I’ve been playing a lot of State of Decay lately (Steam sale, what else), and I think it’s the best zombie survival game I’ve played so far, primarily because the threat/survival part lasts longer than 30 minutes or until you find the first gun and things go from ‘survival game’ to zombie mass murder funtime (Looking at you, Dead Island).
I won’t do a full review, but will just quickly say that everything is on point other than the UI, which is clearly held back due to the game being a console port. It’s not game-ruining horrible, but it does get in the way more often than I would like.
I first played through the standard “story mode” of the game, which took about 10 hours. Even though you have story-specific missions at times, it still feels very open-world, which is nice. I was also surprised by the voice acting, as 90% of it is solid to great. The story itself isn’t going to blow you away, but at the same time its good-enough to keep you entertained.
Once that was finished, I started playing the Breakdown DLC, which removes all of the story missions from the game and replaces them with just one objective; find an RV, fix it, and escape. Well, not escape exactly, but move on and repeat at a higher difficulty. The RV breaks down in a different spot of the map, and you plus the 6 companions you selected basically start again, though you keep your skills/inventory.
What I like most about Breakdown is that the escalating difficulty is somewhat gradual, with each step up increasing the zombie population a bit, cars become harder to find, resources shrink, etc. There are ten degrees of difficulty, and even at level 4 right now I can already feel the difference. What’s really great about this is that all of the tools you had but didn’t need in the main game now become more vital. Basically, unlike most zombie survival games where things get easier, in Breakdown the actual survival gets harder and harder.
For instance, I’ve lost more than a few people while searching a house because I made too much noise and got swarmed, while I also escaped similar situations because I brought along a distraction item or two. In the ‘main game’, I never really needed to do this because while the zombies were dangerous, things rarely got do-or-die difficult.
Another example; cars become harder to find as you move up, which means I can’t just plow through zombies at will. The car gets too damaged, and finding a replacement isn’t always easy. Having the ability for your home base to repair cars also becomes more and more important, which again is a feature that wasn’t that needed in the main game.
In a way, State of Decay has a bit of my ‘Sandbox PvE MMO’ design to it; in that it’s you vs the world, and the world is constantly fighting back. If the game had multiplayer, where each person could play a character and run around, with the world scaling to really crazy difficulties, it would be a total blast. I also thing with better technology or more resources, if the map had more randomization to it (ideally a totally random map each time), the game again would be all that much better.
Future dreaming aside, as is State of Decay is well-worth checking out, and is another good example of game difficulty nudging you to play better/smarter, and really pay attention to details you might have missed/skipped when things were easy.