State of Decay is Grand Theft Auto with zombies. There are no two ways around it and to be frank, there shouldn’t be many out there turned off by this pairing. Even at the heftier than most digital price tag of $20, the game has sold very well. That’s to be expected (It is Grand Theft Auto with Zombies after all). The question remains however, is it any good?It is actually surprisingly good. This all stems from the fact that State of Decay is focused on the concept of survival in many of the game mechanics. See, State of Decay is the story of multiple survivors. You start off as a pair of campers that stumble upon a bunch of crazy people starting to eat each other. This kicks off a hunt to find some other humans and eventually leads you to a little church on the hill that has been recommissioned to a fort. Along with these other survivors, you’ll face illness, fatigue and zombies as you collect materials in an attempt to survive just a bit longer.
That’s the run down, but the mechanics are where the game shines. It is amazing how little factors can truly turn the game on its head. Grand Theft Auto and most open world sandbox games with cars all give you a plethora of vehicles that you can bring under your control. In this regard State of Decay isn’t exactly diverse with their vehicles. They however will always reappear right where you left it. This means that if you wanted, you could take every car in game and park it at the amusement park and they would stay there for the rest of the game until you moved it. This alone is brilliant.
Inside of this one small gameplay mechanic is a load of strategy in what you are going to do. See, cars alert zombies. If your truck is really damaged, it’ll send up smoke or fire and any zombies around will be paying you special attention. So abandoning cars is a common occurrence in the game. If your car gets destroyed, then you’ll have to find a new one. Destroy enough cars around your side of town and you’ll be walking through the infested hillsides to get a new one.
Maintaining your cars isn’t the only the thing State of Decay does well. The game focuses strongly on survivor interaction. Since exploring for weapons, materials and medicine is a lot of work, the survivor you control will eventually fatigue. So this means they won’t have enough stamina to run or stave off attacks from zombies. Eventually its just smart to have the character head back to base and rest if they are too injured or tired.
Since they all get tired, you have to make sure your base has beds and medical support to keep everyone healthy. This means building new facilities or finding new homes, so exploration of this rural town is a priority. Being able to go in to nearly every building on the map to scavenge for supplies is actually a very cool concept. Rarely will you stumble upon supplies that will amaze you as they all play off of guns, medicine and food, but being able to travel to nearly any point on the map and scavenge for some supplies really showcases the games strength. Once each building is cleared out, they are left empty for the rest of the game which, much like the cars, forces you to find supplies further and further outside of your home.
The more you interact with the world, the more missions will be presented to you. Survivors in your crew will get restless. Some will run away. Others will get an itch to hunt tough zombies. You’ll find yourself being told to detour and help some survivors that really aren’t equipped for survival in between big missions. These detours are thinly veiled excuses to explore new parts of the world, but it always means you’ll be facing something new each time you head away from base. Following through with these missions is the best way to boost morale and save lives.
This being a game largely based on survival, you aren’t going to be running around with crazy weapons causing havoc everywhere. You could, but the game is built around noise. Zombies will swarm around noise so approaching everything Saints Row-style will probably get you killed. This makes the game more about the effect of survival and less on the excitement of the sandbox, so even main missions aren’t going to have over the top flare to them. State of Decay does do a good job of putting in some real consequences and issues you’ll have to face so there is a solid balance here.
Battling the zombies also is an interesting mix. The battles feel like they should. One on one with a zombie is a cakewalk with no real consequences. One vs a horde means you should get the heck out of there unless you are properly prepared. Even then, you never know. The weapons systems work with bladed weapons severing zombie limbs and blunt weapons slowing zombies down. Guns likewise feel competent and allow you to perform precision head shots with lighter weapons and sweeping blasts with shotguns. Each weapon and attack you make is balanced properly to make it so you aren’t steamrolling through zombies without really knowing what you’re doing. If you are in a car on the other hand, you can steamroll as many zombies as your car will allow.
State of Decay isn’t without its flaws. Fortunately for me, many of the major issues have been listed on Undead Labs update patch announcement. Since that update doesn’t work however, I’ll give you the quick low down. It does have glitchy cars and zombies that appear and disappear inside of buildings. It does have this really freaking annoying “TOO MANY INFESTATIONS” warning that deducts from your satisfaction rating even though none of those infestations are anywhere near your base. The auto repairs also take waaay too long (especially if you stick with your first base and only have one garage to repair).
This however was minor for a game that does the sandbox genre proud. Really the most damning thing State of Decay does wrong is that the ending is noticeably weak. Fortunately, its a sandbox game and the genre really isn’t built around the end game. It is built around the world you play in, and State of Decay is a fun one for that.
[+Interesting Take on Scavenging] [+Solid Gameplay] [+Large Map] [+$20] [-Lackluster Ending]