State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition
Developer: Undead Labs
Published: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Genre: Simulation, Survival Horror, RPG
Undead Labs’ ‘State of Decay’ is the latest game to get the remastering treatment, having originally released back in mid-2013 on the Xbox 360, and later on PC. With two massive DLC expansions since then, Year One Survival Edition, or YOSE for short, is squeezed so full of content that it’s hard to deny the value, at least for players who might not have given the base game or its expansions a whirl the first time around.
State of Decay came out right at the peak of the zombie craze, and delivered what console zombie fans were missing with its survival and simulation traits. There’s no single player character, or personal narrative to explore, instead you have to take control over a whole community of survivors amidst the zombie apocalypse in the idyllic little county of Trumbull Valley and try to help them survive the chaos. You do have objectives and a loose storyline, but the bulk of the gameplay is simply survival. Build up your community, fortify your strongholds, keep your survivors happy and take out countless zombies along the way.
The game blends multiple genres together, but actually makes for a very accessible game without sacrificing its themes. There’s permadeath – meaning if any of your survivors die while out on a run or a mission, they won’t be coming back – and a need to your home base constantly supplied and protected, adding a good degree of challenge to the game. But this doesn’t make things too hard, and it’s definitely not too realistic like some other zombie survival titles. It’s all tied together with light character progression that comes from actually getting the people out there and working on their skills. The supplies you find can be stockpiled to keep things running smoothly at home, or used to upgrade and build your facilities. State of Decay really nails the balance between simulation and pure entertainment, it’s fun yet thought provoking and detailed – this is how zombie survival games should be.
The DLC content is all included in the YOSE, and gives players two extra unique campaign modes. The first, Breakdown, is a kind of Sandbox Mode without the story of the main game. Instead of working your way into things and being walked through a lot of the game early on, you’re thrown straight into the mix and have to work fast to build your community from scratch. You can unlock ‘Heroes’ for subsequent playthroughs, and really just see how long you can survive for in an evolving world state that gets significantly more challenging as you progress. Breakdown takes place in the same map as the main State of Decay game, but is a fairly different experience with the player having more control over decisions of what to do, and how to approach your continued survival.
The second slab of content is Lifeline, a very different experience. A new map in a larger cityscape, and focusing on a band of trained military personnel, Lifeline takes a step back from the struggle of the Turnbull crews and gives players instant access to military weaponry and resources. It’s a different ballgame when you run into a pack of walkers when you’re packing an assault rifle or a grenade launcher.
Lifeline isn’t as much fun as its two counterparts, but the change of pace is welcome and it feels good to have more firepower at your fingertips. But when you focus more on the action, the games shortcomings are all the more noticeable. Gameplay is well designed, and State of Decay has some terrific features, but the gameplay needed a good deal of polish back when we first got our hands on it, and not a lot has changed since then. It may have more features now than ever before, but it’s still a buggy mess. Bad hit mapping, environment interaction and unresponsive controls make some of the closer encounters a nightmare, and you’re just as likely to get torn to bits from a technological mishap as you are your own failure.
With Year One Survival Edition, Undead Labs have reworked all the games textures and models, and upped the resolution to a crisp 1080p. It’s definitely a prettier game now, but I have a big issue with focusing on making things look better when the end product has a major framerate issue. Instead of making the game look as good possible, I would rather have seen it locked in a nice 30FPS and then made to look as good as possible while keeping things smooth. Instead the game suffers bad framerate drops in most interiors, and with any larger zombie group up close.
The vast majority of content remains untouched from the original release, aside from its visual update, but YOSE boasts new weaponry, vehicles, characters and minor additives. Unfortunately the audio still leaves a lot to be desired, the voice work is particularly woeful and the sound effects recycled throughout. Luckily for the zombie fans amongst you, and by reading this I’m guessing you are one, none of that takes away from the quality of the survival experience. YOSE would have been a perfect chance for Undead Labs to squeeze in some multiplayer like they’ve been talking about for years, if not at the very least to get some experience for the upcoming Class4 (codename for the next game, which has been promised as a multiplayer title). State of Decay’s setup just aches for co-op, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait some time to get to build up your merry band of survivors with a mate.
State of Decay has aged well the past two years, proving that Undead Labs’ debut title is still one of the best zombie games available, and has easily remained the best survival simulation on console. The YOSE update doesn’t provide enough new content to warrant another purchase, but the games own merits do, and for those who didn’t fight through State of Decay’s zombie apocalypse the first time around this is a must buy. The inclusion of all the DLC makes Year One Survival Edition the definitive State of Decay package, and terrific value at $30, providing a hefty load of content.