State Of Decay, Known as Class 3 whilst in development by ‘Undead Labs’, released on XBLA with 2 DLC packs, early access via Stream and finally released for PC on the 5th November 2013 with possible DLC in the future. An ambitious addition to the plethora of Zombie titles already out on the market. The game was announced back in 2011 and created quite a bit of hype, portraying a survival zombie apocalypse game with more a realistic setting and harshness of the world.
Distancing itself from a lot of the other Zombie games available, State Of Decay took a formula that is readily known to the gamers on the pc, as on several websites like newgrounds, there are many flash games that put you in the role of a survivor or leader of survivors and must build your base from scratch, upgrade it and take care of other survivors to secure your safety for the coming days of the apocalypse. Though ‘State Of Decay’ takes this formula to a whole new level, with its third person perspective and deep interactivity within almost all parts of the game world.
You take the role of Marcus, a man returning from his hiking trip with his close friend Ed, as you start off in the world just outside of a little dock. The game starts off with Ed pleading for help as a cannibalistic group are attacking him, throwing you straight into the game and its tutorial. The story leads you in a tale of survival and horror as you must adapt to ever changing zombie hoards and make your escape from the doomed city.
The first few minutes of the game are quite pleasing, showing off a lot of the game and its features. Through the tutorial you are taught the rules, controls and guidelines within the game as well as showing you how the party system works within the game.
Upon getting to your first base of operations, the world really opens up, allowing you to go to the first town and travel to almost all points of the map, which is pretty big if you don’t have a vehicle to traverse it. As you are given your first Story mission, you are given access to a locker, which is used as a bank and stocking up location, where the player can place and retrieve any item he or she finds.
The game uses an alchemic commerce system, meaning whatever you take from the survivors you must replace with something of similar or greater value, trading with a currency known as Influence. The player gains Influence through their actions and helping the community, they lose it through not acting on advice, like helping scavengers, or working with the wrong type of people. The Influence system is well done and easy to follow, through the game you might find yourself with an overabundance of the currency however which makes it a bit too easy to take whatever you want.
Whilst travelling you are given several popup missions which come in several varieties, from saving a survivor in trouble, killing off a horde of the undead, or scavenging for a specific item to speed up construction back at base. Most of these missions are timed, however they are very forgiving with their time limit, giving you a certain number of hours to complete a simple task, though the penalty for not doing so is rather lenient, through playing you can miss several of the missions and the only repercussion was that the survivor involved was tired or hurt for a few hours.
The main story missions are rather enjoyable, from starting off they teach you about different actions like sneaking and driving and their impact, to older missions which pitch you against hordes of increasingly harder zombies. Unlike the side missions, these have no time limit and can be left until you are ready to advance the plot. There are times within the game where there are several story missions available at once, giving you choice to do what you want at the time. As well as the choice to do what mission you want, the missions themselves have choices you can take within them, from siding with one group to giving information to someone.
Combat within the game is very simplistic when using the Xbox 360 Control Pad for PC, pressing X for a melee attack, from your fists and legs or a swing of your weapon, pressing Y to push back any zombies to give you some breathing room; the player can also roll by pressing the right bumper and B. From beginning the game, the zombies are pretty easy to fend off, though as the story goes along they get harder and more numerous to fend off, the player will have to continually roll out of harm and hit off attacking biters. Guns come in to play pretty early and are very effective with headshot kills. Ammo is not too short in supply, with small stocks of bullets within searchable containers, or stored within the locker.
The character must scavenger for most of their supplies and equipment, searching through houses, sheds and huge buildings. The searching mechanic is pretty mundane, holding down the Y button and waiting for a few seconds, or risking detection by holding down the Right Bumper to search faster. Loot is completely random, so searching in the same place in two games won’t always give the same items as last time, this is implemented with sporadic success however, as sometimes you can be given 5 guns in a row with no other items or ammo to be seen, or to search two entire houses and be given nothing but Junk and a lead pipe.
The main base, in which you will be returning to all the time, is a main place of respite, rearming and gameplay. From talking to the survivors to calm them down, find out about missions or to take some rest. You can also upgrade the base, to include several different facilities, to provide rest, medical services, farming and item creation. You will most likely change base a few times to find one to best suit your needs as the starting base is rather small and does not supply enough space for expansion.
The player must go out into the world to scavenge for supplies or the main base from time to time, as they will need food to eat, medicine to cure the sick and other materials for keeping their base safe. This can easily be done by searching buildings, calling in supply runs, or changing an abandoned building with supplies into an outpost and deliver the supplies over time and decrease the loss of supplies back at the main base.
Being a survival game you must make sure your character is fit, healthy and stocked up on items to keep them in top shape for combating nature on the undead. As time goes by and as you play your chosen character, that person will become fatigued, get injured and evolve, you can switch over to another survivor to give your main one some rest or simple drink some coffee and fight through it. As you play your character their skills will improve, allowing them to perform special actions like sprinting whilst sneaking or performing double kills, besides the actions the character will get stat boosts like being able to search faster or take more damage from enemies.
Traversing the map can be down by two means, running on foot which can lead to exhaustion or driving a vehicle which can cause zombies to hear and run after you. When travelling between two different towns it is suggested to use a car as the distance can become rather boring and tedious to travel on foot. The driving within the game is rather solid, similar to other games that have driving as a feature.
Each car handles differently, cars being fast but weak, trucks being slower but stronger and race cars being the best for travelling long distances quickly. Though as the game goes along, vehicles are used almost all the time, as running back and forth the same roads can get tedious very fast, and with the lack of fast travel it makes the game rather boring if it takes more than a minute to get down the road to your destination.
Taking the heed of many newer games, State Of Decay features a single save function that runs with an auto save formula. Taking the choice away from the player to save whenever they want to and load back to a pervious spot, with this game you have to be careful with what you do and do your best to not make any mistakes, as when you do they will stick with you. Saving can be done from entering the main base, completing a mission or quitting to the main menu, as well as within a certain amount of play time to make sure you don’t lose any data.
Along with the one save feature, the game also follows the permanent death that Rogue games have, when your character dies within the game they are gone forever, along with all the skills you built up with them. There are plenty of characters to take the place of your fallen hero, but they will start off with their base stats, making it a pain to lose your most valued survivor. This drives the player to want to keep their character in top shape and to keep plenty of healing items on hand to lessen the chance of losing their prized warrior.
The difficulty within this game evolves as the player advances the story, starting off easy and getting harder and more stressing as they continue. Story missions can be put on hold to allow the player to gear themselves up, making the future easier on them. Though this game can be very easy if players play it smart, always taking medicine with them, a gun full of ammo and some back up items. I completed the game with Marcus, the starting character, with him at full level in all his skills. The only deaths I incurred were of two survivors I sacrificed to gain achievements linked to dying, though they were causing unrest within the community.
The map and environment of the world are stunning, really showing off the engine and time they put into the scenery. From derelict and crumbling buildings, to crashed helicopters, downed Airplanes and abandoned cars. There are signs of an apocalypse everywhere you look, placed on top of what used to be a great place to live. There are hints of a pass life here, with large fields, shops and even some landmarks.
The story is somewhat weak at times, drawing on stereotypes, though it sticks with the main plot throughout which is to survive and work together. There are times it splits off into talking with the survivors which seems to drive from the dangers of the world, but it soon brings itself back to the group wanting to escape. The acting within these scenes is nothing award winning, though they are far from cringe worthy, the animations link up with speech rather well and help to portray the emotions the characters are feeling.
Overall State of Decay is a great game, with features many people are familiar with and enjoy, building upon them to create a game not only for consoles but now for PC and fun to people new to the genre. What it lacks in difficulty and story it certainly makes up for in gameplay and longevity. You can easily play this game for about a week simple keeping your community alive and scavenging. With DLC from the Xbox 360 due to hit the PC soon with Breakout on the cards, we can only expect more from Undead Labs.
I would give State of Decay a 4/5; it is worth the money and definitely worth checking out, The PC version comes with a much needed graphics overhaul to bring the zombie apocalypse to life, supports Wired & Wireless Xbox 360 controller or a compatible 3rd party controller, and the good old fashioned Mouse and Keyboard.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.