State of Decay
It’s extremely rare that I come across a game in which I’ve pumped more than forty hours of my sweat and tears. “Skyrim”, “Fallout 3”, and “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” are probably the biggest contenders on my personal list, though I’m ALWAYS searching for some type of open-world zombie survival game. In most cases, I’ve been very disappointed with the crap that’s hit the virtual shelves in that regard. “The War Z” was so bad that it ended up changing its name to “Infestation: Survival Stories”, as if it had entered the witness protection program weeks after releasing. I’m pleased to report that “State of Decay” is nothing like that…it’s actually a ton of fun to play! With the release of the “Breakdown” DLC coming November 29th, 2013 (retailed at $6.99), I figured that now would be a good time to formally get my thoughts about this game down on paper.
Before we jump into things, I want to quickly note that this game has been out for the XBox 360 for quite some time. The version I’m reviewing is the PC version, which officially released late 2013. I’ve been with the game since it appeared on Steam’s Early Access page, back when the keyboard wasn’t officially supported. Oh, you could still play the game with the keyboard, but you had to figure out which buttons did what. If you got jumped and had to hit a particular key repeatedly to survive, the screen would flash an XBox button instead of a letter. My keyboard is still reeling from the pounding I gave it, trying to experiment with what key to press in order to stay alive. The official release does include keyboard support, for those of you who are curious…though the keybinds are fixed.
The game starts you out as a particular character out on a camping trip with his buddy. It doesn’t take long to figure out that things are wrong…perhaps the fact that a passerby bit into your friend had something to do with it? It’s here that you’ll learn about the controls…moving, sneaking, striking with a melee weapon, that sort of thing. Your friend will follow behind you, mimicking what you do. If you sneak, he’ll sneak…something that is consistent throughout the entire game. No matter who’s with you, they’ll follow your lead. You’ll reach the Ranger station, go through some more tutorials (like scavenging objects for supplies, scouting on top of towers, etc), and eventually reach a church. It’s here that the game officially begins and allows you to do your own thing.
“State of Decay” is broken up into various mission trees, though you have the ability to ignore them and do your own thing. The only way to actually win the game and unlock more of the map however is to see these missions through. The map itself is fairly large and includes a number of buildings you can explore from the inside out. A persistent day and night cycle is also present, making the threat of being caught in the dark, alone, while exploring the town all the more dangerous. Zombies are everywhere and they respawn in locations you’ve already been to, though you can build outposts in addition to having a primary base in order to give you some leeway.
One of my favorite things about the game is the way you can actually interact with your home base. The game does allow you to move to other pre-designated bases, should you want a change of scenery. You’ll be able to upgrade structures and construct new ones, though the number of available slots a base has is limited. You’ll often have to choose between building a workshop or garden, for example, as there aren’t enough slots to go around to build everything. Each structure is designed to give your survivors a bonus…gardens provide food, workshops allow you to construct items and repair vehicles, bunkhouses increase the number of beds available so that your survivors can rest, and etc. Most of these structures have some sort of action you can activate, usually at the cost of reputation and/or resources.
Speaking of the latter, there are five main resources in this game: food, ammo, fuel, medical supplies, and materials. Your base will need these resources if you want to survive and keep your morale bar from plummeting. Most of the buildings in the game contain either a “stash” of one of these five things, though there are single items that you can pickup and equip as well. Picking up a stash simply involves you placing the pack on your back and you’ll be forbidden from picking up another stash until you bring it back to your base’s supply locker. As for the single items, your inventory space is limited, though you can find large backpacks and equip them in order to hold more stuff.
As far as the characters go, some are controllable and some aren’t. You’ll be able to switch between the different survivors in your base and level them up. Each survivor has a skill tree of sorts and as you perform the same action over and over, you’ll increase your skill in that category (similar to “Oblivion”). Level up a category enough and you’ll be able to specialize and unlock special abilities. Characters in this game DO get tired and fatigued, reducing their maximum health or stamina appropriately. Switching off to another character and allowing the tired ones to rest for a few hours usually brings them back to full strength. You’ll have more people to switch between as the game progresses, but you’ll need to “friend” them first by improving your reputation and by completing side missions as they arise.
Combat is actually fairly challenging. You’ll have melee weapons, ranged weapons, and vehicles to help you stay alive, but the majority of them do make noise. The more noise you make, the more zombies you’ll need to face. Your stamina bar limits your melee swings, making it important to finish a zombie off smartly or stealthily as opposed to spamming the attack button. For example, you can use the “finishing move” action (Shift E) to autokill a zombie when they’re down. Ranged weapons and vehicles make a ton of noise, though gun suppressors help with the former. They have a limited use, but you can find or construct more if necessary. Vehicles catch fire and explode if you’re not careful, though an upgraded workshop can solve this if you park them in a base’s designated parking spot.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here and I’m afraid I won’t be able to touch on all of it. Special infected, which bear an uncanny resemblance to those in “Left 4 Dead”, will give you a run for your money. Death is permanent, though you will assume the role of a random survivor if you run out of controllable ones stationed at your base. You’ll get to interact with other survivor bases and buy/sell them material, which is all done via reputation. Yes, you gain reputation by performing missions and contributing loot to your group locker, which you can later spend on special actions or take from said locker…it’s an interesting mechanic.
There’s more, but I’ll simply finish this off by saying that this is probably one of THE best open-world zombie games I’ve ever played. It can get repetitive (going out, looting, coming back), but I’ve spent more time on this game than most of the others in my collection. There are a few bugs, but they aren’t groundbreaking. I would like the closets/containers to continue flashing even after you explore them, just so that I know where they are when I come back to them later. The playtime for one game can be anywhere from a few hours to forty plus, depending on whether or not you ignore the missions (much like “Fallout 3”). The passing of time while offline can be annoying as some resources are used heavily and automatically from day to day, but the game won’t penalize you too much for being away for long periods of time. It’s a must-buy, in my honest opinion, and very much worth its retail price of twenty bucks (as of 11/21/13).
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about and purchase “State of Decay” by visiting the following websites:
You can check out my review of the DLC, here:
You can watch videos of the released version, here:
You can watch videos of the Alpha/Beta version, here: