Review: State of Decay: Breakdown
Call me a little bit late on this one. Actually, call me very late. Last summer, while I was in the throes of another Steam Summer sale, I happened upon State of Decay, a sandbox survival title from Undead Labs. I’d heard about it but had previously put it off for one reason or another, but you know how Steam sales are – everything old is new again and 50% off. Long story short, I’m ashamed I’ve waited this long to start playing it.
Although State of Decay has all of the tells of being a small studio production, it’s a decent game. Sure, it doesn’t have photo-realistic graphics or even half-realistic driving mechanics, but something about progressing the storyline while making sure your little community doesn’t turn to shit can keep a person occupied for hours and then wanting to come back and do it again. That kind of mentality saw me stretch a relatively short campaign to much, much longer.
For the unfamiliar, Breakdown is an unlimited survival mode. It strips the world of all story-based missions and boils it down to just its survival elements. It also throws in new characters, abilities, weapons, weapon specializations and items to unlock and overall more challenge.
In regards to added challenge, Breakdown features levels of difficulty. At the beginning, you start at level 1. You’re tasked with completing missions and then suggested to check out an old broken down RV. Fix up the RV, load up your closest friends and you’re off to a new location with tougher zombies, more infestations and less chance of survival … except the new part isn’t exactly true – the map just reverts to its unexplored state. That’s…kind of lame.
You still have to go on supply runs, eliminate infestations and hordes, help neighbouring groups of survivors, keep community morale high and oversee most of what happens within your community, and that’s possibly where State of Decay’s weakest trait lies. The grinding is monotonous and that’s really all that Breakdown is about.
Unfortunately, the game feels extremely tedious, particularly when going on supply runs. Let’s say for instance you’re low on medicine, so your radio operator finds you a cache of supplies, sends you halfway across the map in a vehicle that’s about to explode if a junebug splatters on your windshield (another irritation) and you get there to find that you’re going to need more than one rucksack (backpack, if you will) to load all this stuff up.
That’s going to require multiple trips across the map. Sure, you could break down some of the caches into individual portions, but then it doesn’t exactly go towards the community item cache anymore and becomes a personal use item. This is what most of my playthrough of the entire game was like, but thankfully the (rather recent) Rucks in Trucks title update fixes this by adding a small inventory to vehicles. Now, instead of zipping back and forth all across town, you can load up rucksacks into the trunk of the car, then return home with the supplies. But don’t lose that vehicle though, or else all your rucksacks and the supplies in them are gone. To be honest, I’m surprised that this wasn’t implemented a long time ago, but much like this review, better late than never. Even with these improvements, going on supply runs is still a boring chore.
For people who loved everything about the survival elements of State of Decay, this is a most welcome addition. I will say it does get to be awfully addicting at times and the challenge is just steep enough that you won’t want to hurl your controller through a window, but will still keep you on your toes. However, the fact that there aren’t any story missions (other than fixing the RV) to break up the monotony can be a deal-breaker for some. For those who are looking for something a little more than just survival, you may want to hold off on Breakdown in favour of Lifeline, which will be offering a new map and new story-based missions.
State of Decay: Breakdown is available for Steam and Xbox Live for $6.99. That’s a little steep, but if an unlimited survival sandbox is what you’re looking for, then that’s what this is. Stay close for our review of Lifeline, coming up shortly!