State of Decay provides a unique and engrossing experience, dragged down by
State of Decay is an open-world survival game, developed by Undead Labs. Yes, it's a zombie game, but a special one at that. Past zombie games have tried to capture something different. For example, Valve's Left-4-Dead series was all about four-player co-op, whilst Telltale's, The Walking Dead focused more on it's emotional story-telling. State of Decay, however, provides an engrossing open world, filled with a deep, unique survival element. Despite some flaws, it can proudly stand against some of the best zombie games to date.
Without any introduction, State of Decay sends you straight into it's sandbox world. You begin as a survivor, named Marcus. He's just returned from a hunting trip, along with his friend, Ed. On their return, they soon realise the world has gone to hell. Whilst they've been away, a mysterious virus had spread. A virus that kills the living, then brings them back as walking corpses. It's a typical zombie narrative, but it doesn't really matter. State of Decay stands out due to it's unique survival element. Once you realise how addictively engrossing it is, you wont want to put down the controller.
You'll begin by visiting a ranger station, meeting new survivors, and learn how to scavenge for supplies. Scavenging plays a big role in State of Decay. The vast environments are filled with cabins, houses and shops to loot. Resources, such as medicine, food, water and ammo are needed to remain alive. Holding down X within a selected area will begin a search - combined with RB to speed up the process. Ransacking a building faster may produce a loud sound. Zombies are attracted to noise, so if your not quiet, expect some unfriendly visitors. Once a building is completely empty, it will remain that way for the entire game. State of Decay is a realistically harsh game. Just about everything can run out, break or die on you. Melee weapons fracture with excessive use, vehicles can break down or run out of petrol, and survivors can die forever.
The true selling point in State of Decay is it's switchable characters. Your never restricted to playing as one survivor. Instead, you can take the role of several. As you meet survivors, you can help them out to earn respect. One group, for example, had me boarding up a house to defend it from infected. Once enough respect is earned, you can choose to recruit them. This is when the game becomes very interesting. Every survivor you recruit contains their own special skills and traits. They also level up separately, allowing you to increase their combat, shooting, etc. It's a simple, yet, an addictive role playing element that makes switching between characters meaningful. As stated earlier, anyone can die, so loosing an high levelled survivor is a big deal. It can be emotional, and also change the outcome of the communities safety.
As you recruit survivors and build a community, they will take refuge inside a church. This is automatically your first home base. From here, you can manage resources, build defences, and take care of your fellow survivors. There's a different array of extensions and upgrades available. You can build a medical area, used for injured survivors, a watch tower, to help defend the base, a garage, for repairing vehicles, and more. It's nothing particularly deep, but it's still an enjoyable RTS element. Over time, you may need to relocate to new grounds, if your community becomes crowded. You can also set up outposts inside fully searched houses. This allows you to build a quick defence, helpful when too far out from your main base.
Resources you salvage can be carried back to your base or outpost. Placing them inside a supply locker allows you to manage them. Each survivor can borrow supplies from the locker. This is where the influence system comes to play. Influence is another term for currency. This is earned by completing story missions, helping out a survivor, and bringing back supplies. Instead of purchasing items, a certain amount of influence is attached to each item. For example, a sniper rifle could cost 90 influence. Removing the weapon into your inventory will reduce the overall influence within the safe. It's an interesting element, and deciding who takes what is a challenging part of survival.
The zombies in State of Decay are mostly intelligent and tough. You may find some getting stuck inside walls, etc, but most of them will find you without any problems. Each survivor has two main attacks. From a basic whack, to a finishing move. There's a nice array of weaponry throughout the game. From melee weapons, such as baseball bats, wooden sticks. There's also sniper rifles and assault rifles. Combat is very basic, and it does grow old after a while. However, it gets the job done. What will keep you returning is it's unique strategic gameplay and RPG element.
With everything State of Decay does right, there are some performance and graphical issues that drag the experience down. From constant screen tear, texture pop-ins, and frame rate drops, State of Decay sure seems unpolished. It's very rough around the edges, but it can seem less noticeable within a few hours or so playtime. Undead Labs have announced a fix is in the works, but as it stands, expect a choppy experience.
Review by Gareth Smith