Also available on Xbox 360 and Windows
I first tried State of Decay a few years ago back on Xbox 360. I thought it was okay, but I really wasn't impressed, and within half an hour, I'd gotten bored and quit. Since the PlayStation 4 is my console of choice for multiplats this gen (with the exception of the EXTREMELY few games that are also released on Wii U), my Xbox One is pretty much reserved for console exclusives. Since there are so few of those, the Xbox One section of my shelf always look pretty sad next to the gargantuan PlayStation 4 section. So the I was in Gamestop one day, browsing through the used Xbox One games in case one caught my eye with a particularly good price, and I saw State of Decay sitting there for about $25. I thought to myself "Well, I wasn't really impressed with it back then, but I didn't know it had gotten an Xbox One remaster, and I really didn't spend too much time with it, so I guess it's worth giving another shot for the sake of having another Xbox One game in my collection." And there, on my shelf, it sat for about a year, patiently awaiting the day I would give that "other shot."
Well, State of Decay, your patience has finally paid off. I popped that bad boy in my Xbox this past Saturday, and while I still found the game a bit slow to start, once I got into it, I was hooked. Since this is the "Year One Survival Edition," it included Breakdown and Lifeline, the game's two DLCs. The bulk of my experience, however, was with the base game, and while I'll touch on the DLC at the end, the base game is going to be the focus of my review. So for those of you who haven't played the game, what is State of Decay? It's basically a light RPG crossed with a survival sim. You have various skills in which you can level up each character - fighting, shooting, cardio, etc. - but those skills are mostly secondary, and the game never really highlights them except to notify you when you level up. The core of the gameplay is building up your base and completing missions throughout the map. Some of these missions are core story missions, some are side missions (like completing a quest for another group of survivors in the area), and some are bullshit randomly generated missions just for some variety and extra influence (a currently I'll explain later) like destroying a zombie hoard or going to save a member of your party who is perilously trapped in an empty house with no zombies for three blocks around.
The game's story is - much to my surprise, actually - pretty good. It's not a heart rending narrative that puts many novels to shame like The Last of Us, but the VERY few characters that are developed are relatively interesting, and while not fleshed out that much, the few little plot strands it has going are interesting. It's definitely not the focus of the game, but it does at leave have something in that department. The heart of the game is the survival aspect. It's not overly difficult, but you do have a few things to balance. Obviously not getting eaten by a ravenous hoard of the undead is a must, but you've also got five resources that you have to make sure your base has in enough supply - food, building materials, ammunition, fuel, and medical supplies. You can scavenge these in most buildings once you clear them of zombies, but you can only carry one rucksack of supplies at a time (although you can put them in the trunk of a vehicle and carry multiple back to your base that way). The vehicles are also well implemented. They're loud, so while a car is useful to get around quickly, carry supplies, and run over zombies, they can't take too much of a beating, and if you're driving to a mission location, you'll probably have a group of flesh munchers tailing you. Of course, you can usually run them over real quick before you hop out, but it's a consideration in some situations.
You also have to keep an eye on the durability of your melee weapons. They'll last a pretty good time, but they will eventually break, and while you have a default knife that you use when you don't have a melee weapon equipped, it's REALLY bad, so I made a habit of keeping two melee weapons with me at all times so I'd have a spare in case mine broke in the middle of a particularly intense fight. You also have to consider carefully how much ammo to keep with you. Stuff like .357 and 9 mm ammo are pretty plentiful, but stuff like .44 and .50 can be harder to find, so you need to use those bullets judiciously. You can also only carry stacks of 30 bullets, and your inventory space is painfully finite. I usually made sure I had a full magazine and then a full stack of 30 bullets with me before I left my base, but some guns - like the LMGs - left me burning through that in the blink of an eye while other guns - like shotguns and handguns - would see 30 bullets lasting me two hours. I usually used melee combat just to save bullets and cut down on the noise (so as not to attract more zombies), but some of the special zombies like the bloaters and juggernauts really call of guns, and the screamers and ferals are just a lot easier to take out with copious firepower.
While the remaster does look much better than the original Xbox 360 version and runs at full 1080p instead of 720p, it's still not a game that will knock your socks off graphically. It's not quite Resident Evil 2, but it's certainly no Halo 5. Now, addressing the DLC, I played a little bit with each of them, but I didn't put more than a couple hours into either DLCs. Breakdown is basically the core game sans story. It's pure sandbox survival, and there's no plot whatsoever and no endgame other than death. Truthfully, most gamers will probably enjoy this mode the most since the story, while decent, is fairly shallow and forgettable, and the survival is just so damn fun. Lifeline, on the other hand, is a story-driven DLC. In the main game, the military is painted as a brutal force with no regard for the surviving civilians and just as content to kill living humans as quickly as zombies. Lifeline has you play as the military, though, to show things from their perspective, and while I only played a couple hours of it (it's fun, but going back-to-back gets a bit stale after four or five days), it's a solid DLC with some decent storytelling, and it takes place outside the towns that the base game is set in, so you get some new scenery and battlegrounds.
State of Decay isn't going to win any Game of the Year awards from me, but it is quite a good survival experience. If you just limit the scope to zombie games, I'm still not willing to say it's "one of the best," but it's a DAMN good one that every zombie fan definitely needs to play. That bit of RPG in a sandbox survival skin works far better than I ever would have expected, and it's a treat to play once you get used to some of its quirks and mechanics. If this were JUST the base game, I'd be giving it a 3 Nep rating, but between how much fun the game is once you get into it and the fact that both DLC expansions are included on-disc, I think it deserves the bump up to 4.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.