GAME NAME: State of Decay
DEVELOPER(S): Undead Labs
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Action, Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): 5 June 2013
What happens when you arrive on an island for a holiday and get immediately attacked by the undead? You run for your life right? Back to the boat that took you to said island; OR, you can stay on the island to see what on earth is going on. That seems like the
not so smart move, well at least in State of Decay it does and so begins the story… sort of.
That opening paragraph alone suggests that State of Decay’s story is far from its strong point. Two guys go for a holiday and land up in a horror story. They, subsequently, decide to investigate the matter further and see what exactly is going on. These aren’t some heroic survivors, just ordinary people like you and me; people armed with no more than pointed sticks.
The story is weak from beginning to end, and, to be honest, I am not still not quite sure if there was any point to the story at all, except to survive and try get off the island. Then why is State of Decay so addictive I hear you asking? Well, it’s because of the in-depth micro-managing system in place. Your character will run into an abundance of other characters in various safe houses. These houses become your base and you need to build from there, while surviving of course.
When you reach the first safe house, a church, you are introduced to the main mechanics of the game. You will have to look after your own character as well as the other people living in the house. This means that you will have to take on various missions in order to satisfy everyone and, well, help them survive. So, if someone is sick you will need to go get medicine. If you neglect the ill, everyone gets angry at you and you can lose trust and influence. If people are hungry, go get food and so on. You can also find items that help you improve upon your base, improving your circumstances substantially. Other things to find include weapons, cars and other items that will aid you in the survival of the not so fittest.
State of Decay‘s world is rather huge and so there is plenty to discover and explore. It means that the game can take ages to finish if you want to explore everything. If you just follow the main missions however, it is quite a bit shorter but you will be missing out on a huge chunk of what makes the game so addictive. Going on the side missions and improving relationships between the characters is as important as surviving and making sure you aren’t eaten by one of the many, many zombies.
The game doesn’t reward you with money, but rather with influence points. The greater your influence the more you are able to control around your base and the better your stats get. Stats also improve based on completing missions and levelling up; levelling is another important aspect which needs to be worked on throughout the game. These elements of management make the game incredibly immersive and will keep you playing for many an hour. The need to improve in every place possible makes it a journey worth going through, no matter how exhausting.
The missions are also mostly enjoyable as you take your character to different places to look for goods and supplies; if zombies hear you they will attack in numbers, and while it isn’t too difficult to fend off one or two of them, when they attack in hordes it gets much harder. There are also useable cars around every corner, but the zombies will be drawn to the sound so you need to be careful. There are lots of other little nuances like this which make State of Decay such a suspense filled game. Getting into a cabin to find some medicine, boarding up windows so the zombies can’t get you and then have one of them breakthrough never gets old, and keeps the heartbeat going at a steady pace to say the least.
These moments shine in the game, the moments where you have to act instinctively, in panic situations, with only few options to choose from. The game also has day and night cycles, and everything is made tougher at night given the setting. Some of the main missions have to be carried out at night, but I personally was almost always too scared to carry out any side missions in the dark, it is that eerie an environment.
Another aspect of the game is that you can control more than one character during your playthrough. If your one character gets tired or sick, then you need to choose another character to take over and complete the missions. It also means that if your one character dies, he/she stays dead and so you really get the feeling of needing to survive. There is no die and respawn here, and everything you have built your character up to be can be taken away in an instant.
State of Decay isn’t all good though and tends to be a rather ‘buggy’ affair. Sadly, the glitches in the game really became a hindrance. More than once I got stuck behind some object and had to restart from an earlier save. Most times, it was a tree or a rock that slowed my progress, and sometimes the game would just freeze. Another thing I noticed was that zombies would pop out of thin air and attack you, which took away from the experience a little. My other grip with zombies was that while chasing you they might get stuck in obstacles such as walls. It was great for me because I didn’t have to deal with the zombie, but (again) it did make the game feel a little bit broken.
Apart from the bugs, the weak storyline, or rather the lack of a storyline, makes it feel slightly hollow. That said, the relationships built between characters goes a short way to make up for the story’s failings. Understandably, the game is more about managing your survival than it is about a good story, but a bit of focus on both would have made it a far more meaningful experience.
The biggest let down in the game is that there is no multiplayer option. The game is just about perfect for co-op play with a friend online, or even with many friends taking up different sections of the map. Building relationships with AI controlled characters only goes so far, but had those characters been real online friends it would have been more enjoyable and would have allowed much more in the way of building relationships.
State of Decay obviously has its flaws, but despite the average graphics, bugs and lack of story it is still one of the most addictive XBLA games. If you have no interest in micro-managing games and hate zombies then this clearly is not a game for you. But if you have always wondered how you would manage in the zombie apocalypse, State of Decay is one of the most comprehensive games around. It is a little on the pricey side, but its addictiveness is undeniable.