Neighborhoods are empty, my skin burns from walking in the sun all day, and it seems that birds don’t exist anymore. 15 feet away from grabbing my neck, a horde of zombies are running as if a brick wall stands no chance against their blind urge for human flesh. My shovel has only one more swing left, and what looks like a pack of Twinkies is the only reason why I’m still able to run. I look back for one second just to see a zombie with no arms yelling at the top of it’s lungs grabbing the attention of zombies that never knew of my existence, and right before my legs decide to give out, a survivor calls out to me at the top of a dirt hill as he and a couple of survivors shoot the heads off the walking dead that want me more than a human wants to breathe. As the sound of bullets start to drown out, I make my way to the top of the hill where a church is occupied by a group of survivors still holding on to the will to live. I’ve been invited to stay and live another day. But am I here to be protected, or did I just get myself into more trouble than I could handle? That’s State of Decay in a nutshell, and I’ve invested enough time in it to confidently say that this is the zombie game we’ve been waiting for.
The indie developer, Undead Labs, has teamed up with Microsoft Game Studios to deliver this unexpectedly amazing Xbox Live Arcade title. State of Decay is an open-world survival game with RPG elements. Everything you do goes towards your characters skills: Cardio (running), Wits (Searching), Fighting, Shooting, and more skills unique to certain characters. Your main goal is to survive; looking after the survivors in your group by gathering resources, completing tasks, and taking care of zombie problems when need be. After that becomes part of your daily routine, finding a way out of Trumbull Valley with the rest of your group is the next goal. State of Decay’s narrative (if you can even call it that) focuses on the game’s characers instead of the average “What’s going on? How did these zombies get here?” story.
State of Decay packs 3 towns, forests, and open fields to explore within a 2 hour day and night cycle. Exploring these areas, searching through houses, cabins, and camps to scavenge weapons, decoy items, and resources becomes a scary addiction with a possible death waiting behind every corner. The tense feeling of sneaking through the zombie infested streets and fields never go away, and this is just one of the many feelings you’ll experience while playing State of Decay. Survey spots are scattered throughout the game where you can spot out houses, zombie hordes, special zombies and even survivors that may need a little help. Resource management plays a big part in this game due to the fact that you can only carry such a limited amount of items until you become encumbered making it harder to travel with your characters stamina dropping at a fast rate. Your character’s max stamina can also drop if you don’t get any rest, so make sure to switch between characters often, or carry a pack of trucker pills around with you to regain lost stamina.
State of Decay kept me on my toes at all times, and If you plan on surviving in this world, stealth, preperation, and common sense go a long way. This game is very realistic in the sense of the smallest sound attracts A LOT of zombies. This is the first time I was truly terrified because the zombies actually posed a threat towards your character. Keeping your character(s) alive becomes your top priority since if you die, you die for good and control another survivor from your group. This may sound easy enough, but the more difficult types of zombies each come with their own challenge requiring you to handle them very cautiously with thought out approaches. I personally haven’t died in my first playthrough (sorry, I have to rub it in) but it could only suck losing a character after you’ve invested so much time into their stats and equipment. Thankfully, you’re able to visit the location where your character died and retrieve their equipment.
You’re not the only one that’s trying to survive in this world. As you progress through the game you’ll meet other survivors that will join your group requiring you to keep the amount of supplies stored up at your home base for each day. Keeping survivors to stay with you takes some work, and keeping them happy and non suicidal requires high morale and influence points. In order to meet the survivors needs you’ll have to spend resources and influence points needed to build areas around the base, like sleeping, cooking, and workshop areas, just to name a few. From time to time your fellow survivors will end up in difficult situations requiring you to drop everything you’re doing to save them since these missions are time sensitive. You’ll constantly receive these missions from your home base that start to become overwhelming when you’re trying to just explore and do your own thing. It started to become a real problem when survivors would go missing almost every 5 minutes and they were only hiding inside of a shed next to the home base. The only way to make the area more “safe” for you and your survivors is to kill zombie hordes, infestations, and create outposts around town that will create a small safe zone around that house/building that can be upgraded to lengthen the size of that safe zone. These outposts are also very helpful when you need to drop off some items without having to go all the way back to your home base since each outpost will have a storage linked to your home base supplies.
Even though I’m in love with this game, State of Decay is far from perfect. Zombies clip through walls, floors, and doors, the game’s frame rate drops from time to time, and I experienced a glitch that forced me to reload my game save in order to continue playing. If these minor problems scare you away from State of Decay, don’t let it. That’s the zombies job. These graphical hiccups haven’t taken me out of the experience, and if you’ve played many open-world games, these glitches won’t be anything new in your gaming life. Sadly, the hardest part of this game is when you’re not playing. When the game is turned off, the world is still on, so when you get back in the game only to find out that the survivors spent days popping dozens of pills and binge eating your food supply away, it gets very annoying having to resupply what you worked hours to get. This may be me nitpicking but having the search button share the same function as yelling to grab attention can really go against your favor when you’re trying to search through a house quietly only to catch the attention of a zombie horde passing through the neighborhood.
It seems like zombies have become an overused plot device in today’s gaming, but State of Decay breaths new life into this genre by creating a world you can be terrified of along with the zombies that walk in it. If you’re looking for a budget priced game with a 60 dollar value, State of Decay will “feed” your needs.