Much of the Standalone development thus far has been geared to making Chernarus better suited to DayZ. Nearly all buildings can be explored for supplies, while the standard towns have been expanded and new settlements added, including special landmarks such as a beached tanker and a construction site with cranes jutting into the sky. This all means survivors spend more time in urban areas, which puts them at greater risk from both zombie attacks and patrols of player bandits looking for a quick kill and easy loot.
The inventory system has also been completely reworked over the mod. Items from the world can be added to your inventory using a simple drag and drop method. Meanwhile, your inventory space is determined by what you wear. Cargo pants offer greater inventory space than jeans, while a hoodie gives you additional pockets that a t-shirt doesn't. The only frustration with the inventory comes when trading with other people. To do this, you must place items on the ground for your companion to pick up, which is always dicey as there's a risk it might be engulfed by the terrain, thanks to Real Virtuality's sketchy collision detection.
This leads us to another of DayZ's issues, which is that zombies can waltz through pretty much any solid structure like Fred Astaire's ghost. This is antithetical to DayZ's highly logical approach to system design, and means sensible strategies such as weaving through the woods or barricading yourself inside a building don't work. Your only options are to run away if you're unarmed, or kill them if you've got a weapon. The latter is ludicrously easy, because zombies take so long to respond to your presence that it's possible to run up behind them dispatch them before they attack. The former is more difficult as they chase you for quite a while, and it's difficult to tell when they've stopped.
Either way, the zombies quickly begin to feel like an irritation rather than a hazard. This has been the case since DayZ Standalone launched, and it still hasn't been fixed. Plans are in place to make the zombies faster and more persistent when chasing you, but that's unlikely to resolve the issue. What would help is a return to the mod's portrayal of the zombies, where it was possible to evade them by stealth, but they would quickly swarm you if alerted.
Frankly though, zombies aren't the reason people play DayZ. It's the interactions with other
players that are the real draw. Whether it's a stand off with a psychopath on a dark and stormy night, an encounter with the 'Wiggles' cult, or just a guy running past you doing an impression of Sonic the Hedgehog, DayZ offers a sandbox of potentially limitless surprises. In any other game such antics, the often extreme lengths players will go to when or assisting, torturing or trying to freak out a player, would shatter the immersion. But DayZ it makes the game. DayZ harnesses the power of the Internet in a way that no other game does, even the most absurd occurrences fit beautifully into its world gone insane.
When it was first released it was difficult to recommend DayZ Standalone over and above the mod. Now though, the Standalone version's huge player base and ever increasing layers of detail make it undoubtedly worth the reasonable twenty-pound entry fee. There still isn't an awful lot to do once you've sorted out your survival situation beyond playing with the game's systems and creating your own personal survival stories. But then, that's kind of like arguing there isn't a lot to do in football beyond kicking the ball toward your opponent's goal. Ultimately, regardless of whether you choose to invest in the Standalone version or not, to experience DayZ is essential.