State of Decay Xbox 360 Xbox Live Arcade Review
State of Decay is a free roaming randomized third person zombie survival game, that is very similar to Dead Rising, Alan Wake or Deadly Premonition. State of Decay sets itself apart from other zombie games by offering a lots of depth and micromanagement, the problem is that the game features too many options, diversions, side quests, and other random gimmicks that are obnoxiously thrown in your face repeatedly to the point where you can't ignore them, and it ultimately dilutes what little fun there is to be had in the gameplay or concept.
You always start the game playing as Marcus who is on a camping trip with his friend Ed, when they first encounter the zombie outbreak. Both of them make their way to the ranger station, which they use as a temporary base to gather supplies from. Soon they run into Maya a off duty military sergeant who was also vacationing in the woods when her friends were killed. Maya is the second playable character in the game, and you can switch between her and Marcus by talking to each other with the Y button or using the D pad menu which is easy when they run off. Eventually a small group decides to leave the forest, and head into town, where they meet up with a new group of survivors held up in a Church. Lilly is the leader of the group, and works the radio, to informs you of potential missions, crisis, and advance the main story. The Reverend Bill, who owns the Church and local police officer Tully is the designated paranoid hothead. Any other survivors in the church, such as Sam or Vic's appearance are randomized. The main story of the game is fixed and consistent for every playthrough, for instance don't always have to go search for Lilly's bother Jacob or find a doctor to cure one of your survivors early on. Generally if there is a achievement related to the event, then it will always happen. There are also randomized segments to the game's narrative, that may or may not be triggered and experienced during your play through. For example low morale at your main base will often cause survivors to go out hunting for supplies on their own, or outright disappear and go missing. Eventually you'll get a mission to find them, or help them with clearing out zombie infestations, and usually on the way back after the mission, especially if you're driving in a car, they'll give you some insight into their lives before the outbreak. Sometimes survivors will also randomly argue amongst themselves, and you'll be forced to take one of them out for a walk, and clear out a building full of zombies in order to keep them in the group, and not run away or start a mutiny. Another random event is that sometimes if there's too many zombie hordes or infestations around some of your survivors may become sick, and have a chance of turning into a zombie and killing other survivors if the medical facilities at your base aren't up to snuff. Before someone is about to turn you'll be warned, and you have the option of either banishing them from the group or taking them out to secluded area and preemptively killing them yourself. Completely random missions with different survivors will help you gain their trust, if someone is already part of the group gaining their trust will let you play as them, and if someone isn't part of the group, gaining their trust might make them more likely to join you in the future. Some of the conversations during the random missions can be pretty interesting, and I hear that even though it's a better idea to switch characters all the time, if you stick to the same one that character could become arrogant and picks fights with the other survivors when you're not playing as them, which I think is pretty neat detail. I should also point out that as of different members of the group are killed, or runaway, new survivors with different back stories will appear on the map to take their place. It seems like you're meant to have ten to twenty survivors in your group at once, with another ten or so scattered around the map. I would say that the game's story is pretty interesting, and it's told in a unique way, but it's subtlety and randomness might make it a bit too hard to follow for some people.
When I first started playing the game I initially hated it for the first two or three hours. Then I started to understand what I was doing and where I should go, and I was having more fun enjoying it for about four hours. Then a general malaise starts to set in over the experience, and you wonder: "Is that all there is?" Then when you realize that the answer is yes, the game becomes increasingly more boring the longer you play it, and you start to hate it again due to all the micromanagement, and randomized, but similar repeating events.
I think the main problem with the game is that combat isn't fun. If combat was fun it would matter how boring the gameplay could get, since you'd still be having fun. As it stands though hand-to-hand combat even when using a melee weapon is just too simple, requiring you to only mash the X button to attack most of the time. You could also do it awkward looking kick or stomp move by pressing the Y button, but it does far less damage than your primary attack regardless of what weaponry is and is really only good for curb stomping a zombie's head to finish it when it's on the ground. You can actually dodge attacks by tapping the Y button just before a zombie is about to connect to weave out of the way. Also eventually when your character has enough combat experience you can do a signature move which is a special attack by pressing the left bumper and Y button at the same time. I'm trying to think of why the combat in the game just isn't as fun, and it's difficult to put my finger on it. I think it might have something to do with inconsistent damage. As your characters level up in the game by repeated combat the chance of them instantly killing a zombie increases as well as the amount of damage that survivor does for normal attacks. The effect of this means that sometimes you'll see a single zombie and kill them in one hit, while other times it might take upwards of twenty five repeated strikes for them to finally go down, which is very inconsistent and particularly frustrating when you're facing a pack of eight or so zombies which happens very often in the game. Every time you run or fight in the game you'll use out of stamina, and once it runs out you'll move a lot slower and do significantly less damage. Even though it's possible to supposedly upgrade your stamina, even a maxed out survivor will usually run out of stamina after killing three zombies in a row, unless they got lucky with random one hit kills. If you're out of stamina and still have another two to eight zombies to kill before your safe, you're going to have very least lose a lot of health, and are probably screwed, unless you can escape by getting into a car or exiting the game and reloading. Another problem is that every melee weapon in the game can break from overuse. There will be a warning most the time when a weapon is about to break by showing a yellow icon in the bottom left corner, but the number of uses before breaking varies wildly even among weapons of the same type so it's hard to plan ahead, like by for example sample carrying a spare when inventory space is so tight, and a knife might break after 30 uses or 200. If you have a workshop at your base, you can repair a weapon by not using it and storing it there, for twelve hours in real time, but it seems like even after being repaired the weapon is less durable than it was originally when it was new, and to make matters worse it seems to be impossible to tell it apart from a brand new weapon of the same type in your base's inventory. Generally it seems like short one handed weapons are the best such as knifes, clubs, bats or hatchets since the attack so quickly, and use very little stamina, whereas two-handed weapons such as shovels or axes use up all your stamina in only three or four swings and also attack a lot slower, although they sometimes can hit multiple targets at once. Basically because the game punishes you in various ways or engaging in combat, like by item breaking, loss of stamina, or the noise alerting other nearby zombies to attack, not to mention the potential permanent death of that particular character, and then the loss of all the experience you gained as them, makes the prospect of potential combat unappealing, and therefore unfun.
I should probably also mention that you could of course use firearms in the game as well. However like everything you'll have to scavenge for them in various houses and buildings, and not just the guns, but also the ammunition as well, both of which are relatively scarce. Aiming in the game feels a bit awkward, I think due to the camera angle being rather low to the ground, at about knee height in a close third person shot, which also leaves you vulnerable to getting snuck up on. I'll go guns can knock back zombies which is relatively satisfying, unless you get a head shot, they'll keep coming and you'll waste three or four rounds on unnecessary body shots. I think that the biggest problem is that the zombies in the game have particularly small heads, and appropriately small hit boxes for them, which makes it tricky to get multiple shots in quick succession in a row when the zombies are zigzagging and jumping at you all at once from about five feet away. Also every time you fire a gun it will make a lot of noise which will attract and spwan other zombies nearby, although you could attach a rare silencer to lessen the effect. The problem I see with the noise system is that presumably the player knows that firing a gun will attract more zombies, so they wouldn't do it, unless they were put into a desperate situation such as being out of stamina, or having their only melee weapon break, so if the player thinks they're about to die, and they use their gun to clear out the last enemies, then having guns attract even more enemies pretty much defeats the whole purpose entirely, and becomes a paradox.
One of the biggest problems with the game is the tremendous offputting learning curve the game has in the beginning. The game actually has a digital manual on the pause screen, but it doesn't mention or explain how many of the game's basic mechanics and gameplay work, which leads to frustrating confusion, an initial bad impression. So to better clarify things I'd decided to do a basic rundown of the typical gameplay. The church in the game is your first real base, but it's too small, and you won't have enough room to make beneficial expansions. After you beat the story mention with the doctor, you'll have the option of moving to a one eight potentially larger new bases throughout the games map. Upgrading to a new base seems like a no-brainer, however there is a trade-off. Before completing the doctor mission, special super zombies will not appear at all in the game, but are a frequent annoyance after word. So if you're having trouble in combat with regular zombies, you might want to put off completing the doctor mission until you're more confident in your abilities, and are better at staying alive, but after you've done the mission, there's no reason to stay at the church face any longer, and it will only make the game more difficult by not having better medical equipment, farming, or item repairs. After leaving your base, your character will be able to stay out for approximately 30 minutes in real time, before proclaiming that their tired and their stamina pool deplete much faster from running or combat. Usually within 30 minutes to an hour you can complete three or four missions, or runs back and forth from your base. Most of the time you'll simply need to gather resource by raiding various stores, or house around town. When you enter a building there will usually be six to eight different pieces of furniture to search for hidden items. Searchable furniture is designated by being slightly highlighted, and more reflective than normal, which can make it hard to spot unless you stand right in front of it and see the prompt to press the Y button to search it. Searching takes about 10 seconds, and zombies love to pounce you while you do it, so it's important to you about that before you begin searching, although more might break in soon after. Usually you'll find two or three worthless items, a gun, ammo or a melee weapon and finally at least one valuable resource. Unlike other items you can only carry one valuable resource at a time, and you cannot drop it until you deliver it back to your base. When you're carrying a valuable resource, your backpack stirred by a giant duffel bag that is worn on your on your back instead. Carrying the duffel bag seems to make you move and attack slower, and also use up your stamina quicker which of course makes you especially vulnerable. If you'd prefer not to bring back the valuable supplies yourself, or perhaps the house has more than one, you can also use the radio to send another survivor from your base to collect it for you. Even though that seems like a good idea on paper, the survivor will often take a long time to complete the task, and has the possibility of going missing or dyeing, plus you'll gain less experience than if you just carried it back to yourself, which is why I don't bother with the feature. There are different categories of valuables supplies such as food, ammo, fuel, medicine, and construction materials. The less the group has of any of these supplies the more unhappy they will become. Interestingly after your influence bar is maxed out, there isn't much of a reason to continue gaining supplies unless you want to upgrade your base, which is the only thing they're good for really, besides keeping the group happy. So once you've maxed out your base and influence bar there's no reason to continue playing the game that day, unless you want to finish the story missions. After you have cleared a house of all of its resources it will be crossed off your map, and presumably made safer. When a building is cleared you can turn it into a outpost, other groups of survivors can move in, or you can make it your new home base if it's large enough. The downside to clearing a house is that once it's completely out of items it will never be replenished. If you leave at least one item behind like a single bullet or a alarm clock, the next day in real life new items will appear in the building. As an analogy think of it like picking fruit from a tree or cutting it down, new fruit will eventually ripen, but the tree probably won't grow back.
There are many different kinds of missions in the game including: missing survivor, scavenger, diversion request, ally in trouble, infestation, search and destroy, special zombie hunt, ,hordes, survey the land, siege, trade opportunity, unknown survivors, training request, talk to a troublemaking survivor, and deal with a infected member of the group.
It seems like after you move your home base for the first time at least two of the survivors in your group will go constantly missing, from either failed scavenging attempts, or straight up grown men running away from home. Supposedly this has something to do with either having low influence or they're being too many buildings infested with zombies were zombie hordes around. Regardless of the cause survivors constantly going missing in the ever present annoyance. It seems like survivors only go missing after you leave your base, so if no one is currently missing, and it's at all possible for you not to return to your main base, such as using the outpost instead then do so, since it will probably take at least two hours in real-time before you get a mission to save at least one of the two to six missing survivors. After you finally get the mission to save them, you will be instructed to go to a particular building on the map. Once there two to eight other nearby buildings will be marked on the map as possible locations of the survivor. Thankfully you don't have to search each one, they could be in the first building, or they could be in the last one, it's randomized. Then you'll probably have to fight about six to ten zombies. At this point hopefully the survivor will just follow you home, but sometimes they'll insist that you finished searching the building before they'll leave, or even claim that there too injured to walk and require you to get a car and drive them back to the main base.
Scavenger missions can go one of either two ways. Sometimes you'll meet a on affiliate survivor who after you complete the mission will join your group, but other times they'll already be part of a group and completing the mission will just gain their trust which will help increase trade or maybe someday in the future convince them to join your group. Regardless every scavenger mission has an AI survivor searching an area usually in the open field for items, while you protect them from around five to twenty approaching zombies. Compared to other missions scavenger tasks are usually pretty easy and straightforward the AI survivor will fight alongside you, and the mission is usually take place in the open field so it's easy to spot most of the zombies attacking you, it's rare for them to glitch out.
I'd really like diversion request missions because they are easy, quick, and hard to screw up. All you have to do is find the mission location on the map, and then proceed to the area and make a lot of noise. Sure you could do things the hard way, and fire your gun in the air, jump through glass windows, or throw a lot of alarm clocks, but the easiest solution is to simply pop the core of your car repeatedly. Then bam, the job's done and you can drive away.
Ally in trouble missions are very similar to missing survivor missions, to the point where I'm not really sure what the difference is. Sometimes I think they are in fact exactly the same, except that the survivor was never missing, and was just being attacked by a group of zombies and needed you to save them. Other times I think that maybe I'm helping survivors from different groups than my own, it's hard to tell when so many survivors look the same. Regardless all you have to do is kill all the zombies and drive them home.
Doing a zombie infestation mission involves going inside a building that's marked red on your map and then killing the fifteen or twenty zombies inside with two or three being special zombie, usually screamers. Clearing out a infestation by yourself can be pretty difficult and dangerous, but there are ways to make it easier like camping a doorway and bottlenecking all the zombies into a straight line or luring them out of the building a few at a time and running them over in a car. Otherwise playing the mission normally could get you killed or at least make you use a lot of health items, bullets or have weapons brake from overuse.
Search and destroy missions are nearly identical to a normal zombie infestation, except before starting you must meet up with a survivor from your group in a nearby building, before teaming up to clear out the place. Infestations are a lot easier with the help of a partner to cover your back, and only makes the lament the games obvious lack of co-op. Generally though your AI partner is a very aggressive, so you want to run into the building, or even just open the door, and run out to alert the zombies of your presence. Then have the AI take point and back them up once they start fighting. Sometimes the they can glitch out, and wait in a corner or get stuck in a wall, so you want to make sure that they are at least during zombies away from you, before you try in vain to take them all on by yourself, which is probably suicide. Also since there are so many zombies in the same building already, it doesn't really matter if you make additional noise, especially since you have a partner, so it might be wise if you can spot them to snipe screamer zombies from a distance, since they're yelling attack as they awfully short cool down, and will often repeatedly stun lock both you and your ally.
In a special zombie hunt mission, you usually travel to a more remote location of the map a good distance away for your main base, where you'll meet up with one of your survivors who is fixing to kill a zombie of a specific type. After activating the mission and agreeing to help, it then starts to play out similar to a missing survivor mission, where you'll search a series of buildings until you find usually either a feral zombie, or one wearing SWAT gear body armor. Where the zombie appears it's randomized, and once you kill it the survivor will thank you, and go on their way. If your base is in a more rural farmland like area you might be occasionally be hunting a very dangerous fat zombie, which can charge you in a bull rush or grass and lift you over its head. Fat zombies are so volatile in fact, they deftly want to stop the on Molotov cocktails, and some better rifles before even attempting the mission, conversely it might even be advisable to just ignore it altogether, and hope that the survivor makes it out alive on their own, which is usually the case. Farrell zombies move a lot faster, and easily dodge gunfire by jumping around all over the place, and running around on all fours. Farrell zombies have long claws and if they pounce you they'll deal a ton of damage, which will likely result in your death. Luckily they have very little defense and I recommend, of all things using a slow, long range melee weapon like a shovel or ax when attacking them due to the larger hit box of the swing and greater damage. Alternately you could always run away and use your partner as bait for the farrell zombie, and then double back to help them. Body armored SWAT zombies are hardly more of a threat than normal ones, the only difference is that their gear protects them from most gunfire, and unarmed attacks from low level characters do very little damage to them, so you might have to start on their head upwards of 200 times before they finally die. To a character with a high level fighting ability however they'll be barely a challenge, and go down in three to six hits. There are also frail zombies that explode into a cloud of poisonous gas, that does mild damage to you. Sometimes even if you don't attack them, they'll run out and explode anyway , sort of like a suicide bomber. Since they have no defense, and the noxious cloud does such little damage, you don't really have to worry about them that much, and the only problem I could see is if your pined in a corner by other zombies when the gas cloud goes off. I've never seen a hunt mission for a screamer zombie, I guess perhaps because they're too common, since one or two of them always appear in infested houses. It seems like depending on where your main base is located you'll be more likely to hunt for specific special zombies, in the city for instance you'll mostly be going after SWAT and farrell zombies but in the country it will more often be fat zombies and exploding gas ones.
In addition to infested houses, there are also random zombie "hordes" roaming the streets. I put quotation marks around the word hordes because they aren't actually made up that many zombies, possibly due to performance or frame rate issues. Most courts actually only include around six to twelve zombies, with the average being eight. Even though their numbers are small, they still shouldn't be underestimated, since your stamina will probably run out after only taking out three of them. There are various tactics you can use to send their numbers or pick them off one by one however, like jumping fences, camping a doorway, climbing to a roof and then sniping, but it's a lot easier to just mow them down with a car. Unfortunately after you hit two or three hordes your car will take a lot of damage and then much like the Grand Theft Auto games will start to smoke and eventually explode if you keep hitting things, and don't have it repaired. Running over zombies is actually pretty fun, and it's a shame that you can't take out more packs, without switching vehicles so frequently. I should also note that sedans and compact cars have realistically less durability than trucks to do, so they'll start smoking right away even after only taking out a single horde. Supposedly having a lot of infested houses will cause a lot more zombie hordes to spawn and appear on the map, or vice versa, it isn't clear which causes the other, much like the old chicken and the egg riddle. Regardless having a lot of hordes or infested houses on the map will hurt the morale of the group, and make them constantly complain about it, and even potentially lead to some survivors to go missing, so you should deal with them if you have a car or character with a good amount of health to spare.
Occasionally in another group of survivors, usually the military will ask you to find a high point on the map and survey the land in a easily accomplished mission. Most the time the location is either a water tower or the roof of a building, that is even more on your map, and the only tricky part is that it can occasionally be mildly difficult to discover where the ladder is. Once you're there all you have to do is hold down the L Trigger and then slowly move the camera over each question mark that you can see from the spot. Keep in mind that you may have to walk to different corners of the roof in order to see each question mark, and sometimes the icons can be far off in the distance, obscured by building or tree, or just be difficult to notice since it blends into the background at dust or in the morning.
A minor annoyance in the game is that you can't juggle and complete multiple missions at once. Once you start a mission, you must complete it before you can start another, even if they don't conflict, and are literally right next to each other. For example while looking for a missing survivor you might be right next to a survey the land point, and although you can still check things out from the spot, you won't get the credit for doing so. Likewise the game is also touchy about missions being triggered properly, so for example you might find a armored zombie right next a survivor requesting to hunt it, but if you kill it, before talking to the survivor and activating the mission it won't count, and you'll have to find another SWAT zombie to kill instead.
Occasionally when your resources are low at your base, like when you first start playing for the day, you'll receive a trade request from a neighboring group of survivors. Usually they offer a raw deal, like 50 packets of food and ammunition for 30 cans of fuel and boxes of medicine, both of which are mostly useless. Regardless of how unfair the trade is however, it's best to accept anyway, since it will help the morale of the group, and increase the trust of your neighbors, which could potentially get them to join you, and resources don't matter much in the long run anyway, unless you're about to build something. When you first receive a trade request mission to activate it you'll have to return to your base and talk to the survivor out front wearing a large duffel bag on their back. They'll want you to escort them to the secluded agreed upon trade site, which is usually in the middle of nowhere, and surrounded by at least thirty zombies, that spawn in waves of about five or six at a time. What's really annoying but trade missions, is that frequently you'll arrive at the location, and both AI survivors will be standing right next to each other, but they won't make the trade so that you can move on, until literally every single zombie anywhere near the visible horizon line is dead or else it's "Too Dangerous." Further problems arise when zombie glitch out and get stuck in walls, floors, doorways, rocks, rivers fences, or even hide on the roof of a three story building across the street. So be thankful when everything goes smoothly and they make the trade right away. Luckily you don't have to worry about dying too much since you'll not only have the survivor you were escorting to back you up also the person you're trading with as well, so surviving the onslaught won't be too difficult, just tedious.
Rarely when your good friends with another group of survivors, they'll call you for help when they are being attacked by a big load of zombies at once in a siega mission. The most prominent example of this is the Doctor mission at the farmhouse in the main story. Since you'll have all the residents in the house backing you up, it shouldn't be too difficult to kill twenty to fifty zombies, attacking you in small groups with around four of them being special zombies. Most the time after arriving at the location all you be doing boarding up windows to prevent the zombies from getting it. Soon however you'll notice a problem, where the mission doesn't end unless you kill all the zombies, but if they can't get into the house, you can't kill them, which is another paradox. The solution is either to go outside and fight them man o man, which as you think is extremely dangerous, or accidentally on purpose, ignore boarding up or repairing one particular window in order to bottleneck the zombie invasion and take them out one at a time, which is much safer. Also since the zombies are already alerted your presence, and a horde is descending upon you, you might as well use your firearms to shoot some through the windows, sine it's not possible to relate and attract them anymore than they already are.
Unknown survivor missions appear when you first start out in the game, or when the numbers of your group have thinned by several recent deaths. Regardless unknown survivors exist solely to strengthen your ranks, so if you're happy with the current size of your group, and don't want any more mouths to feed, then you should probably ignore these missions. They are usually pretty easy however, and typically involve you escorting however many survivors you find through two or three buildings, and clearing them out of zombies. After they are significantly convinced that you're cool, they'll agree to join you and the rest of the group, but you'll still have to escort them back to the base, which could be tedious if you don't have a four person car.
Periodically Lilly will call you on the radio and say that there's trouble at the base, and that someone needs a talking to, which is the start of a possible mutiny, or desertion. I like to refer to these missions as going for a walk with a troublemaker. After you return home to your base a problem survivor with a chip on their shoulder will be standing out front saying location as if they were starting a trade run, or requesting training. After you talk to them, you'll ask to go for a walk together outside, and then look at the map in your target destination, which is usually just a small building half a block outside of your base. Typically there will be around seven zombies to kill inside the building, and your AI partner should help you out, but like always you want to open the door, and then run away so that you don't get swarmed from rushing in. After all of them are dead, and tell the survivor to knock off arguing with the others, or to just stop being depressed and deal with it, which strangely appears to work. Then you'll just have to return to your base to end the mission. However since the survivor is likely at full health, you could use the opportunity to have them escort you while you take out several hordes or infestations around the town, they might even open up to you and reveal a secret character trait of their past if you drive with them for a while in a car. Just be careful that the AI survivor doesn't get swarmed more than twice only my unexpectedly parish, since there's no way of telling exactly how much help they have.
Occasionally a member of your group will become sick, and afterword that condition will either improve or worsen depending on how much you upgraded your medical facilities at your base. With a level one medical facility there condition will probably worsen, at level two they will be chronically ill, and at level three they will probably get better. Regardless if they are sick long enough you'll get a mission on the radio from Lilly to return home and "Deal with" the situation. The unhealthy survivor in question will be standing out front, much like a trade, training, or walk about mission, and once you talk to them the option of either banishing them from the group, or taking them out in the woods and shooting them. So far I've only tried killing them, with a knife that actually decapitate them in one shot. It's unclear what action is the best to do from a gameplay standpoint, but personally I'd feel better morally if I can wait until they turn before I take them out. There is also a third option, where you decide to ignore the mission and avoid returning back to the base. After a while off camera the survivor will turn into a zombie and randomly kill two other healthy survivors at the base, before finally dying themselves, presumably killed by one of the remaining survivors. All of this will be informed to you by Lilly on the radio. Based on what I've heard from other players strangely that turned survivor will usually kill your two highest level characters, and strangely ignore the low level ones you don't care about. So regardless of your feelings for the infected individual, it's a better idea for the greater good of the group to kick them out, or take them out preemptively, it is better to lose one person, than three.
One of the main selling points of the game for me was the fact that you can actually upgrade your base. Unfortunately this aspect of the game doesn't appear to be as well thought out, or in-depth as I'd like it to be. The first problem is that you can only have one main home base at a time, even though there are at least eight available on the map in different key locations. After you clear a building you can build a outpost there, and it's almost useless, since no survivors will ever hang out there, and you can't even drop off your duffel bags filled with resources. About the only thing outposts are good for is using them to drop off or pick up normal items from a shared inventory that can be accessed at your main base or any of the outposts. The most important thing about a base is how much space you have to build expansions, and because of this there isn't much reason to switch bases multiple times and you might as well go from the small starting church, to the expansive warehouse in the Southeast since it's the largest base of available in the game. The warehouse has just enough space to build one of every kind of expansion, except you might need a second sleeping area to accommodate all of your survivors, and then be forced to cut something. There are many different kinds of expansions besides the required radio and sleeping area, such as a kitchen, medical tent, greenhouse, workshop, storage area, library, watchtower, dining room and training facility. Each expansion to the house can also be upgraded at least once to a better version that has more abilities and is more useful. Every time you build expansion or upgrade one you use up the valuable resources, but increase morale. At the radio you can instruct Lilly to search for specific kinds of resources or even new survivors. There's not much to say about the sleeping area , except that you should always upgraded to bunk beds in order to accommodate more survivors. The kitchen seems a bit extraneous but it can be used to prepare a big meal that will permanently increase the health and stamina of all the survivors at the base, it also greatly helps with morale. The medical tent at your base is possibly the most essential expansion, since without it survivors will recover health much slower when injured, and have a much greater chance of getting infected, and eventually turning into a zombie. The greenhouse is used to grow and harvest your own plants once a day, for extra free and easy food resources. The workshop is used to create items and weapons, and can also repair damaged weapons that are stored in the base's inventory, and once it's upgraded even repair cars that are parked out front. I'm honestly not entirely sure what the storage area is good for, but supposedly there's actually a limit on how many items can be in your bases inventory, and the storage area greatly increases that limit to the point where it seems unlimited. The library also seems like an extraneous expansion, it's basically only good for researching how to upgrade the other expansions such as your medical facilities or the greenhouse. I suppose after you've already upgraded the aforementioned expansions you really want and need a library anymore and could potentially sacrifice the space to use it for something else, like additional sleeping area for instance. The only advantage I can see of keeping the library around is that it will supposedly increase the intelligence of AI of the survivors, but I'm not sure if that actually had an effect on the gameplay at all. A watchtower is a essential expansion to have since it's your only defense against zombies when you're away from the base or not playing the game. The only downside is that the AI will often waste bullets on shooting zombies that are way off in the distance and burned through much of your ammo reserves however high they may be. Honestly I haven't yet built a training facility yet due to a lack of space at the warehouse, so I'm not entirely sure what it does, but supposedly it will increase a character's combat ability without having to actually play as them and a lot of kill zombies. I also have never built a dining room, but according to its description lets characters get to know each other better, and then presumably not fight with each other as much and be less likely wander off and go missing on their own.
There aren't that many cars in the game, it seems like there's only ten different types. Most cars only seem to come in two different colors as well, and there are some really obvious omissions in the vehicle department. For example there are no big rig trucks, motorcycles, tractors, tanks, hummers or even vans in the game, yet they do have station wagons, and pizza delivery cars. Because of the lack of variety I usually only bother driving for seatter flatbed trucks picking up survivors or mowing down hordes and Mustang esqu sports cars when I need to get somewhere fast. There is a crashed airplane in a field in the southwest part of the map, and also nearby on the main road a burned out fire truck, that seems like it will be fun to drive around but you can't. Cars in the game are surprisingly fragile, and it's very easy to bump into something like a guard rail or post and take considerable damage. Most the time you'll probably be using vehicles to run over zombies, but the fun is diminished by how quickly your vehicle starts to smoke and eventually explode. The warning signs are first white smoke, black smoke, fire and then the car explodes. Cars in the game don't respawn but they are pretty plentiful, so you shouldn't have to worry about running out as long as you don't pull too many of them. Vehicles usually stay where you leave them, so most of the time I'll park them in front of my base. One problem though is that the longer you play the game, the more vehicles you accumulate next year base, and the less you'll find scattered around the map which are useful when you have to make a hasty escape, or are safe but a long ways away from the base. Another annoying problem with the game is that if you change bases your cars will not move with you, and you can't order a survivor to drive a car and return it to the base. Although for some reason survivors can randomly take out cars from in front of your base on missions or joyrides. So if you want to move the vehicles to a new location you'll have to walk all the way to your old base, then drive back in the desired car, and then repeat the tedious process with any other vehicles at the old base. If your vehicle is damaged, and you have a upgraded metal shop in your base you can park the car outside your home and the next day in real life it will be repaired. Because cars are the most efficient way to take out zombie hordes and they break down so easily, it's important to collect a lot of cars by the base, and rotate them out when they become damaged so that you can continue hunting hordes. If you're picking up a survivor it's a good idea to bring a car along in case they can't walk, however I would recommend ever driving off road, as the car physics in the game are quite bad, and if the vehicle you are in tips over even the slightest bit, you'll be unable to right it, slip it, or even push it back on its side and it will become increasingly damaged until it eventually blows up. Station wagons for some reason particularly are very prone to flipping over at even the slightest bump. If you accidentally crash your car, by say hitting a pothole, or driving down somewhat steep incline then I recommend exiting to the dashboard, since you don't know how long you'll play the game, and if you'll the need the car later on.
The game is set in a small mostly rural town in the Midwest of America. The terrain is mostly open fields with a few rest stops and small towns in the north and south of the large map and there's also a forest in the north. My problem with the games map in that everything is so spaced out to the point where it seems like some areas, with single roads that stretch on for miles without any landmarks are entirely unnecessary, though realistic. I'm also disappointed that there are no skyscrapers or at least upscale five story buildings in the game which would make a nice change of scenery. Another problem with the areas in the game is that the interior of too many houses and locations are in sight of the same and repeated. For example there's a diner that's green with a large kitchen, and many booths that appears in at least six different areas of the map, all of which being identical. Another example is that each warehouse in the game is exactly identical to each other with crates and offices always in the same spot. The floorplan of many houses is also identical, with each one having the same rooms with the same furniture, and exactly the same layout and even share the same areas to search for items. The problem with all the recycled buildings, in that it takes all the fun out of exploring when everything looks the same, plus it makes it really hard to give directions. On the plus side the games mini map in the top right corner of the screen does a great job at giving you directions regardless if you're on foot or in a vehicle, and it's easy to mark wherever you want to go on your map by opening it up with the select button and then pressing a on the desired location.
There are several aspects to the game that I don't understand, or don't bother using. For example you can press the B button to crouch and sneaks by zombies. However most of the time zombies will still notice you anyway, and even if you try to sneak up on a single zombie, there doesn't appear to be any stealth kills in the game so there's no point. You can also supposedly avoid zombies noticing you by hiding in tall grass or nearby shrubbery and waiting for them to go by, but again if you move at all within two blocks of the horde will likely notice you and attack. There are many items in the game that can be used for diversions such as fireworks, baby dolls or alarm clocks, that will make noise to distract zombies so that you can run away and escape. My problem is that these items take up precious inventory space, that could be better used by simply carrying more melee weapons or gun with you. Also each survivor has several unique character traits, that must be unlocked, but outside of being interesting fact what are they good for? I don't know.
The graphics in the game really aren't very impressive, the lighting for example is particularly bad during the day. There is way too much bloom and HDR lighting everywhere that washes out all the colors, and makes it so that it always looks like sundown throughout the entire day. The lighting is much better at night and more realistic, but sometimes it can be difficult to see what you're doing when some areas become pitch black. You do have a flashlight and headlights however to alleviate the problem. Character models are adequately detailed, but have very low poly counts and muddy washed out textures. The terrain in the forest areas looks pretty good, but most of towns and fields look unimpressive. The main problem with the game is that it looks like a late release for the original Xbox circa 2004 through 2006, from the lighting, textures, and even environments. At least it looks like a rather impressive original Xbox game like Halo 2, Stubbs the Zombie, or Jade Empire. Remarkably despite the game's lackluster almost insultingly bad graphics it also sports a atrocious frame rate, that is constantly choppy, and frequently dips below 15 FPS. Considering how glitchy the game is, I would say that it's probably not optimized very well, especially considering how much better the graphics are in other games with similar gameplay like Dead Rising, Grand Theft Auto, or Saint's Row.
Sound effects in the game are pretty good, but not really memorable. Crushing a zombie's head with your shoe sounds cool, but it's always the same every time you do it. Likewise the engine noises when you drive a car, or slash a zombie with a weapon eventually get monotonous with the lack of variety. I do enjoy however the frequent growns and growls of all the zombies in the game, and the sound is mixed well so that you can usually tell what direction they're coming from, which is a neat feature. There isn't too much music in the game, and because of that it's hard to pinpoint something that I specifically like. The most memorable theme is when you inadvertently alert a zombie horde to your location and fast paced intense music plays, until all of them are dead, or the action comes down for you running away. I will say that I enjoyed the voice acting in the game, and most of the performances are quite good. One problem though is that too many characters are voiced by too few actors, which leads to a similar problem that the Elder scrolls games have where two to six actors voice thirty characters apiece. So there are many instances where characters are having a conversation with each other but they both have the same actor and dialect, so the potentially serious scene becomes unintentionally funny. I'm also surprised at how much dialogue there is relating to random survivors back story, and yet there is so little quips when doing normal gameplay paths that will probably occur hundreds of times throughout the game. For example when returning to the base with supplies your character will only save one of two things, and have the same conversation with Lilly, and when you're low on stamina or health you'll always proclaim that you don't have it in you or need a break.
If State of Decay was a beta for an unfinished game that only featured placeholder graphics, and one area among five larger ones, then I would say that the game has tremendous potential upon release. However this is the final release version of the game, and it just doesn't feel polished enough for even a Live Arcade release in 2013. I'm thinking that they intentionally didn't release the game at retail on a disc to avoid direct comparisons to current games, and to hopefully make people be more forgiving of its many shortcomings. It's also unacceptable how glitchy the game is frequently, it's awful framerate, and how obnoxious some of the game's mechanics are, like the permanent death, weapon breaking, 24 hour clock and how they can't be turned off. The game's huge learning curve left that taste in my mouth at first that made me stop playing. After I continued in order to write this review I did eventually get into it and have fun for a little while, before I realized that all the features were hiding the games lack of content. If the survivors and the game weren't constantly requesting things, then you could probably beat the game in under ten hours. What gets me is that although the game is moderately entertaining and is a Xbox Live Arcade Game with a smaller budget, it's still priced as high as a retail release at $20. I feel like if the game was $10 I'd be more open to give it a higher score considering how short and disappointing most other Live Arcade Games are as well. As it stands now State of Decay is a bit of a mess, and is clearly unfinished, and maybe a lot of patches, or the future PC version it could be a lot better, and more enjoyable, but for right now I'd give it a generous 6/10 for a hardcore zombie fan, and a 4/10 to anyone else, that should honestly just avoid it.