(Ninjas, Pirates) Zombies! (Cyborgs, Vampires, Nazis, Russians…)

State of Decay - Review, Part 1

Usually towards the tail end of tried and true character cycles that sweep across entertainment you get a mixed bag of quality. Like the very nature of zombies themselves, the broader genre that includes them sort of drifts in and out of the the public consciousness with sharp degrees of quality. Times have never been better for Zombies, though. Back about 10 years ago I thought Shaun of the Dead would be a high point for them but recent movies and shows keep them employed.

Games are likely the worst offenders of unoriginal ideas (with superhero movies a close second) so when I saw yet another zombie focused game called “State of Decay” released towards the end of the Xbox 360 cycle, I skipped it. Barely even giving it a look. Interestingly the recent release of a game called “Dying Light,” whose day / night structure intrigued me but not enough to get the game, pointed me towards a somewhat backwards looking XB1 re-release of “Decay.”

Survival, home building, sneaking around and permadeath of important characters are game elements that proved too hard for me to resist. I did have to do some soul searching though. Like, why frigging zombies AGAIN. Why not make it an invading army or just a rival gang or a cult with an insane leader? … wait, ohhh. Having answered my own question (everything is reused), I decided to jump in.

In fact, I’m still in. From what I can tell, I’m probably about halfway through(?). Game reviewers do such a good job of not ruining the game for people (more on this later) that I can’t really tell. I’m not worried about it though because this has become one of those games for me personally that I’ve melted into. Which means; I enjoy the rules of the world - however odd or graphically a few steps behind they may be.

There are a number of things that make this title interesting but topping the list is the actual survival part of it. Your character will tire after a sprint or a swing of a tire iron in a zombie infested open world. It doesn't take much either. Even as you level some of the players they still aren’t able to fight or run for long. The rate of exhaustion is surprisingly realistic. The compare and contrast here is GTA type games where you can jog across the entire map if you wanted, the idea that someone can tire enough that they can no longer fight to save themselves seems almost revolutionary. And it works!

As you progress you are able to control an ever growing (and shrinking) cast of survivors. Each come prepackaged with light personality notes that you are able to access through a handy note book. Using one character more than another increases their abilities, making them better equipped to make it out on their own. The natural inclination is to stay loyal to the original group but after you lose one (or two - RIP MAYA) to clumsy early game decisions (...and don’t go back to save points, enjoy the game) you’ll find it rewarding to jump around people.

Absolutely enjoying this game right now but I'm breaking the review right now because A) I'm still not finished with the storyline and B) So many thoughts swimming around my head about a game that looks like this, but acts like something else entirely.

I'll be back once I'm done with the game.