It’s the Steam Sale again (argh augh no no no) and I’ve been EXTREMELY restrained this year. It’s been hard.
I did pick up State of Decay, an open-world zombie apocalypse simulator for Quite Cheap. It’s just about a year old and started out life as an Xbox Live Arcade game, and the Windows port certainly plays like a somewhat half-assed port.
The game describes itself as a open-world game, but it’s closer to an Open World Zombie SimCity Highschool Simulator. Not only do you beat heads and find supplies, you also upgrade your base and run occasional missions around collecting specific upgrade-related supplies and pet the fragile egos of your not-so-merry band of surviving humans.
Impressively, the first two playable characters I got in my game were a Black guy and a woman. It was extremely pleasing at getting characters completely outside of the White Dudebro category that would so often infect games such as these.
The game has been good at restricting ones’ access to ammunition and good hand-to-hand weaponry, really driving the feel of how dire the situation is. Weapons break, guns run dry, and carrying “enough” ammo means you can’t loot supplies, forcing a lot of really difficult decisions on what to bring.
Bringing a car gives you far more storage space but also brings more zombies, zombies that will damage your car and possibly render it undriveable (or explode!) with all your stuff in it.
Five Hours In
So I’m only about five hours in, and I’ve already lost one playable character (Maya), and I think my impressions are pretty well set. The mechanics are good and well-constructed, and the game world is huge and rather beautiful, but overall everything is just, well, lifeless.
Zombies roam, but keep respawning. Failing a mission doesn’t fail the mission and have actual repurcussions, just a You’ve Failed indicator and allowing the mission to be replayed.
For instance, I was doing the “collect the Doctor” mission when Maya was killed. In a reactive world that would have failed the mission as well as cost me the doctor and the people living at that outpost, which would have cost me Ed, because he needed the doctor.
These are Consequences. Real, actual consequences for my failure and a different direction to the survival of my group. Instead, I was able to replay the mission with another playable character and nothing was overtly different.
The missions themselves are all identical, too. Go here, hit some zombies. Go there, hit some other zombies. Board up some walls and let zombies come. Collect some stuff.
Instead of being fun I end up yelling at my screen about the idiocy of the AI, staying in indefensible locations or doing ridiculous things. I yell at NPCs needing a car door to get into, requiring me to drive off, get a new car, and drive back if I have > 1 NPC following me.
I yell at bugs where survivors I need to rescue teleporting to the house that I just searched, for them, just now.
I only paid a few dollars, and I got a few dollars’ enjoyment out of it. I just wish there was more there there.