[This review is written after one day of heavy research into the title using Undead Labs official site and forums and watching hours of let's plays. My personal hands-on is well over ten hours.]
State of Decay is the first outing of Undead Labs. In intent it has parallels to Kingdoms of Amalur in that it is a proof-of-concept for a future MMO (Currently codenamed Class4). State of Decay is however a pure stand-alone title and despite the underlying reason for it's existance a solid and engrossing single player experience.
While the general stance on ZA-themed games is on the Internet one of 'been there, done that', State of Decay retells a throdden flat story while bringing new elements to the table in such a way that it is worth it to sit through the story once again.
It has finally happened... while you were out camping out of reach of modern technology for two weeks, back in civilization everything went to crap. A strange virus is turning dead people into zombies and nobody knows anything or understands what's going on and what follows is a Kirkmanian view on what happens next when the initial confusion is gone and people start to cope with a world that's forever changed. For once, you don't start in jail or wake from a coma, rather, you were on a fishing trip that included a lot of bro-fisting and binge-drinking.
When you come down the mountain, you return to a world that's vastly different from when you left and without any pre-amble, you're going to have to cope. Right now.
State of Decay drops you into a fight straight from the start-game screen. You have no time to look around, no time to understand, the only thing you can do is act. How you proceed from there is loosely scripted and you can ignore or follow up on anything as you see fit as soon as you're within the safety of your first sanctuary.
It's not possible to review on what will happen next, because no one knows. Not even Undead Labs knows. The game dynamically adapts to your playing style. For instance, I play very cautious and I take care of my survivors. I try not to rock the boat too much and never rush into things. As a result, I don't see the same things as many other people reportedly do; the simulation isn't generating uber-zombies in such a large scale as the more rambo-esque gamers have to deal with, instead it generates a crapton of average zombie-hordes in an effort to overwhelm me. That doesn't mean that the uber-zombies don't generate, they just are infrequent. In no way does this make the game easier. The simulation capitalizes on when I'm away from the base to zerg it, which makes branching out a hairy proposition.
Still, you'll have to branch out. All resources in the game don't regenerate. When you use it is gone. Destroy a car and it's erased from the world, burn through your ammo and your guns become useless, refuse to trade or grow your own food and you'll find yourself starving. At some point, the area you're in will be picked clean.
State of Decay also does away with one protagonist. You play as a group of survivors and in order to keep your group balanced you'l have to spend time on each and everyone of them. This is not as easy straight-forward as it seems. Not all survivors have skills that are suited for the world they find themselves in, but yet they can contribute to the collective. A chef with fine senses is no good in a fight, but damn, he comes into his own in the kitchen where his cooking buffs the individuals with extra stamina and health. A farmer will be a boon to your produce-garden. A medic will buff your infirmary, but get a true doctor in there and things will start to look up for your battered survivors. Yet, in order to switch from survivor to survivor, the next survivor has to be a friend of the one you're controlling. The implications of that run very deep, as you might have a green beret in your group of survivors, but have no way of selecting him until you do something that'll improve your relationship with him. Yet, once you do, that friendship only extends to the person it was given to. If you're controlling a survivor who doesn't have that friendship and you need the green beret... you better hope that the person who has the friendship is a friend of the person you're controlling...
On top of that, the person you need to access the green beret might not be at base or might recently have bought the farm. As your group of survivors grows, so does the network and that network is only strong as the weakest link and if that link dies, your network will come crashing down.
There's also a tower-defense element in State of Decay. In order to create safespots in the area, you're allowed to build safehouses called outposts. Outposts offer more than a sanctuary, they also generate a little extra resources (not enough to depend on) and automatically set up perimeter defenses that can actually wipe out hordes. The resources that outposts generate are tied to the resources you find in a given spot. If a house yielded a crapton of meds, when you set up an outpost there, it will give you a daily bonus to your meds. Again, the amount that's generated is almost pointless, but in a world where nothing regenerates, every little bit, however small, helps. So, placing outposts is not only tactical, but also strategic and generally tied to what you need more than what you want.
Mostly though, State of Decay is about making command-decisions and those command-decisions will impact your group of survivors. Winning the simulation is not the point, surviving is. So, when you're tasked with deciding between taking out a horde, help an ally or recovering the resources that were carried by a fallen survivor the decision shouldn't be made lightly. Taking out a horde improves the morale of the entire group and it makes the area safe to travel in, helping an ally improves friendship and recovering resources speaks for itself. Nothing is clear-cut and your decision is as good as mine.
State of Decay is a thinking man's game, but it does allow for true sandboxing. Sandboxing though is the road to ruin, as that will unbalance the group, careful decision making is the road to ruin because you can't account for everything and the only person you have control over is the person you're currently controlling. It's a game of chess where your livelyhood hangs in the balance while the rules constantly change. It's tense and intense and slight mistakes have huge consequences. You can't wing it.
Graphically, State of Decay will not go down in history as a beautiful game. Yet, they do set the mood and make sense for what's going on. Nowhere do they feel out of place.
Technically, State of Decay has many issues. The open world suffers from pop-up, zombies warp in, stuff may clip through the floor, the physics engine may go bonkers and important people standing right next to you may not be accessible because the simulation marks them as 'on a mission'. Sometimes, important people who have a dot in the minimap and are designated as at home doing nothing don't spawn, making it impossible to interact with them, which can be a huge problem if that person is so stressed out he/she is bringing everybody else down.
As of now, the offline simulation part is punishing the player hard for logging off. Resources vanish stupendously fast, survivors are being killed left and right and general havoc ensues, which may lead to you logging on to a nasty surprise. The first title update, which makes logging off less punishing (thanks, entitled-generation) is in certification right now. It's a bit disappointing to me to that Undead Labs who have taken a no-compromise stance to their game-mechanics still bends knee to the backlash over this. It is a frigging zombie-apocalypse. People die, people need food, guns, ammo and meds. Yes, I've been on the receiving end of the simulation and yes, I've felt like restarting.., but there's a challenge in staunchly going forward and not getting everything handed on a silver platter.
That said, if you have a tendency to be miffed at games that throw curve-balls like that, wait till the title-update drops so that you can play the version of State of Decay that'll take your tender nerves and emotions to heart.
My verdict of State of Decay: Solid buy.
Finally got Bossk done on my "Bounty Hunter leg". Next step..IG-88
A photo says a thousand words so I will show you the best day out EVER in pics below.
A few extra Highlight's not Pictured
No Traffic getting there or going home (Got to the track at 7:15AM and left just as the last race finished)
I bumped in to a grid Girl (Twice)
Talked to Rob Austin and Will Bratt for 10 min about how the car drives ect
Felt Like VIPS just walking around all the teams
Had a photo done with Rob Austin and the other guys who paid for a Sherman T-Shirt (Got told off by TOCA as we was not supposed to have been in the pits then lol)
More pictures are on my FaceBook.
Oh yeah there is no race pics as I have ITV4 HD for the full Vids :) (And my Battery Died)
Good Parking. Made the BBQ easy to do as the car was so close to the track.
But i wanted to see if there were any SC2 players out there. I love the game, and am trying to find a good mix between my Forza, WOW, MTGO and SC2. Tough Life i know. If there are any players out there hit me up so we can get a game in.