First Impressions – State of Decay

At first glance, State of Decay might look like a wild life survival game. Okay, that would be the case if it weren’t for the hordes of zombies, the piles of half-eaten dead bodies and trails of blood everywhere, that is.

Even though the subject matter has more than been beaten to oblivious and treaded in all manner of entertainment media, from movies, comics to Facebook games, State of Decay, at first glance seems to be taking the undead for a fairly different spin.

As a third person open world action game, State of Decay plays a lot like Grand Theft Auto, in the manner which you navigate the map, get your bearings and are able to drive. On the other hand, all similarities halt down when zombies are thrown into the mix, as well as survival elements, social stat tracking and character progression.

Granted, this type of open world mission based formula has already been explored in Dead Island, but State of Decay feels much more ambitious in terms of scope. Nurturing relationships plays a big part in the game, not only because it gives you more characters to play as, each with their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, but also in terms of commerce. Trading is handled in a barter system that deals with reputation points, earned not just by doing missions, but by playing smartly, protecting allies from dangerous situations. These points can be used when  exploring a group’s item stash, and are depleted the more stuff you take away… but the more items you give them, the more points are given back. Certainly a nicer balance than just hitting up a town shop and restocking.

So far, the gameplay in State of Decay is satisfying. I’ve only come across two survivors who have joined me in exploring the fairly green scenery of a mountain and lake resort. Only two of the three characters can be switched at will, while the third seems to be a permanent backup to the main characters’ backstory exposition. The day and night cycle plays well within the game – night is obviously extremely dangerous, and zombies seem to be much more aggressive than during the day.

I’ve only found a couple of firearms up to this point, but the smart choice seems to be to stick with melee weapons, due to their noise radius. Noise apparently plays a huge role in attracting zmbies to your vicinity, so I’m following Rick Grimes’ rule of keeping that gun holstered at all costs.

I’ll have a full review of State of Decay after E3. As it stands at the moment, it feels like an impressive downloadable game. It’s available now, as this week’s Xbox Live Arcade release, for 1600 Microsoft points ($20).

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