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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.
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.
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.