Game: State of Decay
Recommended price: $7.50
Metacritic Score: 76
Completion Time: 18 hours
Buy If You Like: Grand Theft Zombie, Sandbox Roguelikes
State of Decay is an open-world zombie sandbox game originally released for Xbox Live Arcade and ported to the PC. You take control of a randomized character and thereafter do your best scavenging buildings for supplies to build up your home base while recruiting additional survivors whom you much switch to after your character becomes tired or injured. Or killed, given how State of Decay features permadeath and auto-saving checkpoints. There is a fairly standard plot you can run through to beat the game, but it can be ignored for however long you wish.
I want to highlight the “PC port” part of this game again, because State of Decay unfortunately takes some hits from both angles. First, the game can be buggy. Zombies inside buildings can sometimes clip through the walls and start trying to give you a nice hug while still being immune to bullets to the face. During one play session, the NPCs on escort missions decided they would just stand there at the end of the mission instead of running to the “end mission” zone. Since the game won’t save until a mission in complete and there isn’t any way to cancel a mission in progress, I was stuck until I tried the outlandish solution of physically moving them inches at a time by bumping into them with my character. It worked, by the way.
The second PC Port hit comes from the fact that the game… well, it could use some work mechanics-wise. The core gameplay itself is rather amazing and refreshing. The map very much feels like a real set of small towns, and you can explore and ransack 99% of the buildings you see. As anyone who has read this blog might know, I have a (un)healthy obsession with looting stuff in post-apocalypse games like Fallout, and State of Decay definitely scratched that itch.
The problem is that some shit doesn’t make any sense, gameplay-wise. When you’re looting a house and come across a crate of supplies (Food, Medicine, Ammo, etc), you can load it into a duffel bag and take it back to your base to deposit. You can even drop the duffel bag and pick it up later if you want. What you cannot do, apparently, is load the duffel bag into your car trunk. Or have the NPC that accompanied you into the house to carry something. Or drop off the supplies at an Outpost you created, even though it has a Supply Chest that gives you access to all your gear no matter the distance to your home base. While you can call in scavengers to sort of auto-loot the house, the fact that they travel on foot and are fully exposed to the zombies you likely drove right past means looting the next town over is pretty much 100% up to you.
Also, I’m getting real tired of games where you can loot items from containers, or leave items in containers, but cannot put items back in containers. “Oh, I suppose I have to destroy this perfectly useful baseball bat because I picked it up first instead of this handgun.” That sort of nonsense is nothing more than lazy programming.
The game also doesn’t quite seem sure what type of challenge it wants to present. Your character can sneak around and even perform stealth kills on zombies, but said stealth kills aren’t really stealthy at all – it always makes enough noise for other zombies to investigate. That’s… realistic, I suppose, but it makes stealth gameplay mostly irrelevant. And while it is frighteningly easy to die when mobbed, for the most part killing zombies is EZ-Mode; melee attacks interrupt zombie grabs, and homemade silencers make gunplay perfectly safe. There are stereotypical “Freak” zombies with extra abilities, but the open-world nature of the game means that most of the time you can lure them outside and then run them over with a car.
At the end of the day though, I enjoyed my time killing zombies and looting things in Trumbull Valley. The skeleton of an amazing game is definitely there; the devs just have to flesh it out a bit more. What I would like to see is a full-fledged sequel called Nation of Decay or something, in which I can load up the back of my Camero with supplies, pop a 80s rock ballad in the tape deck, and slam a zombie with my car door as I speed down the highway into the sunset.