State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition – Review
PC, Xbox One
An old house can be something of a conundrum for owners. Do owners make what repairs they can to improve the place or do they tear it down and start again? There is after all only so much that can be done to fix up a broken foundation but the charm and character of the house may often make it appealing despite its problems. State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is a lot like that old house. A coat of paint has been slapped on and an extension has been built out the back but there are still problems that only a complete tear down and rebuild will fix.
For those that didn’t play State of Decay upon its initial release the game is something of a Zombie Apocalypse simulator that combines strategy, role playing and action elements into one wholly unique game. It takes the premise of surviving the end of the world and runs with it. Players are in charge of just about everything imaginable when it comes to living in a zombie infected world. Running low on medicines? Head out and raid a pharmacy. Need some ammo? Why not trade with other groups of survivors. Too many zombies banging on your front door? Build a watch tower to snipe them before they get close. All of these options and many many more are available to players and all are essential to the survival of the community.
Each member of the community can be controlled and upgraded and all have their own specialities. Some can carry more so they are perfect for supply runs. Some have mechanical or medicinal abilities so it is wise to leave them at the base to look after things. Some have more health and are better with guns so they are the ideal candidate for wiping out zombie infestations. It is good idea to take these things into consideration because if a character dies, well they stay dead. There is no quick saving, no reloading the game to an earlier save. In State of Decay dead is dead. There are even moments where players will be forced into hard moral choices. A member of your community presents with illness symptoms that are a precursor to the zombie virus. Do players kick them out of the community, take them out the back and put them out of their misery or hope they get better and risk a zombie turning up in the mix? These choices carry real weight and will cause players to ponder them for some time before making their choice. It is these community management activities that are the most enjoyable part of the game and will keep gamers coming back for more.
State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition includes the original game and both major expansions, each of them different enough to be worth playing. The two expansions are clearly meant to be played after the original game has been completed but the option is there to go straight to them if players so desire. There is a lot of content here and even players who have played the game before are likely to get their money’s worth out of this great package.
Each of the 3 modes has a story which is enjoyable enough without being amazing. The first game has players taking control of two chaps who were camping in the woods when the initial outbreak occurred. The second game is more challenged focused and as such the story takes a bit of a back seat. The final part is from the eyes of the military, who for much of the original game are the antagonists. All the stories are fun and avoid too many cliches. The voice acting is also solid, but clearly done by the developers themselves and not actual voice actors. All in all following the story is fun but forgettable and players are likely to keep coming back for the actual gameplay as opposed to any desire to find out what happens next.
Unfortunately this new super collection of zombie fun brings with it some problems from the original release. The game still has an abundance of glitches and bugs. Zombies walk through walls, there is pop in (especially when driving at high speeds) and the frame rate stutters when there is lots happening on the screen. All of these problems were present in the original release and while they are not quite as prevalent here, they are certainly noticeable. This goes back to the original’s foundations and perhaps the developers couldn’t fix them without rebuilding the entire game.
The graphics are also a little bit of a letdown. They are at a higher resolution than the original release but State of Decay still looks like an Xbox 360 arcade game despite the more powerful hardware. Things are rough around the edges and there is a noticeable lack of detail and small touches that often bring the wow factor to open world games. It is a shame that Undead Labs didn’t improve things more significantly as it is highly possible many players will pass this one by due to its sub-par looks.
And passing this one by would be a massive mistake because it is a great game. Hopefully this sells enough copies to convince Microsoft to give Undead Labs a AAA budget for a sequel because what they have done on a small budget is truly remarkable. State of Decay is a true individual in the world of zombie games and could very well revitalise love for the undead in even the most jaded gamer. It is just sad that the rough edges are still there. Just like the old house though, State of Decay shows a lot of love has been put into it and despite its problems it is a wholly enjoyable place to visit, just make sure you bring your survival gear otherwise you may never leave.