Civilization comes to a grinding halt. Confused panic washes over the world. Hordes of the undead roam the streets searching for human organs to gnaw on. There’s not much new that can be said about the zombie apocalypse genre as a whole, and State of Decay doesn’t really try to make a new statement. Instead, it focuses on gameplay that strikes a balance between simple and fun, which is perfect for this kind of game.
The game begins with Marcus Campbell and Ed Jones returning from a fishing trip to find the campgrounds overrun with zombies. They set out to search the grounds for more survivors and supplies, as well as linking up with a new characters.State of Decay isn’t just a zombie killing gorefest, its focus is on scavenging and increasing the numbers of your group.
Resource and base management are crucial to survival in this game, and there’s a lot of elements to be explored. Bases can be upgraded and fortified for better security, and as each character’s stats increase over time, they’ll become better at defending the base from undead invaders. New facilities can also be added allowing for upgraded structures to be built, decrease the time necessary to construct, or just expand the available space for new survivors to come into the group.
Adding new characters to the group is a key point to getting the most out of State of Decay. One of the main points of the game is rooted in realism – characters are prone to exhaustion and injury, so they need time to rest. There’s no sleep mechanic to progress time in the game quickly. Instead, players have to switch between characters when one gets too worn down to head out beyond the walls. Skill upgrades play a role in character control, so with each scavenging trip, characters will have their stats boosted. It’s a nice touch that keeps the game interesting, but given the frequency of character changing, progress can feel a bit slow.
The game’s combat mechanics feel as sharp and aggressive. Stamina and weapon durability both work against your character, so it’s important to watch for the on-screen finishing move prompts to hold onto as much energy and durability as possible. Shooting is also an option, but alerts nearby undead, and is `intended to be a last resort. Guns, ammo, and suppressors are significantly less likely to be found than melee weapons, so it’s clear that melee combat is the focus of this game. Over time your character will become tired or injured, limiting the amount and effectiveness of actions that can be performed, giving the impression that a good fight may not always be the best course of action. Balance is the name of the game here, and once you get into the swing of it, it’s a satisfying break from the constant murderous rampage found in other games of the genre.
Players will spend a lot of time in State of Decay scouting for resources, so naturally, you’ll need a set of wheels. Unfortunately, the driving mechanics are absolutely horrendous. Cars accelerate and maintain speed at a rate that feels way too slow, and over long distances, cause the game to jerk and stutter as it struggles to load fast enough to keep up with travel. At several points, you may even find yourself careening through a field or sending your car flipping down the street at the slightest nudge of the steering wheel, or slamming into an object that seems like it’s a foot away from the side of your bumper. This is an area where State of Decay performs poorly, but it’s forgivable, as driving isn’t a main point of the game. There’s no shortage of cars to be found across the map, and they’re really only used to get from point A to point B.
State of Decay is beginning to show its age graphically. The game was originally released in 2013, so that should come as no surprise. Fortunately, the game still looks pretty decent even by today’s standards. There isn’t really much else to say about it; lines aren’t as smooth as they could be, textures aren’t as eye-popping and photorealistic as we’ve come to expect with newer releases, but that’s ok. It’s a bit of a rough exterior, but still functional, and doesn’t detract from the quality of the game as a whole.
Overall, State of Decay is a pretty solid contender for one of the zombie apocalypse survival genre’s greats. It’s not without its flaws, and it isn’t exactly a remarkable game, but there’s definitely enough crammed into it to keep players entertained for hours. At the time of writing, the base game is no longer available on Steam and can only be picked up as State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition. This includes the base game as well as the Breakdown and Lifeline DLC packs, and is up for grabs at $29.99. It’s tough to recommend the game at that price given it’s 5 years old, but during a good sale, it’s absolutely worth picking up. Players needing their fix of zombie apocalypse mayhem will likely find this to be a good way to scratch the itch.
- Large environment
- Satisfying combat
- Rewarding resource and base management
- Horrifying driving physics
- Load stutter while driving
- Slow stat building progress