State of Decay was hands down one of 2013’s biggest surprises, an unassuming indie game that trotted on the familiar, but uniquely featured open world setting of the zombie apocalypse. Its newest piece of downloadable content, title Breakdown doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the core game.
Instead of reinventing State of Decay, Breakdown removes all of the story boundaries from the main game, allowing you to carry your characters through Trumbull County for as long as you can survive. Basically, Breakdown turns State of Decay into a leveled experience, taking you through increasingly difficult situations, while staying in the same map featured in the main game.
That means that whenever you decide to carry over your group of up to five survivors over to the next stage of Breakdown, you’ll be moving from and back to the same map, with the same structures, only now, all item pickups are more scarce and zombies are way stronger. It feels like you are stuck in Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray and said groundhog nowhere to be found.
On the other hand, the further you progress through the game, the more character options become available, allowing you to ditch the randomly generated Joe Shmoe you start with and get into the boots of better equipped and more skilled returning characters from State of Decay. Built-in challenges manage to keep metagame objectives up, now that there’s no story progress to worry about. These hurdles are mostly in relation to zombie killing, but some revolve around building up a base further down the tougher levels and prove to be quite difficult.
While not a particularly creative choice of setting, which might be all too familiar for veterans of the original game, returning to the same map has its benefits. At higher difficulties, towards later levels, your familiarity with the map will prove paramount to surviving, due to the scarcity of items and the increasing and constant need of finding new home bases and fortifications. Each new level feels like a new match in an RTS game – from building a new base, to gathering and scrounging for resources, to amassing a new group/army of survivors and exploring a familiar map, facing unexpected threats all throughout.
Returning State of Decay fans might also appreciate the challenge and need of use for stealth mechanics that was very quickly dropped during the main game, the further you took a character down the development tree. Due to the addition of stronger zombie types on later levels, a careful and silent approach will prove to be by far the smartest.
In the months following release, State of Decay received numerous patches that addresses many of its nastier bugs and glitches. Still, you can expect to run into some of the issues that still plague the game – most of them in regards to zombies getting caught in geometry and the apparent death wish of some of your followers, who might refuse to follow you or get into the same car as you.
Enjoying Breakdown will depend on how much you enjoyed State of Decay. If you thought it ended all too soon and easily, Breakdown will more than likely satisfy you with its endlessly looping, merciless zombie nightmare. Level up, unlock heroes and prepare for Hell. You’ll be there for a while. Until the next expansion, anyway.
State of Decay: Breakdown is currently available on the Xbox Live Marketplace and Steam for $7, and requires the base State of Decay download to play.