State of Emergency

Back in 2013, Undead Labs unleashed a downloadable title on Xbox 360 and PC that changed the way I viewed the zombie game genre. State of Decay was a fresh, unique take on a once unflattering, overused genre. Zombie games – like their film counterparts – can be hit or miss, but State of Decay was in fact, a massive hit. I fell in love with its enjoyable story and the complexities of its gameplay and resource management, but most of all I loved the fact that a costly mistake can turn the tide of everything. Two years later, we’re graced with State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition, which includes all of the workings of State of Decay, its two DLC packs – Lifeline and Breakdown, and a handful of new improvements. I was excited to get back into State of Decay, and while the majority of it is – as you’d expect – the same, I still enjoyed my journey back into the apocalyptic, zombie-infested world.

State of Decay opens up with one of its many (depending on how you go) protagonists, Marcus Campbell. Coming back from a fishing trip in Mt. Tanner with his friend, they find that the world has fallen into disarray, as a zombie apocalypse has broken out. From there, you’re tasked with a multitude of quests and activities to try and uncover what’s happened to the world around you and to find out the meanings behind the United States Army’s involvement in it all. The story successfully evades the tenuous tropes of modern day zombie games and films, and playing through it again two years after my first journey through further showcased an adequately written story that utilises its setting well.

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As the game is open world, you do have a choice on whether you want to progress through the fourteen hour story or not – as just simply surviving is one of the best and most enjoyable parts of the game. If you do choose to just stick it out and survive, resource management (while an important part in the game overall) becomes a major factor in keeping survivors happy whilst bringing in new ones. Clearing out nests, looting houses and keeping the zombie hordes away also help make up your own tale of survival in a world gone mad.

The gameplay in State of Decay is somewhat of a mixed bag. The first couple of hours will be confusing for the average player, as the plethora of options you’re given to learn and sort through can feel overwhelming. Managing resources, understanding influence and building can become unnecessarily frustrating, especially for new players, but sticking with it leads to a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment further down the line. Ironically, State of Decay’s combat system is really quite simple. A few button presses initiate different attacks and ‘finishing’ moves, whilst the driving has been mapped to the triggers. It all combines to make a solid package that offers both enjoyment for those craving to just crack some zombie heads, whilst also offering an immense amount of depth for players looking at digging into the game’s deep resource management and building system.

As this is a remaster, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition boasts a handful of new improvements, of which the most obvious one is the game running at 1080p and the reworking of old, low quality textures that plagued the 360 and original PC entry. Generally, the game looks pretty good. It doesn’t look like an Xbox One game, but considering what it looked like before there’s definitely a noticeable improvement. The color grading of the game still contrasts perfectly with the setting and YOSE makes use of the Xbox One’s power to plug most of the technical issues that haunted the 360 version.

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Home sweet home.

Unfortunately, for PC players Year One Survival Edition is what Scholar of The First Sin was to Dark Souls 2 – a mere upgrade. State of Decay’s original release on the PC was plagued with bugs and texture issues that could have been easily rectified for the platform, considering its power compared to the 360 at the time. But the tweaking never happened, and PC players now face the choice as to whether they want to spend another $29.99 ($20 after the 33% off) to upgrade to a version of the base game they should have been playing back in 2013, or to slug it out on the old version that’s just about akin to the 360 version. It’s a sticky situation to be in for players that already own State of Decay, and one that befuddles me, but for newcomers the choice should be fairly simple.

For Xbox One players, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is more-or-less a no brainer for fans of the franchise and those that enjoy zombie games. The fact that you can bring over your Xbox 360 save is a really nice touch, and you’ll fall back into your groove fairly quickly considering nothing much has changed.

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State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition does come with two great pieces of DLC, those being Breakdown – a sandbox mode of sorts that has you leading a group of survivors in repairing an RV in order to escape a valley, and Lifeline – which tells the story of the military’s side of things during the initial few days of the outbreak. Both sets of DLC are solid, enjoyable experiences and offer up a good amount of game time, especially Breakdown which is more-or-less an endless sandbox mode. Combining this with the base game’s fourteen hour story, and there’s a great amount of content to dive into for a third of the price of an average retail game.

The score and sound design in State of Decay is pretty good, as the score’s composed by renowned artist Jesper Kyd. I didn’t take to the score or the sound design itself as much as I thought I would the second time around, but the subtle ambience contrasting with the subject matter really do strike the perfect balance for a game of this level.

Overall

State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is a really solid package for both returning players and newcomers to the series. The game itself is an excellent take on the zombie genre, and provides a solid amount of depth for those willing to dig into it whilst keeping those just wanting to kill some zombies fairly happy. For returning PC players, I’m firmly in the belief that the upgrade isn’t worth it considering that this is the version of the game that should have shipped back in September/November of 2013. But for Xbox players and newcomers on the PC side, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition is the definitive way to enjoy a deep, solid take on the zombie formula.

Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Undead Labs
Platforms: PC, Xbox One (Reviewed)

A review code was provided by the publisher.

State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition Review
Good StoryGreat SettingSolid Score and Sound DesignLifeline and Breakdown are excellent
Graphics could be betterFirst few hours can be overwhelmingStill a $20 upgrade for returning PC players
80%Overall Score