State of Decay – Diamond In The Rough

Game Backlog Update #13

One game down, too many to go!  I can now cross State of Decay off my list.  Here’s my take on it.


State of Decay
(Xbox 360)

I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to zombies.  For example, the “fast” zombies make no sense to me.  You’ve seen them, the ones that develop superhuman speed upon reanimation. A dead body – were it to rise up and start eating people – should, in my opinion, be a slow, shambling thing.   What they lack in speed they should make up for in dogged tenacity.  To me, a slow but unstoppable monster is more terrifying than a quick, easily dispatched one.

Watching a lone survivor cutting through swathes of cadavers really grinds my gears too.  A lot of games fall into this trap.  The Left 4 Dead and the Dead Rising series both take the “overpowered survivor” approach.  As much fun as it can be to plough through the horde, I believe they’re missing the point.

For me, the most important aspect of any good zombie film/game/book is survival. How humans adapt to no longer being at the top of the food chain and how we can continue to survive against the odds trumps mindless zombie-slaying every time.  Luckily, State of Decay focuses heavily on survival and it’s all the better for it.

There are so many good ideas here that it’s easy to look past the many technical foibles.  One thing that State of Decay gets absolutely spot on is the inventory management.  Having limited bag space is nothing new in video games but here it feels fresh because of the Influence Points system.

Basically, everything that you collect on your travels is worth something to your community.  The more useful items you bring back to your base, the more influence points you’ll receive.  Get enough influence points and you can, for instance, convince people to assist you out in the world.  It’s a simple idea but it really adds to the sense of community.  You genuinely feel like your actions are meaningful.

As you progress through the game you’ll encounter more survivors that you can aid and bring back to your base.  You don’t have to, of course, but the option is still there. Regularly bringing survivors back will mean that you’ll have to upgrade your base.  Bases range in size from small churches to large trucking depots.  Each base can be improved by adding facilities to it, such as dorm rooms and makeshift hospitals.  It’s simple to do but it adds a welcome layer of depth to the game.  You really do feel like you’re rebuilding a community.

 

State of Decay pic.jpg

It’s easy to get outnumbered.

Crucially, you can switch between different characters in your community.  Each character can be levelled up differently, which means you could have someone who specialises in firearms and another who is a master of melee combat.  Being able to switch between different characters with separate skill sets encourages you to experiment with different play styles.  You can attack everything in sight with weapons, sneak around the place or just mess around in your home base.  How you play is completely up to you.

The lack of co-op in a game that feels designed specifically for it is disappointing.  However, the developers, Undead Labs, were transparent about their plans before release.  They openly admitted that their work on State of Decay was just the groundwork for future projects.  With such a solid foundation laid out here, the future for the series looks very bright.

There are many technical issues that plague State of Decay.  The framerate is borderline appalling and the textures pop in horrendously to name just a few,  but it’s easy to look past these ailments because the overall experience is excellent.   It’s very much a flawed gem, but a gem nonetheless.


 

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