Let me admit something, when I first saw and heard of State of Decay on the Xbox 360, I turned my nose up at it. I just wasn’t interested in another zombie survival and crafting game, even at that point it felt like there were just too many of them. This was before they infected Steam Greenlight and you couldn’t move for Unity asset zombie crap.
Anyway, fast forward a little bit and I am hearing many good things about State of Decay, it was apparently one game in the genre that really stood out from the crowd, by this point though the 360 was long since retired (broken and couldn’t be bothered to fix) and I didn’t have a PC that could run it.
But here is State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition, which has a host of improvements on the original game, plus a lot of new content. I jumped at the chance to have a look and do you know what? I am now disappointed with myself that I didn’t get on-board in the early days, this is a fantastic game that deserves all the praise it is getting.
Now I can’t comment on how much it has improved technically from the original, but a bit of research suggests that it is only minimal improvements, but with many annoying things such as screen-tearing having been fixed. So take of that what you will.
From a newcomers point of view though, looks aren’t everything and this does look like it would be at home on the 360 still and it is a little rough around the edges. However when compared to other games of its ilk out in the wild, it looks stunning. One thing I have learnt over the years, is that graphics aren’t the be all and end all and if there is a solid game under those visuals, then being a bit rough matters not.
State of Decay is just that too, it really is a solid game and where it excels, is where many other games like this fall down. It isn’t trying to be another cookie cutter game and where I originally saw this as an open world survival game, it actually became much more than that.
This is more RPG where your actions have far reaching consequences and believe me, the first time you realise that, you are taken aback. The first time I made a decision that lead to the death of another character, I actually felt emotional, I had done something that meant someone else was dead, but it was me or them and it had to be them! Right?
I didn’t even realise I cared about the characters I was meeting along the way and in truth, I don’t think I did. I wasn’t overly invested in any single one of them. But something felt like they had weight in this world, that they weren’t just fodder so I could survive and even after taking my time to ponder why this is, I struggled to work out why I cared so damn much.
It has relationship management as part of the core experience, but this has nothing on what I found in a game such as Persona 4, nor is the writing as well done as in The Last of Us, there is no Joel and Ellie type thing going on, it is fairly basic stuff, but here it is, affecting my decisions.
There is also some pretty deep resource management, where again it can affect the group’s effectiveness when taking on missions or even just surviving. An injury to yourself can slow you down, but an injury to another character can have an affect on the entire group.
Each character has different strengths and weaknesses as you’d expect and how you utilize them will again have bearing on how you work as a unit. Maybe that is why it is so effective at managing consequences, because you know that if you screw up, one death can change the entire outlook for you and your group.
There is clearly a Walking Dead influence here, mainly in the way the characters are important to the dynamics and in truth, with a bit of licencing this could easily have been an official Walking Dead product and does a better job of being The Walking Dead than that official survival thingy that was released and was just plain awful.
In terms of zombie, infected, mutant, etc influenced games, this can sit proudly up there with Left 4 Dead and The Walking Dead (Telltale) as a wonderful example of that post-apocalyptic world, but whereas those games are pretty much now based far into those worlds, this does a wonderful job of setting things out from the early moments.
State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is a game that I can easily recommend and for me it is one that will last a long time, with the original game, plus expansions in one packages, there are hours and hours of content to enjoy and it is worth every penny.