My tour through State of Decay was guided by none other than Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain, who began by noting that the game is in the early stages and is not quite in its massively multiplayer incarnation, so my time with the game was completely single-player. Strain then explained to me the game's survivor system. Unlike many games (and most MMOs) that put you in the shoes of a single character throughout your play experience (barring alts, of course), State of Decay allows players to unlock a stable of survivors scattered across the game world. After rescuing a survivor and earning his trust by providing food, protection, and other necessities, the player will be able to play as that character at-will.
Of course, this is easier said than done. The first step in providing a safe haven for your ragged band of apocalypse survivors is to find a defensible position -- a farmhouse, in the demo -- with a lovely (and solid) stone wall surrounding it. But of course, since I had a rather large band of followers, there simply wasn't enough sleeping space for everyone, which could cause some of the poor, sleepless souls to become irate and leave. To that end, Strain showed me through a simple menu that allowed the survivors to go all HGTV on their little farmhouse in order to add new facilities such as a workroom that increases construction speed, or in this case, a nice little dormitory with some comfortable (albeit messy) beds. Now that our little crew had a place to crash, it was time to venture out into the world to rescue survivors and slaughter zombies.
I was allowed to choose my arsenal from a weapon storage chest chock-full of every shooting, slicing, and exploding weapon under the sun. After arming my character with an assault rifle, a rather dashing saber, and a few grenades, I hopped in my sweet (probably stolen) ride and popped open my map. Nearby radio distress calls are marked as points of interest on your map, so all I had to do was set a waypoint near one and I was off. It's worth noting here that when I first sat down and had a look at the handy control layout card by the TV, I saw that the X button, when in a vehicle, would execute a door attack. To my delight, it was exactly what it sounded like, and I flung my driver's side door open as I passed a group of zombies, turning them into a fine crimson pulp. Maniacal laughter may have ensued.
My laughter was soon silenced as I got to the farm at which the survivors I was supposed to be rescuing were holed up. They were holed up for a good reason, actually, because the whole place was overrun with zombies. I gleefully mowed down the first wave of undead with my assault rifle, only to be met with the dreaded click of an empty gun. Apparently I forgot to grab extra ammo. Well, this sucks. As the blighters began to gnaw on my face, I whipped out my saber and started swinging.
The controls, regrettably, left a bit to be desired. I'm generally pretty good with shooters, even on consoles, but it seemed somewhat difficult to get my character to swing in the direction that I wanted her to, which led to a number of surprise hugs from the surrounding zombies. My movement also felt a bit sluggish, but that's nothing that a bit of sensitivity adjustment couldn't fix; I just didn't bother to check whether I was able to change it due to fear of zombies eating my eyes while I navigated option menus. But then, it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference because I ended up succumbing to a particularly nasty breed of zed known as "feral."
With one character down, I was immediately put in control of another of my band of merry survivors, and I immediately set off to finish what my predecessor started... with extra ammo this time. Also, a shotgun. Turns out the shotgun may have been one of my worse decisions because the firing rate simply couldn't keep up with the number of zombies continuously making a buffet of my tasty human flesh, and each gunshot attracted even more. Mercifully, my time with the demo ran out before I suffered the humiliation of dying twice in one go.
Ultimately, my impressions of State of Decay
so far are that it's quite unpolished (as I was warned), but there's a great deal of potential. The third-person zombie-shooting gameplay isn't anything innovative, but it's a change of pace from the typical MMO, and I feel like there's a lot of depth to be found in maintaining/fortifying your base of operations while managing your roster of companions, some of whom may end up being less-than-savory characters. Add hundreds of players all doing this at once, vying for prime real estate, making and breaking alliances, and generally diving into the mayhem that accompanies the zombie apocalypse, and I think that's a recipe for a fresh and fun MMO that should do well with PC and console players alike. If you've ever wondered how you'll fare when Z-day comes, State of Decay
is definitely a game to watch.
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