Undead Labs’ zombie survival romp still rules the damned, albeit it with some issues.
War stories are never easy to tell, especially when it’s everyday life that becomes a do-or-die battle. In a world like State of Decay where society as a whole has collapsed, survival becomes a choice that many individuals have to make – and it’s often rewarded through sheer grit and determination. Undead Labs’ open world adventure implemented quite a number of different systems to aid its post-apocalyptic, zombie survival scenario. At the end of the day, it’s the stories that players organically create for themselves that define their experience. Thankfully, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition tells some very good stories. It ensures plenty of replayability and rewards whether you choose to advance the plot or stand your ground and survive.
Marcus Campbell begins the story with his friend Ed, as the two are returning from a trip at Mount Tanner. Being out in the wilderness has isolated them from the real world though which has quickly fallen into the throes of undead madness. Along the way, Marcus and Ed meet Maya, a soldier, and eventually travel to the Church of Ascension where Lily and a group of survivors are holed up. From here, it’s a desperate struggle to survive the undead while finding ways to escape the valley.
"The size of the world isn't inconsequential but it pales to the freedom players will have. Whether you choose to pursue the plot or continue building up your own camp, the world continues to evolve, making it tougher for you to survive."
State of Decay is an open world game, played from a third person perspective, and is fairly heavy on the hacking and slashing. You can hit drop-kicks, execute stealth takedowns on zombies and acquire firearms and other equipment to best the undead. However, this isn’t just an action game. As soon as you arrive at the Church of Ascension, you’ll immediately begin to manage resources, bond with survivors, attempt to keep morale up and modify the overall structure. You may choose to expand on the medical facilities at the church or build new structures to unlock new equipment like explosives. State of Decay also adds in aspects of hunger and exhaustion. Marcus may be tough but you can’t keep running with him, day and night. Eventually, you’ll have to switch out for another survivor. Don’t worry – they all have their different skill sets. Maya, for instance, is extremely skilled with firearms and hand to hand combat.
Given that you need resources, State of Decay encourages you to venture out into the valley and explore houses that are often teeming with the undead. Players will be charged with clearing out nests or escorting survivors back to the safety of the Church. Story missions pop up now and again, as you need to hunt down medics and traverse outside of your slice of shattered civilization to check up on other survivors. State of Decay’s open world may not be as ginormous as Grand Theft Auto 5 but it’s still fairly large and offers enough to do without getting lost.
The size of the world isn’t inconsequential but it pales to the freedom players will have. Whether you choose to pursue the plot or continue building up your own camp, the world continues to evolve, making it tougher for you to survive. Allies will level up and face varying degrees of sickness and emotional fatigue. Supplies will continue to be used. The little eco-system you’ve cultivated will continue to roll on and needs to be maintained. And make no mistake: Death in State of Decay is permanent. Lose one survivor, even by being over-zealous in your exploration, and you lose him/her forever.
The Year One Survival Edition collects the base game and its two DLC – Breakdown and Lifeline. Breakdown functions as a sort of “endless mode” as players progress through six different levels of varying difficulty and try their best to survive. Lifeline explores the story from the military’s point of view and takes you to Danforth City. You’ll manage survivors here as well but also work on defending your base from zombie mobs, including raids that will necessitate planning and plenty of luck. Also, unlike the other modes, you’ll be running on the clock in Lifeline which presents an altogether different and arguably more narrative-driven experience.
"The new visual touches in State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition are significant but far from overwhelming. The game benefits from a variety of new alpha effects, unseen even on the PC version, and a sharp 1080p resolution."
It’s very hard to not love State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition, especially with all the content and fun gameplay it packs in. Unfortunately, the game’s glitches do their best to dissuade you. Clipping issues, frame rate drops and numerous other bugs hamper the experience considerably. The frame rate fluctuations are bad enough to make gameplay impossible at times and you have to wonder how Undead Labs was unable to squash many of these problems in the two years since State of Decay released on the Xbox 360.
The new visual touches are significant but far from overwhelming. The game benefits from a variety of new alpha effects, unseen even on the PC version, and a sharp 1080p resolution. It’s not quite the remastered treatment that games like DmC: Definitive Edition received and overall, this is far from being the best technical showcase for the Xbox One’s hardware.
Nonetheless, considering the resources Undead Labs has at its disposal, it’s far from looking horrible. Consider for a moment that this started out as an indie title on Xbox Live Arcade. To say that’s worth your money is an understatement but if you’ve already experienced everything State of Decay had to offer – that too several times over the past few years – there’s very little incentive to come back. And I personally don’t feel the visuals have been updated enough to justify a return either.
On the other hand, if you love open world games, especially zombie survival titles that provide a free reign in managing resources and crafting your own narrative while exploring the plot on your own time, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is a good game. It’s a shame that some of its issues prevent it from being a great game overall. Returning players should have received significantly greater enhancements and additions than this; we’ll just have to wait for Undead Labs’ Class4 for future zombie apocalyptic scenarios. Everyone else should come to this valley for some open world R&R and stay for the sheer excitement of besting the undead.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Great survival aspects and meshing of various gameplay systems. Total freedom to either pursue the story or craft one's own narrative. Breakdown and Lifeline DLC work as interesting diversions from the main game's formula. Significant remastering work done.
Despite remastering, the visuals are still just above average. Frustrating glitches and frame rate troubles, especially during action-heavy scenarios. Nothing by way of new content for veteran players.
State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition's core mechanics, characters and open world environment are still compelling, even with glitches and frame rate issues refusing to die two years later. Veterans may want to think twice before revisiting this undead nation.