dimsey's State of Decayy (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Almost everyones dream zombie apocalypse survival simulation.

The Rad

  • Emphasis on survival beyond simply killing zombies.
  • A wide open world to explore.
  • Procedurally generated content offers some amount of replayability.

The Bad

  • Rather minor technical issues, framerate hitches etc.
  • Difficulty isn’t adjustable.

In large part people are tired of zombies as antagonists.

And while personally I’m not, I could see why you would be.

They’re everywhere. But I feel like their presence is more tolerable when the zombie apocalypse is used as a backdrop for the human drama that would follow such an event.

Feel like the success of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is proof enough of that. And while State of Decay barely has a narrative of its own, yet alone one as nuanced as that of TWD, it gives you this sprawling apocalyptic sandbox in which you craft your own tales of survival against the threat of the undead.

Lacking though it is there is there is a narrative, that’ll see you discover the zombie outbreak. Then trying to survive in it. And then potentially escaping the threat. The story ends on something of a cliffhanger. But I don’t care enough about it to be dismayed or jumping in my seat for more right away. Honestly if it weren’t there at all I’d have been perfectly happy.

You’ll start off as a fellow named Marcus and as you progress you’ll encounter some characters that are there and exist as part of the story. But more interestingly there are also characters that are randomly generated and come with their own skill sets and personalities. Personalities that can sometimes conflict with those of others in your group and stir up trouble.

In game this amounts to little more than affecting a morale bar that ostensibly has some impact on the performance of your group. But having played some Roguelikes and such in my time, I’m used to filling in a lot of blanks and creating my own stories. So when I see the sexist stirring up shit with the ladies, it’s more to me than -10 happiness.

It’s a story writing itself in my head thanks to what I believe is enthralling gameplay.

And comparisons to the Roguelike genre don’t stop with the game requiring a little imagination on your part. Permadeath is also a factor.

And I believe with little exception everyone can be killed. I’ve never experienced the death of a mission giver so I don’t know if they go, but everyone else certainly does.

There are a few character deaths that are scripted as part of the story, but anyone can go at anytime and the game autosaves frequently. So a loss is really a loss. If I have any complaint about this, it’s that pretty much all the characters I’ve had die aside from those related to the story died because of things that happened when I wasn’t playing.

It’s hard to tell what and how much exactly, but the world persists even when you’re not actually playing. So when you come back you’ll find events have happened. Supplies will have dwindled, someone might have stirred up drama, someone might be sick if not dying. And depending on the circumstances you’ll have to decide whether to wait and see if they can be treated or give them a merciful shot to the head to spare them from becoming the enemy.

I can’t say I REALLY mind events occurring when I’m not playing, but to some degree I feel like less happens when I am. People in your group will certainly continue to get sick, injured, go missing, potentially die while you’re playing. But I feel like less happens TO YOU while you’re playing.

A typical day in State of Decay has you roaming around, scavenging whatever supplies you happen to be low on, maybe clearing out a zombie infested home or hunting one of the game special infected.

But while you have control of a character, being as you have control of the character, zombies are the only threat you’ll experience to your person. And they aren’t as much of a threat as you might like.

They’re somewhat threatening earlier on, but as you level up and stockpile weapons and vehicles they become significantly less so.

You’ll either be able to kill them quite simply or get away from them.

The Juggernaut zombies are perhaps the only ones that really pose a terrible threat to your lone survivor but if you’ve got a strong enough vehicle it only takes a few rams of that to take them down - though you’ll wreck your vehicle doing it.

So my one, main issue with the game is simply that the zombies aren’t a great threat and there’s no way to adjust the games difficulty. If there were maybe a few more of them and they did some more damage then maybe I’d take them a little more seriously. But after a few hours of playing and stocking up on key items, they turn more into inconveniences than anything.

At least this is what I’ve experienced.

A lot of the games content is procedurally generated.

The placement of items in the world, the amount of items, the side missions you’ll undertake, the whereabouts of zombies. Maybe I just rolled a good world and as such found surviving the zombie apocalypse to be something of a cake walk.

That being said I look forward to playing the game again and finding out for sure. Regardless of all that I still had a pretty great time with it. The experiences I’ve had in managing my own little group of survivors I won’t forget anytime soon. And the mechanics behind building up your base, scavenging for supplies and fighting for survival are solid.

If like me you have this grand idea of this perfect zombie survival simulation game in your head, well this isn’t perfect - but if you can tolerate some rough edges it’s probably the closest you’ll find right now.

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