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Looking back to 2015 and the Undead Circus of State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition


I peek out of the front door of the house I’m currently in, there’s not a soul in sight. I start to walk, carefully down the street, keeping an eye out for any shambling figures I may see in the distance. Spotting someone shuffling my way, I cross the road, hoping against hope they don’t see me and follow. After 15 nerve-shredding minutes, I finally make it to the Co-op in order to find the urgent supplies that I need. Scurrying back to safety, I’m thankful there is a barrier between me and the rest of the world, and finally can settle down to play a little Xbox.

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition Review 1

In many ways, the state of the world today is reminiscent of the game world of State of Decay. You don’t know who to trust, food and toilet roll is in short supply, and if you want to survive you have to learn to get along with some strangers and build them into a lean, mean, zombie killing machine. I didn’t say the analogy was perfect! However, while the enemy we face in our day to day lives at the moment is somewhat smaller than a zombie, looking back to State of Decay I can’t help but be impressed by how many of the finer details the developers got right. 

Released first of all way back in 2013, State of Decay was a big hit with the group of friends that I play with. While not the best looking game in the world, I think it’s fair to say that the way that the world was presented, the open-ended nature of the goals and how you achieved them, along with the sense of impending doom that the game engendered in us, made it an instant hit. Even the way that you could find cars, and driving them about not only attracted zombies, but the car became progressively more damaged if you used it to kill the undead, was pretty realistic. Scurrying around, trying to stay out of sight and not make too much noise, carrying as much as possible back to the base – it all felt very The Walking Dead

So, when news came that there was going to be a complete edition, updated for Xbox One and including all the released DLC, I was very happy. And in a way, I’m glad that they didn’t change the way the game looked too much, even on the more powerful console, as to me this was more about story and feel than about jaw-dropping graphics. I mean, don’t get me wrong, having both is brilliant, but I would always come down on the gameplay side of the scales if I had to choose. 

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition Review 2

And the thought that had gone into the gameplay still continued to amaze. The first time I sent a survivor out to accomplish a mission and he didn’t return, I was genuinely gutted for the loss, as not only did the expected supplies not appear, I had lost someone that I almost thought of as a friend. The way that if someone was feeling sad or depressed you could take them for a quiet walk in the woods to make them feel better also chimes with the feelings a lot of people are feeling now – except we can’t go out and shoot zombies to blow off steam. Of course, trading with other survivors, or even persuading them to join your community, which could be expanded by finding the relevant resources, was also a big part of the game. 

Finding new towns, new locations and even uprooting the home base and moving it were all possible; becoming a necessity after the first location had been picked clean. Reinforcing the new base with watch towers, sending people up there with a flair for firearms to help keep us all safe – these were all good ideas. Building med bays helped keep everyone healthy, but required medicine to be found, alongside food and water, more weapons… the grind to keep everyone alive, healthy and sane was never-ending. The only niggle I had with the game was the lack of a multiplayer mode, as my friends and I would be in Xbox Live parties, chatting about what we had found, all the while thinking “It would be a lot easier to just enter the game and show them where this place is!”. Luckily, this lack of opportunity was more than addressed in State of Decay 2, and as luck would have it is currently available on the Xbox Game Pass if you fancy a bit of being Rick Grimes for a while.

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition Review 3

The two DLC packs that were included in State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition on Xbox One also changed things up a bit. On starting a new game, you could work with the regular story mode and build yourself up, or you could jump into either of the two DLC packs from the outset. The first pack – Breakdown – saw a different, more sandbox approach being taken: the goal being to find an RV, fix it up and escape the valley. No base building, no defending a location, it’s all about survival. This was the ultimate test of your zombie apocalypse survival skills, and each time the RV was found and fixed the game moved to the next of six levels and the hunt would begin again. However, there were a couple of little nasties to make things harder. You see, each time the level increased, we could only keep six people to take to the next level, as numerous special zombies appeared. I don’t know about you, but I always hated the massive fat zombies, as they were a massive damage sponge and usually ended up killing whoever I sent up against them. Smacking them with a car, doing a lot of shooting, then running away for a bit seemed to work though. Sneaking and distracting zombies became more important than fighting them on the higher levels, that’s for damn sure. 

The second DLC pack, Lifeline, again switches up the formula. This time we take the part of a military unit, called Greyhound One, in a new location, Danforth City. Our mission is to keep a group of civilians alive long enough to be extracted, and as such it is a much tighter experience than Breakdown, where time wasn’t a factor. Basically, it turned into almost a tower defence kind of scenario, where we could craft and place traps at the entrances to our base, and in addition to fighting off random zombies we had to survive “raids”, which got harder and harder each time we managed to survive one. Reinforcing and defending became the key, rather than exploring or wandering about looking for trouble. In Lifeline, trouble came to you.

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition Review 4

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition on Xbox One was rather excellent and these are my best memories of trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. I wasn’t always successful, and lost many a good man and woman along the way, but making it out for the first time in the main story was a great feeling, even if the ending was a bit of a downer. But what about you guys? Did you play the original back in the day? Were you tempted in by the Year-One Survival Edition? Are you going to try the second instalment on Xbox Game Pass? Let us know in the comments!

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