizes.