"I still can’t pull myself away from its immersive world. State of Decay may not be a looker, but it’s the closest you’ll come to feeling like you’re in the midst of a Walking Dead TV episode."
Having just returned from a camping trip, you find your hometown swarming with the undead. The game wastes no time with fancy cinematics and throws you into the action right away. You pick up a club and bash your first zombie skull before you can catch a breath. As you make your way to a house uphill, you soon learn that sneaking is key when hordes are lurking around the corner. You see… zombies in State of Decay are viscous and deadly…tackling a horde unprepared will get you instantly killed. Weapons break after a few strong hits and your stamina bar degrades quickly if swinging around for too long.
"Your goal is to build a community of strong survivors and upgrade your home base while completing tasks around town and securing safer locations for your growing population."
After meeting some survivors in an abandoned house, you’re introduced to the game basics: gathering supplies, fortifying your home, seeking out new outposts, saving/recruiting survivors around the map…and trying to stay alive. State of Decay is an RPG first and an action game second. Your goal is to build a community of strong survivors and upgrade your home base while completing tasks around town and securing safer locations for your growing population. You constantly have to keep an eye on your character’s stats and fatigue level. If your character is tired, it’s important to switch to another freshly rested member in order to ensure top performance when going out on a mission. Also, your stats improve as you use various weapons, so it’s important to rotate your characters to keep everyone’s skills growing. Additionally, every member has a skill that they excel in (such as higher stamina, better use of firearms, and so on) so it’s important to choose the right person for each mission.
Within each base, there’s a locker storing all the found stash. Here you can drop off food, weapons, and medical supplies found around town to keep your community safe and strong. Bringing back supplies also increases your influence level with the group, so you want to ensure everyone’s happiness. If certain supplies are needed for missions, your influence level decreases depending on the items you take out. Weapons and medicine have rather high influence ratings, so it’s important to only take what’s needed.
Missions are varied and the game progression feels very organic. If certain tasks are left unattended for too long they can’t be re-played, sometimes even leading to characters’ deaths. If you’re asked to do a medicine run for a sick community member, it’s important to prioritize your objectives or your people will start dying and your home base will weaken over time. When a character dies, they are dead for good. You can’t re-load a save, you can't re-play a mission…when they’re dead…they’re dead. This sense of dread and urgency is what makes State of Decay so unique and addictive.
"Despite the massive technical shortcomings, State of Decay is a spectacular indie offering by a team that truly understands the meaning of zombie survival."
The gameplay is a combination of third-person shooting, brawling, and very loose stealth. Most of the time you’re beating zombies with found objects and when things get too hectic you can use Molotov cocktails or other explosives to deal greater damage. When dealing with smaller groups, you can sneak up with a stealth kill, although it won’t be long before nearby enemies are alerted. But when all else fails, you can hop into a vehicle and crush everything in your path. Heck you can even use the car door as a weapon…it never gets old.
Technically, the game is a complete mess. Don’t get me wrong, the environments are well designed and some of the city visuals look quite nice, but the framerate, the screen tearing…it’s unbearable. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t affecting the gameplay every time there was a hiccup. Driving in particular is hellish during framerate dips since taking a turn with a vehicle is sometimes delayed by a full second. I can only hope for a patch.
Despite the massive technical shortcomings, State of Decay is a spectacular indie offering by a team that truly understands the meaning of zombie survival. If Undead Labs decide to bring this title to the PC (as promised) and iron out the rough edges, this will become the next cult classic. But even in its semi-broken state on the console…this is an absolute must buy!
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox 360