The plot to State of Decay is a simple one; you begin the game as Marcus Campbell, an athletic store clerk that goes on a peaceful fishing trip with his good friend Ed Jones.  However, when he returns, he finds that a zombie apocalypse has hit town and the walking dead has savaged just about every living being within their community.  Now Marcus and Ed must find other survivors in the hope of leaving their town in one piece, and preferably not in zombie form.  As vague as the story might be in State of Decay, it’s a game that throws you into the seemingly unknown and it might sound a little cliché, but it’s a game that builds its story upon your own experience in this huge zombie apocalyptic sandbox of undead joy.  With improved visuals and added DLC to boot, how well does this Year One Survival Edition hold up?

The world of State of Decay is a big place, brimming with life; well actually it’s brimming with death and little humanity of the living world.  In fact your playable area is around 8 square kilometres, 16 if you include the non playable areas such as mountains and so forth.  Very early on into the game you will come across a group of survivors that have taken shelter in a nearby chapel.  It’s a place of some safe haven, for which you will welcome.  However, not everyone will share your relief upon your arrival and it is up to you to earn your newly found groups trust and respect.  By doing so, you must venture out into the dangerous landscapes on the hunt for food, medicine, weapons and partake on various rescue missions.  How you go about these missions is up to you, depending on the situation at hand, they may vary dependant on your approach.

For example, if you want to rescue a survivor trapped inside a building with hordes of the undead on the outside, your approach maybe to acquire an abandoned car, ram down the undead, clear the way for the survivor, get back in the car before making a swift escape.  But be warned, as logical as that approach may seem, its engine noise will attract zombies.  So if you’re in a car with a survivor on the way back from a rescue mission, it might be wise to leave your car stationary a little down the road and make your way back to the base on foot.  After all, there would be little point rescuing someone from zombies, to then lead hordes back to your base and run the risk of killing your fellow survivors.  That certainly wouldn’t help build any bridges of trust.

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Likewise, if out on a mission to gather resources, you could take your backpack, load up as many items as possible, and then load up even more items in the boot of your car.  If you use this approach, you may want to plan the safest route to and from the locations.  Or you could go the absolute stealthy approach and attempt to clear all your missions on foot.  Obviously by taking this approach you won’t be able to carry as many items as you would with a car and you would run a greater risk of dying, but at least you’ll attract far less attention.

While we’re on the subject of dying, if you die in State of Decay, you stay dead.  This adds a greater emphasis on surviving, in comparison to having various lives or checkpoints which offer little consequence of death.  If you do die however (and its likely you will…a lot), you will then assume the role of a new survivor, with a different back-story or gender.  While this does offer some comfort, if you manage to survive many dangerous missions with your current character, you’ll more than likely grow some attachment with them and it will be a shame to see them die and all that hard work to go to waste.

So even though you know you’ll take over a new character after death, you will do your utmost best to keep them alive and earn the trust and respect of your NPC peers.  While you’re out on missions, the NPC’s will be doing their part to survive by defending the base in your absence, make repairs to the building and vehicles and more, they will even help themselves to supplies left at the base.  You can also send them out on missions to scout for survivors and resources.  The NPC’s will also become playable once their trust is earned, including the ones already located at the base, as well as the ones rescued and brought back to the community.  By earning trust and respect, you can also take an NPC with you to help watch your back, but don’t rely on them too much, because the A.I can be as dumb as zombie baboons’ left inflated testicle.  But in the most part, they can be helpful, just don’t expect them to survive anything, and if they do survive, then it’s an added bonus.  A great way I found to earn trust and help your community thrive and survive, I found that building a vegetable patch was a great way to build bridges (so to speak).

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Graphically, even though this game has been improved with 1080/60fps visual enhancements over its Xbox 360 predecessor, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is far from the best looking indie game currently available on the Xbox One, though in its defence, it’s far from the ugliest either.  When the game is behaving itself and not suffering from glitches, the framerate does aid the gameplay experience and its great exploring the zombie filled playground.  However, you will encounter your fair share of glitches and when considering this isn’t the best looking game, the 1080p/60fps do the game very little justice at times.

As well as the main campaign itself, the Year One Survival Edition comes with two other key campaigns, namely Breakdown and Lifeline.  Breakdown has no story as such or at least no real narrative, but that’s not the point here.  This mode in particular is all about utilising all your survival skills in order to survive as long as possible. Breakdown has six tiers of difficulty and your key objective is to find a working RV and get you and your fellow six survivors to the next safe haven.  You must partake on missions to not only find the RV, but also repair it too (with the odd save quest thrown in for good measure).  This may sound like a bare basic campaign, but it’s actually a good distraction from the main campaign.  Though as a word of advice, get your practice in with the main campaign first before jumping into Breakdown, unless of course you really want an ultimate test by throwing yourself into the bloody deep end.

Lifeline is the second extra campaign to the Year One Survival Edition and this one is more of a campaign in the traditional sense, unlike Breakdown.  I’ll try not to go into spoiler territory too much here, but I’ll describe what I can.  Lifeline has its own story to tell and you assume the role of a military squad going by the name of Greyhound One before the events of the main campaign, during the first few days of the zombie outbreak in the fictional city of Danforth.  It will be your job to try and restore some stability in the city (which is an impossible task), while rescuing what survivors you can, defending your military base and performing raids for supplies, while taking on large quantities of zombie hordes.  The extra narrative angle is something that fans of State of Decay will appreciate, for those wanting to know more of its lore.

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I never had the opportunity to play the original game, as I had to sell my Xbox 360 just a week before its release.  Which was sods law really, because I really liked the look of State of Decay and I have been dying (pun intended) to play it ever since.  So when the Year One Survival Edition was announced for the Xbox One, I couldn’t wait for my opportunity to finally play the game, the game that I’ve heard some pretty decent words about.  I don’t know if I had too much expectation, but something didn’t quite click the way I thought it would.  I’m not sure entirely why, because I love zombie themed games and the open-world genre.  Perhaps the random glitches were too frequent for me to look past, perhaps it was the lack of feeling invested in both the playable and non-playable characters?

It might be all the above reasons for me not being able to click with this game, but that’s just my personal opinion and I know a lot of people love this game and I can see why, because there’s plenty to get you immersed if you feel invested.  Also even before I played this game, I always thought State of Decay would have a natural need for co-op play during its campaign.  I always knew that co-op wasn’t gonna be included (both with the original or this version), but that couldn’t help me think “what if?”  and it would have been an ideal opportunity to include it within this edition.  However for me, no matter how much I tried and no matter how much I wanted to immerse myself into State of Decay, despite having all the required ingredients, for whatever reason this zombie infested post-apocalyptic world just wasn’t for me.



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake