Editor’s Note: This review is taken from our much larger GOTY post here. It’s been given its own post in an effort to reward State of Decay as one of the year’s “best” games. Entirely new posts honoring the rest of 2013’s best are forthcoming.
State of Decay is the best single player “zombie game” of all time. Yes, zombies to video games might be what hamburgers are to America, but State of Decay brings together such a range of emotions through mechanics and systems that it outdoes them all. The stamina meter being one of the most inspired mechanics, however, retrospectively obvious. It’s rougelike like, uh, feature of character specific permadeath reminds you that death shadows every moment, making your decisions matter. If you die, it’s most likely your fault, unless one of those walk-though-walls zeds get you. That’s just sloppy coding, but makes for a great story if you escape. It’s State of Decay’s ability to give you something akin to a book with a premise and characters, but then allow you to write many of the scenes that make up the chapters that elevates the games worth. Emergent storytelling is at its best here, allowing players to discuss the game like a personal memory. You actually grow attached to the characters you grow with and yell as they scream for their life when you make a single mistake.
I still remember my first death.
I, Marcus, send out a scout to grab some medicine for the group. While he makes his run, I clear out an infestation that has somehow sprouted right across the street from our home. Sneak in. Take out as many undead silently as I can, then use a doorway as a choke point to clear out the rest. Pretty routine. I use the machine cutting blade I found a few miles out in some wharehouse to slash through zombie flesh and bone. The scout is almost back to base. He gets attacked. He screams for help. I run to him. A horde appears. I kick some zeds away and dash towards his direction. A trap that I had placed goes off a house over. The zombies are sucked to the sound. I pull out my gun and shoot the zombie off my comrade, more zombies come, replying to the bangs like an echo. I throw a molotov for crowd control. It slows me down. A few zeds gurgle as they burn to death. I try to jump a fence. I’m not fast enough. The zombies pull me to the ground and rip at my flesh as I scream in horror. They tear my body at the torso, intestines tumbling out.
I’m now Maya Torres. I equip a shotgun and with anger, remorse, and regret launch bullets through groaning undead meat. I grab the rest of Marcus’s equipment from his dead body, stopping a moment to look down at him, before running back to restock and re-fortify our home. There’s little time to mourn.