While I anxiously await the first batch of Kickstarter PC games and others on my Top Ten Most Anticipated list later this year, State of Decay has been by far the most impressive game I've played thus far. Developed by Undead Labs as their debut title and published by Microsoft Studios, State of Decay was released on Xbox Live Arcade last month and became the highest selling original game on the platform.

State of Decay is an open world sandbox simulation set in the early days of the zombie apocalypse. There have been countless first person shooters, third person action games, and even the critically acclaimed adventure game The Walking Dead that feature similar settings. What makes State of Decay stand out is the way it approaches the world from a simulation aspect and blends the fantastic third person action gameplay of the GTA series with some awesome RPG and strategy elements in resource, base, and people management.

In State of Decay the world is very much alive (well...) around you. Zombie hordes are a constant threat, supplies are limited, and your own survivors squabble and can be as much a danger to each other as the undead. Aside from some main story characters, missions, and story arcs, the entire experience is randomized from the way the zombies spawn (including hordes and special types like Ferals and Juggernauts), to the item placement to which survivors you find and recruit (not to mention their stats, traits, and personality). It's incredibly addicting and satisfying and has definitely become the surprise hit for me so far this year. But with any new game we love, we quickly become experts on what we want to see in future updates or sequels. I couldn't help compiling my own wish list of features I'd like this amazing game to incorporate.

My Wish List

Allow us to form a party of survivors. The AI in State of Decay is surprisingly adept at dealing with the zombie threat, and once you become comfortable with the radius around your home you can easily call in your fellow scavengers to grab important supplies that are too much for one person to handle (you can only grab one rucksack at a time, and there are a total of five different types - food, medicine, construction materials, ammo, and fuel). I was disappointed when I realized, after the initial area, you are restricted to going out on runs or missions by yourself. In a zombie apocalypse this is both dangerous and foolish - at least use the buddy system! There are a few mission types in which allies come with you - survivors seeking some combat training for example, and other situations in which you rescue your own crew that have gone missing or find new people to bring back to your home. Right now the only way to have people with you is to be in the middle of one of these missions, and then go do whatever you need to do that you want the help for. Unfortunately you can only be on one mission at a time, so you're still restricted to just grabbing loot or dealing with infestations. Being able to form a group would come with its own inherent risk as you're putting these people in danger that they may not return from. After all, you don't need to outrun the zombies, just your friend...

Send scavengers anywhere in the world. This is an extension of the previous entry. Right now the only option is to radio in someone to come grab a rucksack of supplies that you're staring at. I'd love the option to just open the map and send people out to do other missions (or just explore an area), and then switch to them if I wish. It should still be based on influence and only allowed if I've reached Friend status with that person. Also obviously a huge risk involved with sending people out, but at least I'd feel much more in control of my group and more like I'm controlling a group of survivors rather than just one at a time. To further make this a realistic option: Allow the AI to drive vehicles. Would require a ton of extra coding and who knows if the engine is even set up for this, but would be nice and help with the realism if your AI controlled allies could take one of the cars stashed at home. There could (and should) even by a driving skill that would help cut down on the damage done to vehicles and also help determine how the AI drives.

A memorial section. Even just a little notice in your home, detailing the survivors you've lost. As with the recent X:Com: Enemy Unknown remake, players really respond to their own randomly generated party members and the emergent stories that revolve around their life and death. Having something that immortalizes and better yet tells the story of your survivors would be a subtle but appreciative feature.

Explain outposts better. It took me several hours before I set up my first outpost, and even longer before I realized why I needed them and what they accomplished. First, outposts create a safe zone in the form of a visible radius around them in which zombies cannot spawn (though they could still wander in). Second, you can select the outpost in the Build menu and create traps for super cheap. These traps (which also isn't explained) automatically destroy any zombie hordes that wander into your aforementioned safe zone, which is incredibly useful. Third the outpost will provide daily resources based on where it was built; a restaurant will provide food while a warehouse should yield construction materials. Fourth, the outpost contains a supply locker that acts as a shared stash with your home locker and all the other outposts that exist, allowing you to drop off any items you find and replenish your inventory. Exactly none of this is properly explained in the game and up to the player to figure out. Furthermore, tips on where to build outposts would be appreciated - such as creating an extended safe zone around your home to prevent any unwanted intrusions, as well as spreading out outposts around the map to always have a supply locker nearby. Outposts are a neat idea, and I read somewhere that they would also require one of your survivors to actively man, which doesn't seem to be the case in game. Would be interesting if that was a requirement, and would certainly prevent you from just creating outposts around the world.

Let us turn off the simulation. The simulation refers to the world that continues to operate even in your absence. I've gone back and forth on how I feel about this mechanic: on the one hand it helps simulate a real world survival situation in which resources are dwindling, people go missing, and bad things happen even when you're not around. Often you can load up your game (which is familiar to anyone that's played a GTA game - no save slots just the one autosave) and find your awesome leveled up heroes dead, morale low, and the resources you worked hard to procure previously all gone. It's interesting for a hardcore gaming crowd, but not everyone can play often enough to offset the negative factors, and it stresses me out to keep playing until I can leave everything in as good a shape as possible so I'm not screwed the next time I play. It can become more frustrating than fun and I imagine I'm not alone. For the best of both worlds, the option to be able to play as is, or completely suspend the game when quitting would be hugely welcome and allow players to tailor their experience according to their schedule.

Vehicles should require fuel. Fuel is already a resource in the game, so I find it odd that it doesn't have anything to do with vehicles. For balance reasons I get why they skipped the cost entirely; I honestly can't remember a single video game where I had to worry about the amount of fuel I had in my car. But vehicles, limited as they are, are also extremely effective throughout the game and are consistently the most powerful weapon at my disposal and the best tool and means of escape. Especially once you learn the awesome tip to drive over zombie hordes backwards therefore saving your engine! Costing just a bit of fuel for a lot of driving around would help balance their usage, and I'm sure a sweet spot can be found. Unless you're making a ridiculous amount of Molotov cocktails (which are plentiful already) you're probably set for life on fuel without worrying about it too much. This is one of those rare cases where I think the game is just a bit too lenient on the player.


Edit/upgrade vehicles. Something I thought odd about Dead Island - a zombie game all about crafting and making your own crazy melee weapons - was that you could never give your vehicles the same cool treatment. Makes total sense to me that you would outfit your vehicles with some blades and plows to help make it through the zombie hordes. How about reinforced steel armor so a zombie couldn't pull you out of the window? Would be a great incentive to take care of the same vehicle if you pour resources into upgrading it into a true mobile killing machine.

Warn us when missions are time sensitive. The game does an okay job at this already, but for a new player you probably won't be able to tell what's a story mission that will be sitting there forever, and what's a randomly generated mission that will disappear if you take too long and do other things. There is a ton to do in State of Decay and one can easily play for hours just making supply runs and not doing a single mission. There are a few important story missions that appear to stick around and wait for you, but even important events that seem like story missions will reach a fail state if you don't tend to them quickly. Now I'm not complaining about these timed missions; if there's a zombie horde headed for this other group of survivors and I don't immediately make a beeline over to help them, they should be wiped out. But I do feel that the game, in the form of the ever present Voice in the Ear Radio Operator Lilly, should give you ample warning when a mission needs your immediate attention, especially if players are used to a GTA type mission format where every mission and NPC calmly waits for you to attend to.

More dynamic events. Something Red Dead Redemption did really well (among everything else) was creating these little events that would randomly occur just while running around the world. Given State of Decay's awesome open world setting it would be great to come across randomly scripted events. Maybe you find a crazed survivor in a watchtower who suddenly starts shooting at you, or you come across an army convoy that's been overrun but full of supplies. Make enough of them that they don't repeat too often and it creates an additional immersive layer to the experience.

Tone down the rate of missions. More dynamic/random events but less constant radio chatter about survivors missing, infestations propping up, my survivors wanting to go kill specific special zombie types, etc. I appreciate that there are always a large number of missions to choose from at any one time, but it really takes away from the feeling of surviving a desolate apocalyptic landscape when I've got so much to do. Since you gain morale and influence for completing missions and gathering supplies, it's extremely important, but often times I just want to explore. Lilly, you are giving me way too much to do and frankly could shut up a little bit now and then. Either a literal way to turn off radio chatter ("I'm going off the grid!") or a slight tweak to lessen the amount of missions that get rapidly fired at you would be much appreciated.

Destructible environment. This would probably require a completely new engine, but whatever, it's my wish list. Planting some explosives in a building to close off a street, or removing destroyed vehicles to help clear a path would really let you make your mark on the world, and further allow you to own the experience.

Bows and crossbows. Blame the popularity of AMC's The Walking Dead for making me want to shoot zombies in the face with a crossbow. I'm not alone, as Undead Labs have addressed this in their FAQ, specifically wanting to focus on guns. I'm perfectly fine with that, but the addition of at least crossbows (with retrievable quarrels, the entire point of using the thing in an apocalyptic setting) but would be some awesome DLC.

Weather Effects. This has also been mentioned in the Undead Labs FAQ. Rain at least would help cut down on visibility and affect driving.

Sandbox mode! Coming soon! Excited to see this. I'm hoping for a Civ like ability to generate our own world settings. Obviously the map is static but generating number of survivors, zombies, and the supply of resources, items, weapons, and cars would not only create a huge amount of replayability but allow for some truly masochistic and hardcore playthroughs! Can you say Last Man on Earth?

Multiplayer! Obvious, and something Undead Labs has discussed over and over. Clearly with the success of State of Decay the eventual multiplayer version of the game will hopefully become reality, and I for one cannot wait. Being able to form an enclave with a group of friends and interact with others all while surviving the zombie apocalypse sounds like the best game since....State of Decay.

In How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zombie I professed my semi-recent love of the zombie genre, and State of Decay is one of those games that I hadn't realized I'd been yearning for. With a multiplayer title I believe we'd reach zombie apocalypse perfection, but as is State of Decay is a phenomenal experience and I am glued to Undead Labs' unwavering support and passion for their title, and can't wait to see where it goes from here. I'd love to see some of your ideas and thoughts on the game in the comments section.