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Old 08-02-2013, 06:00 PM
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Default My review of "State of Decay" for XBL 360 Arcade

My review of State of Decay (Xbox 360 Arcade)

I don't know how many gamers here are into Zombocalypse games. Yes, zombies have become quite popular in the gaming world, right up there with first person shooters.

There are many types of zombie/zombocalypse games out there... the tank games like the first few Resident Evils, which later evolved into 3D actioners, the spookier Silent Hill games, which use the tank styled control methods, the first person shooters (Left4Dead series, Dead Island series, and even FPS's like Call of Duty that have zombie apocalypse bonus games), etc.
But this game that my roomie (who is probably more into zombocalypse than I am) mentioned a game from Xbox Arcade called "State of Decay". He said I would probably enjoy it because it is very open world. When he tried the demo, he basically just went around destroying zombies. He didn't realize there was sooooo much more to this game than that...than just killing zombies and trying to get to a safehouse, and such.

Well, I bought the game on a leap of faith, largely because of the open world experience. It mentioned stuff about resource and people management, crafting, scrounging...just all manner of stuff that I really love about open world type games. At 1600 points (20 dollars), I got a game that so far seems to be worth far more than that.

This game is a Zombie Apocalypse Simulator! Or a Zombopocalypsulator, if you like. (Zom-bow-pock-uh-lips-yoo-later).

Graphically, the game is on par with PS2 or original Xbox. But in all other respects, this game is a current gen title. Dialogue, controls, gameplay, the depth of the world (and the voice acting is surprisingly good for an XBL Arcade title)...this game, like Oblivion, Fallout, and Skyrim when I bought them, has literally sapped away hours of my life (in a good way) as I explore the giant map, and engage in all manner of activities.

You try to rescue potential allies, you find safe houses with which to house your allies and your materials. You have to manage this safe house, from materials to food, to medicines, to sleeping space. You have to manage your survivors...health and rest are kinda on auto-pilot, as long as you can keep bed, food, and medicine well stocked...but their mental well being, every now and again, you have to take in hand. In your safe house, you have to determine what kinds of resources it will maintain. Will you have enough bedding for your boarders? Will you have a lookout defense tower? Will you have facilities for maintaining your vehicles and weapons? Will your medical facilities be adequate? Do you have, maybe, the space for a library/research facility? Maybe you can make a garden so you can make your own food instead of having to scrounge? Your food-prep facilities....do you have a good enough cook to make decent meals for your fellow survivors? Just....all sorts of management....don't worry, the game doesn't make it feel like a chore. There are many places all over the giant map with which to set up your ideal home base, but, of course you can only have one home base at a time. Your home base is also where you can stash your goods that you acquire.

When you start the game out, you start as the default character, Marcus, who, along with his friend, Ed, suddenly find themselves beset by a couple of mad men whom they take to be cannibals. After getting past them, you are given tutorials on how to stealth kill and sneak past zombies. You are told to make your way to the Ranger Station, which becomes your first, if very short lived, home base. You can snag some supplies from the supply cache. Along the map, there are also various overlook towers, from which you can get a lay of the surrounding land, letting you know where buildings and places of interest might be.

The first thing you're going to want to do, after you get the lay of the land, is respond to some gunshots heard in the distance, and assist the girl that is holding off the infected attackers with her rifle. You acquire her as an ally, and she, for the moment, is the only one with a gun. But, you also have melee weapons of differing constructed quality with which to survive against zombie attack. When you make your way back to the Ranger Station, all your new buddies are dead, and your friend Ed becomes infected when one of the buddies isn't quite dead...or rather, returned from the dead.
You are then told to make your way out of the park, especially after Ed retrieves a radio from the zombie that attacked him in the home base. (Do not let this home base serve as an example of security though. Your next home base can be made far more secure.)

The best thing to do is fully examine as much of the park as you can, and retrieve the things you feel essential to carry. Now that you've rescued Naya (the girl with the rifle) you can choose to play as her if you wish. Whatever you do, search the park...you might find backpacks with a bit more carrying capacity than you might have currently.

----to be concluded--
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Old 08-02-2013, 06:01 PM
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--conclusion--
Once you get to your next designated location, your new home base, you can start working on resource management to fortify your home base. After a while though, you will eventually start taking on more survivors than the base can support, and it's time to start looking for a new home base.
Over the course of the game, various missions will crop up. You quite honestly have to pick and choose your battles, because sometimes, some of those battles might be a bit much for your character, if you don't have the appropriate resources at your command...and I'm not talking about home base...I'm talking about friends and allies you might make along the way, who can be instrumental in helping you accomplish a particularly difficult mission.
Oh, one more thing about this Zombopocalypsulator: Once you lose a character to death, that character is gone gone gonski! So, if you've grown fond of, and have ground up a particular character's skillset to a point where the character becomes invaluable, you might want to be careful with how you use said character. At home base, you can switch between characters that have befriended you. Some characters have certain traits that might give them advantages in certain attributes, but other wise start out with level one attributes in every thing else. Best thing to do is have two or three characters that you commonly use, and build their skills up...because personal management is also important. Eventually, your characters start to fatigue from being used so much....their vitality starts taking penalties, as does their health if they've taken too much damage over time. You need to get that character back to base, and switch out with another friend character so that your current character can get rested up....and this is not something that happens quickly. It actually takes time.
As does creating and managing resources in-game. Certain basic resources may take 9 to 10 minutes in game time. More advanced resource creation may take from a half hour up to an hour....and some research and development may take 3 hours. And this is in-game real-time. Yes, you can have many things happening at home base at once, as long as you have the appropriate resources (material, fuel, food, medicine, ammo, and influence) to accomplish them.

Yes, you saw I mentioned "influence". Actions that your character does can adjust the influence he/she might have over the other survivors. The more influence you build, the easier it is to "get s*** done" (as the game would say). Your influence can be risen in a number of ways....providing supplies and materials to home base, completing missions and tasks, seeing to the well-being of your fellow survivors, etc. Each thing you may ask of your homebase will cost you influence as well as resources. A simple request may only take a point or two, or a few of your influence. Other, more demanding requests, may take 100 points or more.

It takes a little bit to get used to crunching some of the numbers, but in the end, it really turns out being quite the experience.

Vehicles, if you have the appropriate resources set up, can be maintained at home base, as can your weapons. Eventually, you might even be able to craft your own munitions, manipulations, and medicines. Vehicles, also, have varying degrees of rubustness to them. Some muscle cars and trucks can take far more punishment than little "meep meep" cars. However, vehicles are quite useful in helping you eliminate zeds (zombies) by running over them....especially if you alert a horde of zombies. But eventually, if you keep using your vehicle as a zed plow, you will end up damaging your vehicle, to the point of destruction if you take it too far. (Running into solid objects at high speeds also does not help the health of your vehilce ).
Some missions you are asked to perform may have a limited window of opportunity....like rescuing a survivor, escorting an ally home, hunting a particular type of Zed (the British word for "Z", which of course stands for, "zombie" in the game.) If you are unable to start the mission during those (undisclosed) windows of opportunity, it can have varying consequences. The requesting entity may have survived whatever task he/she asked you to assist them with regardless of your inaction, or they could've died as a result of your inaction. A hunt might simply be gone from the list. Such things can affect your survivors' morale.

As mentioned before, you can stash goods at your safe house. But, you can also set up "outposts", (how many outposts you are allowed to have depends on the size of your safe house). These "outposts", when established, also allow you to stash your goods, and the stash is shared among all outposts and safehouses. So, if you stash a particular weapon at one outpost, you can retrieve it at another outpost, or at your safe house (so long as someone else didn't snag that piece of stash first). You must fully search a potential outpost before establishing the outpost. You can do this by searching yourself, or, if you have the ability available, you can call on scavengers to come along and search the house for you while you procede on another mission. This latter method, of course, takes a bit more time...time for the scavengers to arrive and then to search the place. Once the building has been fully searched, you can declare it an outpost, if you have the slots available, When you find a resource like "materials", "medicine bags", ammo stashes, food pallets, you have to hit the context button that allows you to take the materials in a rucksack, and you can only take your acquired resource back to base. You can drop the rucksack on the way if you wish, and if you do so, it is best that you do so in an outpost. But, the resources will only be registered and factored in once you get them to your current "safe house".

There is just soooooo much. I can go on and on and on about this game.
Melee combat is simplistic. Each time you melee, though, it drains on your stamina. Run out of stamina, and you cannot effectively melee, or sprint. Stamina refills over time. If you have been using the same character for a while, you can start to take penalties on your current max stamina, affecting your abilties to sustain sprints, or engage in melee. You can eat snacks to restore your depleted stamina, up to your max, or whatever penalties have been incurred. During melee, if you "down" a zombie, you can finish them off with a combo button press (Left Button + Y). (Left Button + Y also allows you to stealth kill a zed if you can sneak up on it.)
Ah yes, stealth and noise is an important factor in this game....if you sprint, you make more noise running. Fire a gun without a suppressor, and you might call in zeds for hundreds of feet around, including a horde if you're unlucky. Vehicles make noise, and can draw out zeds. You will know how much noise you're making because of expanding circles that appear fom your positional arrow on the minimap. The more noise you make, the bigger the circle. You can search resource points quietly, or accelerate the search by holding down the left button, but this increaases the risk of making considerable noise during your search. You can use sound as a tactical boon, however. You can use a horn, or firecrackers, or any noise maker to try and draw zeds out into the open, where you can decide to take them out with a molotov styled weapon, or an explosive, or run over them with your vehicle.

I just don't have the time to go into all the details of just how cool this game is. All I can say is, give the demo a try, and if you dig up, pony up the 20 bucks, because speaking for myself, it was 20 bucks well spent. I am having as much fun with this game as I have had with games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout, Mass Effect....yes, that is quite a list of titles to associate this game with.

I'd give this game a hearty 4.25/5.
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