June 10, 2013

State of Decay

State of Decay
I recently got the opportunity to play some of Undead Lab's new Xbox Arcade Game State of Decay.

My one word review: WOW!

While I like Zombies, I think they've been overdone unfortunately, but even with my stick-a-fork-in-it attitude I have to admit I really like this game.

State of Decay is really a sandbox game just about in the purest sense of the term. So far I haven't seen it roll out in a Skyrim fashion where you have a bazillion scripted missions and the order or choice to do them is all up to you. While there do seem to be some scripted missions, for the most part the whole game is relatively randomized.

Now a lot of people will not enjoy this game. Not because of the zombies, but because there is a
Xbox Live Arcade Game State of Decay
decent amount of monotony to the game. You will need to spend a LOT of time looting, directing looting efforts, and searching for team members that have become stranded or simply gone missing....and killing Zombies. You'll have to kill a LOT of zombies because they respawn and they like to form hordes that need to be mowed down from time to time. It seems that if two special zombie types managed to cohabit a house together it becomes an "infestation" that you will have to deal with.

The constant scrounging for supplies may be monotonous, but it is necessary because your group of survivors will use up resources on a daily basis and your equipment will degrade through use. You do get a head's-up that your equipment is damaged so if you keep on using it you will eventually get stuck in the middle of a zombie fight without a weapon. This leads me to my only real complaint with the game.

Gun List from State of Decay
Gunlist Courtesy of Undead Labs
The controls are a little fiddly and working the menu can be frustrating. Your main use button is the "Y" button and you basic attack button is the "X", but if you have a zombie down and want to do a special killing blow the combination to do so is they Left Shoulder Button + Y. Y...I mean why?! This makes no sense to me. Using the Left Shoulder Button and X makes so much more sense. The confusing controls get amped up even more when your character gets some special maneuvers, all of which are Left Shoulder Button + something else. Because you'll be switching off characters so often odds are all you'll be doing is watching your guy fumble around aimlessly while zombies are closing in. The fun extends to other controls as well. You use the thumb sticks for driving and clicking in the left stick....the one you use the most, will make you honk your horn. Needless to say I end up honking my horn way too often.

Aiming firearms is trickier than it should be. With all the time in the world it is difficult to actually line up a headshot. I don't know if this is a control issue or actually a game feature where as your character gets more proficient with firearms aiming gets easier.

The menu for checking things out in your compound and upgrading skills is also a little wonky. It is hard to shift between areas in your compound and try to get things done. A simple tutorial or maybe even a better interface would make this portion of the game much more enjoyable.

Overall though, I enjoy the gameplay mechanics and I really like the plethora of looting possibilities and the sheer guided randomness of the game. Odds are you'll find the type of generic supplies where you expect to find them, like ammo at the police station and medical supplies at the veterinarian's office. The specific weapons though are quite numerous. I've been playing with melee weapons almost exclusively, but now that I need to clean out some infestations I've taking to using silenced weapons. There really seems to be a difference in performance between the different handguns, more than I was expecting.

This may sound dumb, but what I'm enjoying most about State of Decay is this randomness in loot. Finding a pistol that has been modified for a different sized cartridge is interesting and to date I've only managed to find two large backpacks. Weight and space for inventory management are a big deal because you don't want to be encumbered out there fighting (or running from) zeds.

My Xbox Avatar
Overall it is a good game and worth the money. I'm finding that with a little more spit & polish, some of these Xbox Arcade games compete quite well with the AAA titles, especially considering the price. State of Decay goes for 2400 Microsoft Points ($30) and I think it is worth far more than half of a $60
new game on disc.

Of course you cannot wait for the disc to come available at GameStop or go on sale, but they do put Xbox Arcade games on sale.

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