State Of Decay Review
Not just another Zombie game.
Each time I saw a new trailer, read a new preview or looked at a new batch of a screenshots for State of Decay, I got just as worried as I was excited. Undead Labs’ Third-Person, Open World, Survival Horror RPG was such an ambitious game that there was always a chance that it wouldn’t end up nearly as good as it looked and we’d be left disappointed again. Now that I’ve actually played it I can thankfully say that, even if it is a little rough around the edges, State of Decay is one of the best Zombie games that I’ve ever played.
State of Decay starts off with two local Trumbull Valley residents, Marcus and Ed, returning home from a fishing trip, only to be met by a couple of crazy people trying to eat them. They soon find shelter at a nearby Ranger’s Station, where a group of survivors explain to them that a few days earlier people just started dying and coming back as Zombies. The focus of the story isn’t on what happened or why it happened, but rather on the group’s survival. Right away you’ll need to relocate the group to the church, which has more room and is closer to town for gathering supplies. Each mission in the game is for your survival, whether it’s going on supply runs, searching for new survivors or clearing out Zombie infestations. You’ll learn a little bit about each of the characters you meet, but it’s not really about who they were, it’s about who they are now and what they can do for the group, as they each bring different skills to the table. Some of the dialogue can be a little cheesy and the one-liners are repetitive, but I wasn’t waiting for the next act to reveal some answers or the next plot twist, I was too busy making sure people didn’t die.
That’s the thing about State of Decay: everything has one chance to live. When you search a house and gather up the supplies, that house is empty and will never get restocked, if you destroy a vehicle, a new one does not spawn somewhere and when a person dies, they are permanently dead. You can repair vehicles and if one of the main characters gets tired, injured or sick, you can switch to another character and let them rest, but if a vehicle explodes or the character dies, they are gone. Characters get tired and hurt easily and often, so you’ll be switching back and forth a lot, but I like that since each character has their own progression and you’re forced to use more than one to avoid having just one really strong character. You’ll meet new survivors as you play and you’ll then start increasing their skills as well, such as their Stamina, Power and Shooting, and you’ll also unlock weapon specific skills the more you use certain weapons and different combat moves as well. You’ll max out characters quicker in State of Decay than most games, but since you’re always adding new survivors to the group, there’s always someone new to use.
Resources are your main source of survival in State of Decay, with Food, Medicine, Construction Materials, Ammo and Gas being necessary if you want your group to last more than a few days. You’ll find individual items scattered throughout the world, but you’ll also find stashes of resources as well, which you have to carry back to your base for everyone to use. Resources dwindle away with each day that passes, so you have to keep each one stocked in order to prevent disease, fear and hunger from spreading through the group. The best way to find a resource stash is to get Lilly to use the Radio to ask other survivor camps if they know where to find them and then the location of the stash will show up on your map. It’s crucial to find plenty of Construction Materials right away so you can start upgrading your base. You can build more sleeping quarters to accommodate more survivors that you bring home, a workshop to build items and repair vehicles and even watchtowers to guard your perimeter. Keeping everyone safe requires a lot of work and constant attention, so you’re never bored in State of Decay.
Resource management plays a key role in State of Decay, but it’s also a game about killing zombies. Combat isn’t perfect, but this isn’t a game where you’re running around killing everything in sight. As you explore Trumbull Valley, you need to be very careful, since zombies are fast and they often move in large hordes that will swarm on you before you know it. You’ll find plenty of melee weapons, like baseball bats, shovels, hockey sticks, machetes and even swords, and there are plenty of guns to go around as well. Rifles, pistols, shotguns and machine guns can be found, with a decent amount of ammo to go along with them. There’s not a crazy amount of ammo like in Left 4 Dead, but it’s also not insanely rare like in I Am Alive either. I had a good amount of ammo for each weapon, but it can go fast if you’re not careful, and the last thing you want is to have a Zombie horde move in on your base when you have no ammo. The other reason why I never ran out of ammo is because using a gun isn’t always the best idea.
Zombies in State of Decay have excellent hearing and the slightest sound can attract them, so you can only imagine what firing a gun or beeping a car horn would do. Crouching while you walk, hiding in bushes and creating distractions like throwing molotovs or firecrackers is a great way to avoid them, but once they see you, they rarely give up chasing you. I’ve had Zombies follow me through an entire town, all the way back to my base, so it’s best to save guns and other loud items for a last resort. Even things like looting can attract a hungry horde of Zombies. When searching through a container you have to hold Y to slowly search, but you can risk being loud by holding LB to speed things up. Doing a regular search is a little too slow for my liking, so I will constantly speed things up and then take off and hide until the horde moves on. Smashing windows, driving cars and blowing up propane tanks are also great ways of bringing the undead to your location. Once you level up a bit and find some good weapons, it’s not that risky to attract a few walkers, but when there are 10 or more, it’s best to just keep moving unless you’re mowing them over in a vehicle.
When Undead Labs announced that the game would cost $20 I knew it had to have either a really long story or a really big world, and I was definitely right about the world. There are lots of missions to complete, but exploring Trumbull Valley is what will eat up the majority of your time. There are two decent size towns and one large town, and lots of small areas to find in between. Maybe you stumble across an old farm house, an abandoned warehouse or construction site or maybe it’s just a few tents in a camp site, there are plenty of side areas to explore and supplies to find. Thankfully the map in State of Decay is well designed, with the best feature being that it will show you whether or not you already explored each building and if there are any supplies left to find. This saves a lot of time and leads to a lot less backtracking for nothing. You can also climb to different vantage points and survey the area to highlight important locations and even vehicles and nearby Zombie hordes. Undead Labs really wanted to make it as easy as possible to navigate the massive world and they definitely nailed that part of it.
Unfortunately, they didn’t nail everything in State of Decay, with several technical issues to be aware of. To start with, the graphics are dated and the game stutters at times, especially when you’re driving. It can also lag for a few minutes after you load up a saved game, but I never had it last for more than five minutes or so. There are a lot of little issues as well, such as Zombies getting stuck in closed doors and fences, NPC’s standing in doorways and not moving to let you through, textures popping in and out, cars disappearing if you drive into a mission cutscene and lots of other small, annoying bugs and glitches. The worst one is definitely when you lose a car after you enter a cutscene, because vehicles are limited and it sucks to lose one in a vehicle free area and then have to travel on foot to find another one. Most of these issues will more than likely be fixed in patches over time, and most of them don’t ruin the experience, but they will definitely annoy you.
I’m can’t really say how long State of Decay will last for you because there is so much to see and do, it all depends on how deep you go. If you wanted to just focus on the story missions and be done with it, you could probably wrap those up in 10-12 hours, but I really don’t think anyone is going to do that once they start exploring Trumbull Valley. I’m already around 15 hours in and there is still a lot of the world that I haven’t seen yet and there are still dynamic events, such as finding missing survivors, destroying Zombie infestations and trading supplies with other survivor camps, occurring around me to complete. I was concerned about the $20 price tag at first, but now that I’ve played it, it’s worth every penny.
There are no multiplayer or cooperative modes in State of Decay. Having said that, I think it would be fantastic to be able to invite a friend to your game and have them take over one of the members of your community. Undead Labs must also feel this way, as they have said on Twitter and confirmed it to me as well that they hope to be able to add some sort co-op to the game, down the road. Whether it happens or not, no one knows right now, but I really hope that it does.
Despite some technical issues, which hopefully will be fixed soon, State of Decay is the Zombie game that I always wanted. It has a huge world to explore, with a heavy focus on resource management and survival. It’s not a fast paced Shooter like Left 4 Dead or even Dead Island and it doesn’t have a great story like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but there are plenty of times where you’ll be caught up in chaos and have to fight for your life and its focus on survival is unmatched by any of them. Even if you’re sick of fighting Zombies, State of Decay is a different Zombie experience than what we’re used to and I think everyone should book their ticket to Trumbull Valley and pick it up.
Release Date: June 5th, 2013, Coming Soon To PC
Available On: Xbox Live Arcade, Coming Soon To PC