State of Decay puts you in the difficult situation of surviving a(nother) zombie apocalypse. What sets this game apart is that it brings together many ideas in a single adventure. State of Decay focuses on survival: stealth, evasion, distractions, base building, survivor community, securing resources, and moving through the world, more than actual zombie combat. Unfortunately, while the concept is great, technically, the game isn't up to par.
Here we go again, surviving another apocalypse
Perhaps State of Decay's biggest sin is excess. It's a game that's very ambitious in ideas and mixes many genres at once: action, stealth, car driving, open world, base management, community survival... State of Decay wants to be the definitive zombie game, but is it playable?
State of Decay is a tough game to crack. The number of movements, actions and decisions you have to make can be overwhelming. That's because, as mentioned above, the game combines multiple genres. First, for example, you have to learn to move like you would in a third person action game, with combo moves, weapons handling, and managing your (small) inventory. Since this is an open world, you also have to dive through windows, jump on cars, and attack the living dead with baseball bats.
But State of Decay is hard to play: you soon find yourself in a central base where you have to learn to manage resources using menus that aren't exactly intuitive. Building new areas (such as bunk beds, warehouses, infirmary, workshops, etc.) is also done on your own. At the base, you're forced to socialize, talking to other survivors. There may even come a time when you have to make radical decisions, like killing someone or throwing someone out of the community, which may have consequences down the road.
Managing the base is already a challenge, and even more so with the different missions that occur dynamically. Moreover, as time passes (in real time), you won't be able to perform many of the missions, which can affect your level of fame. Reputation is the currency in State of Decay, allowing you to get weapons and items you'll store for later use in your raids.
Zombies are more numerous at night, which is when they usually attack the base. Be prepared. Use daylight to investigate the area and find resources and weapons, and be careful not to die because death is permanent here. If one of your characters dies in battle, they better have friends, because only your friends can continue the game. If you don't have any friends (i.e. if you haven't socialized), it's game over.
Since State of Decay is an open world, the controls are very similar to other games in the genre, but they take some getting used to. The hardest part is learning the menus, and learning to manage the base and inventory are challenging as well. The tutorial and instructions on what to do or how to do it are limited, and you pretty much have to learn on your own.
The controls in State of Decay can sometimes fail, and that affects the gameplay. Some of the movements and combos are strange, and hit detection sometimes fails. At times, it seems more like a low budget game, even amateur, as far as control is concerned.
This first PC version can only be played with a gamepad.
It looks like a beta
That feeling of "zero optimization" translates through the rest of the audiovisual section, especially in the graphics. Engine performance is debatable, with declines in the rate of frames per second. The textures are poorly detailed or even blurred in some cases, and the animations are a bit choppy.
State of Decay has a large number of failures and bugs. These include AI problems, zombies going through walls, errors in shock detection, intermittent flashes and other graphical issues like popping.
Everything that State of Decay wins from an ideas standpoint is lost from a technical one. You feel like you're playing an early beta version of the game.
In fairness, this PC version is much better than the console game (published several months ago). State of Decay uses the power of the PC to bolster some of its technical shortcomings, but it still leaves you wanting more.
State of Decay is not easy to play. Every section has good points and the control, menus, and graphics are well-designed. No one is denying that the idea is good, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Keep all of this in mind before you play State of Decay because if you can put aside its faults, you may find that it's an interesting game and, to some extent, quite addictive. If not, it will drive you mad!