An ugly zombie survival title that you’ll probably still fall in love with.
I grabbed the original State of Decay sort of on a lark when it first released for the Xbox 360. I was in the mood for a different zombie game, and its low-budget look was something that interested me. I grabbed it, dumped about 30 hours into the game, and walked away feeling extremely satisfied.
Now, I didn’t pick up any of the add-ons at the time. I had my fill with the base product. So State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition appealed to me as someone with a history in the first title, because it features a graphical overhaul alongside the two add-ons I skipped. This YOSE, as it’s called, includes 1080p resolution on Xbox One, new challenges, weapons, vehicles and a unique character for those who have played the original game on their 360s.
But here and now, I want to get something out of the way for PC players. I did not play the original State of Decay on PC. That’s selling for $19.99, and with the two DLC packs selling for roughly seven bucks a pop, that’s $34 if you want everything all together. YOSE is also bound for the PC at the same price that it will sell for on Xbox One: $29.99. Some PC fans have been upset at Undead Labs for ceasing support on State of Decay in order to remaster and re-release the game under a new price tag. Want the updates? You’ll have to buy it all over again.
This review is not for PC players, though. I haven’t tested YOSE for the PC platform, and I suggest you wait until users of that platform talk about it before making your decision.
That said, let’s dive into the main review. First off, this game is still ugly. I know they’re not using the word “remastered” all that much in the marketing, at least not in a lot of places that I’ve seen, but the implication of the platform jump is that they’ve made an effort to make the game prettier.
Yes, it looks better than its initial release. But, let’s be honest here, State of Decay looked like an early Xbox 360 game when it released at the tail-end of the console’s lifespan. YOSE, in spite of its 1080p redux, is barely a remaster. It’s sort of a mess, from awkward character models, glitching animation, weird clipping, constant pop-in, regular framerate drops all the way to general texture mudiness. State of Decay: YOSE is, self-referentially, in a state of decay.
The framerate drops were the real problem for me here. It’s not like this is a stunningly gorgeous game that the Xbox One should have a problem rendering. Yet, jump in a car and drive fast and you’ll be hit with an obnoxious stutter and a blast of object pop-in. Bigger, better-looking games don’t have this problem, and a “remaster” shouldn’t present gamers with it regardless of its price point. I don’t want to hit this game too hard for its looks, because the moving parts below the rough exterior are actually really, really fun. That’s the way it was with the first edition too. I’m just having a hard time recommending a remaster that doesn’t really feel either next-gen or remastered.
As for the gameplay, State of Decay was and still is a refreshing take on the overpopulated zombie survival genre. You’re dropped outside a campground with no idea about how the world collapsed around you while you were on a trip with a friend. Within the first hour, you’ll learn that you can find survivors and build relationships with them. Bring them to “friend’ level, and they’re playable.
Then you’ll die. But that’s when things get interesting. State of Decay features permadeath; lose a character and they’re gone. Their equipment will stay on the ground until you get it, but you’ll lose morale and their support once they die. That permadeath means that you’ll constantly be on the lookout for survivors during side missions, and you’ll want to build as many relationships as you can.
That drive to survive is what really works so well in this game, and it was totally present in the initial versions. You’ll want to set up outposts, regularly help your survivors, and try and stay alive. State of Decay can be a really great game of patience, especially if you take sneaking and fighting back hordes seriously.
My biggest complaint remains the awkward setup of the UI. Upgrading your outposts and figuring out how to play are actually a problem at first, at least it was for me both times I played this game. I had to sort of remember what to do, like when it came time to upgrade my sleeping area early on in order to increase stamina and improve morale. I wish Undead Labs had put some time into remastering that bit of the game, too.
This is also my first time with the two separate add-ons, and I can safely say that they’re really good if you already love State of Decay. The Breakdown add-on is basically just the main game over again in a new area with all story stuff removed. It’s like survival mode, and it's great if all you want to do is upgrade, take on side stuff, and scavenge. It’s a nice “endless” edition of State of Decay, and I liked it as sort of a sandbox to screw around in. Lifeline feels the most removed from the game, though a lot of the mechanics remain. This DLC tasks you with defending a single base rather than scavenging and building outposts. You’ll want to take on hordes as they come to you in the storyline, and I liked this for its variety.
I’m sort of on the fence when it comes to State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition. If you can’t get over its framerate drops and general last-gen status on a new-gen machine, you won’t like this. Once you do get over that fact, there’s a really fine zombie survival machine below. Now, for folks revisiting the game like me (if you bought it the first time around, you’ll be able to buy it at a 33% discount until June 30th, 2015), I found that I had enough time away from my initial go to enjoy this once more. It isn’t really remastered in a meaningful enough way, but it’s worth $29.99 if you really, really dig the package. This is hardly a remaster, but newcomers who want a fresh take on zombie fighting should consider it.